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Global quality trends and issues in open, distance and online learning


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Quality panel presentation by Colin Latchem for the DEHub/ODLAA Education 2011 to 2021- Global challenges and perspectives of blended and distance learning the (14 to 18 February 2011).

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Global quality trends and issues in open, distance and online learning

  1. 1. Global quality trends and issues in open, distance and online learning Colin Latchem [email_address]
  2. 2. <ul><li>The issue of the quality is pressing </li></ul><ul><li>OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría (2009) says: </li></ul><ul><li>‘ The first [priority] is access and equity, the second priority is efficiency and effectiveness, [and] the third key area is quality and relevance.’ </li></ul><ul><li>However: </li></ul><ul><li>Not all governments or institutions around the globe have established QA systems or systems to assure quality in ODL. </li></ul><ul><li>Not all countries, cultures or institutions are ready to embrace the openness, transparency and accountability required in QA. </li></ul><ul><li>QA is largely absent from open schooling, vocational education and training and nonformal adult and community education. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Some will argue that Others will argue that ‘ Quality in’ is what matters ‘ Quality out’ is what matters Similar measures should apply to conventional and open and distance learning The different enrolment systems, intakes, organization, logistics and scale and nature of operations call for different criteria The onus should be on ODL providers to prove that their offerings are at least as good as those on the conventional providers Learner-centredness and constructivism and combining technology-enhanced, face-to-face and hands-on learning are improving pedagogical paradigms The focus should be on the knowledge and skills learners need to do their jobs The focus should be on the generic competencies that will enable learners to grapple with new knowledge in a variety of contexts Specific guidelines and standards are needed for e-learning. Regardless of technology, the fundamentals of quality in teaching and learning are unchanged QA in should be mandatory, externally managed and concerned with accountability QA should be voluntary, conducted internally and concerned with developing an institutional culture of quality
  4. 4. ACODE benchmarks for DE and e-learning concern: <ul><li>Institution policy and governance for technology supported learning and teaching. </li></ul><ul><li>Planning for, and quality improvement in, the integration of technologies for learning and teaching. </li></ul><ul><li>Information technology infrastructure to support learning and teaching. </li></ul><ul><li>Pedagogical application of information and communication technology. </li></ul><ul><li>Professional/staff development for the effective use of technologies for learning and teaching. </li></ul><ul><li>Staff support for the use of technologies for learning and teaching. </li></ul><ul><li>Student training for the effective use of technologies for learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Student support for the use of technologies for learning. </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>ACODE benchmarks do not directly address such issues as graduate attributes, now a feature of AUQA audits. </li></ul><ul><li>European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA): </li></ul><ul><li>Survey on quality procedures of QA agencies across Europe and beyond found a shift from a teaching to a learning focus and the methods of agencies increasingly based on learning outcomes. </li></ul><ul><li>Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (2005): </li></ul><ul><li>The most powerful quality indicator is whether the students have actually developed the pre-specified competencies. QA in e-learning should therefore place an emphasis on student learning over any other variables. </li></ul><ul><li>No reliable international data exist on the outcomes of learning. </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>OECD Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO) </li></ul><ul><li>2011-2012 feasibility study with 150 higher education institutions in 15 member countries to gauge the feasibility of a tool for assessing: </li></ul><ul><li>The inputs (what students bring to their degree studies). </li></ul><ul><li>The outputs (what discipline-specific and generic attributes they graduate with). </li></ul><ul><li>Contextual information to link these data to student background and learning environment. </li></ul><ul><li>In order to help: </li></ul><ul><li>Universities assess and improve their teaching. </li></ul><ul><li>Students make better choices in selecting institutions. </li></ul><ul><li>Policy-makers ensure that funds are well spent. </li></ul><ul><li>Employers know if the graduates’ skills match their needs. </li></ul><ul><li>Such an outcomes- or performance-based approach to QA is yet to be explored by ODL providers of higher, vocational and non-formal education. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Quality in transnational education: <ul><ul><ul><li>Dhanarajan (2001) argues for ‘internationalization of education which does not endorse the over-commercialization of what is essentially a social good’. However: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>‘ While the rhetoric concerns international cooperation and exchange, the agenda is often primarily driven by the financial ambitions of the providers.’ (Perraton (1997) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>‘ The over-riding concern is not with curriculum and content but commercialization and commodification.’ (Duke, 2002) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>‘ It is rare to see online courses other than those that are nakedly economic or utilitarian in purpose.’ (Carr-Chellmann, 2005) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Selling online education to the world represents a regrettable transition of the university from public institution to corporation.’ (Cain and Hewitt, 2004) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>The British Council and Economist Intelligence Unit Index </li></ul><ul><li>Rates countries on their policies regarding the engagement and promotion of internationalisation in higher education. </li></ul><ul><li>Rated Australia the highest in QA and recognition, second on openness, and third on access and equity. </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>QA is essentially concerned with minimum standards. Minimum standards are not good enough. </li></ul><ul><li>QA as continuous improvement. Quality can never be taken for granted. </li></ul><ul><li>Toyota, Honda, Sony and Japan Airlines problems due to: </li></ul><ul><li>- global expansion and competition </li></ul><ul><li>- a tendency to embrace the status quo </li></ul><ul><li>- self-complacency bred from success or a ‘too-big-to-fail’ attitude </li></ul><ul><li> (MSN, 2010) </li></ul><ul><li>Boeing’s problems with the Dreamliner aircraft due to: </li></ul><ul><li>- lack of close working relationships and trusting partnerships in the </li></ul><ul><li>production chain </li></ul><ul><li>- low-wage, trained-on-the-job workers with no previous aerospace </li></ul><ul><li> experience </li></ul><ul><li>- a QA cycle time out of sync with the production rate </li></ul><ul><li>- a lack of qualified inspection/QA personnel </li></ul><ul><li>(Productivity Press, 2008) </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Some closing thoughts: </li></ul><ul><li>‘ I have the same feeling about QA processes as Goebbels had for culture: whenever I hear the words I reach for my gun’. . . ‘We put in place a QA process for online learning that was so hideously bureaucratic, none of the faculty wanted to do it.’ Asking whether there was a similar process for classroom courses, the reply was, ‘Of course not.’ </li></ul><ul><li>Because distance and e-learning is still often under a cloud of suspicion, this can give rise to more demanding forms of QA than are applied to conventional teaching and learning [and] QA can act as a brake on innovation by being predicated on past best practices using older technology. (Bates blog, 2010) </li></ul><ul><li>The student is not simply a customer. In the newer paradigm, s/he contributes to the knowledge and quality of the courses/programs. </li></ul>