Effective application of quality assurance & enhancement procedures to e-learning courses Workshop at University of Reading 7 July 2008
Workshop background • IOE Pathfinder Pilot – PREELIncluded revision of QA procedures for e-learning courses • IOE research study on QA/QE in e-learningExamined effectiveness of internal quality assurance procedures for online courses • Reading Pathfinder DIRECT Driving Institutional Reform: Exploring Change with Technology • Quality Assurance AgencyIn 2006 the QAA began a new cycle of audits with a more enhancement-focused approach
Purposes of the workshop • Identify any issues in quality assurance/enhancement procedures that arise from the use of technology in teaching and learning • Identify how these issues are reflected in your own current institutional procedures • Identify how the internal QA/QE procedures of other institutions deal with these issues • Identify ways to make your institutional QA/QE procedures more effective in assuring and enhancing the quality of TEL.
Day overview 10.00 Introduction 10.15 Part 1: Making terms explicit 10.55 Part 2: Internal QA/QE procedures for TEL 11.35 Coffee 11.45 Part 3: Issues affecting effective implementation of internal QA/QE procedures for TEL 12.45 Lunch 13.30 Part 4: Planning actions to improve the effective application of QA/QE procedures to TEL 14.40 QA/QE in e-learning SIG 15.00 Close
Part 1 Making terms explicit
Technology • Technology enhanced learning • E-learning • On-line teaching
QAA’s framework - IQAPs • Internal quality assurance procedures Each [HEI] is responsible for the standards and quality of its academic awards and programmes. Each has its own internal procedures for attaining appropriate standards and assuring and enhancing the quality of its provision. In particular, institutions address their responsibilities for standards and quality through: • the assessment of students; • their procedures for the design, approval, and the monitoring and review of programmes. QAA (2003) A brief guide to quality assurance in UK higher education. www.qaa.ac.uk
Quality enhancement .. the process of taking deliberate steps at institutional level to improve the quality of learning opportunities....[…] … an aspect of institutional quality management that is designed to secure, in the context of the constraints within which individual institutions operate, steady, reliable and demonstrable improvements in the quality of learning opportunities. QAA (2006) Handbook for institutional audit: England and Northern Ireland The definition of 'enhancement' QAA has adopted …. leaves room for institutions to follow their own definitions of 'enhancement'. Some institutions may define enhancement as 'continuous improvement', others as 'innovation' and there may be other definitions. QAA (2007) Audit and enhancement: further guidance for institutions and QAA audit teams
QE and TEL • Enhancement • improvement or innovation • TEL • Is an innovation, hence enhancement? • Need to improve TEL?
Task 1 (15 minutes) In each group… • What do you mean by QE? • How can you use the internal quality assurance procedures to achieve QE? Report back – one point per group
Swinglehurst, D. (2006) Peer Observation of Teaching in the Online Environment: an action research approach. Final Report. Centre for Distance Education
QA/QE – the difference Quality assurance and quality enhancement are not the same as the first is concerned with determining that objectives and aims have been achieved, while quality enhancement is concerned with making improvements. • Quality enhancement is part of a wider framework in which quality control, quality assurance, quality enhancement and transformation are stages in the management of quality • Common belief that quality assurance leads naturally to quality enhancement is not correct, as most quality assurance efforts are by and large concentrated in accountability Middlehurst, R. (1997), 'Enhancing Quality'. In F. Coffield and B. Williamson (eds), Repositioning Higher Education. Buckingham: SRHE and Open University Press.
Retrospective vs prospective Quality assurance may be either ‘retrospective’ or ‘prospective’ depending on the type of quality it is aiming to assure. Retrospective QA looks into the past to make a judgement with a focus on accountability Prospective QA is concerned with the present and future, focusing on quality as fit for purpose, and encouraging improvement Defines QE as the internal mechanisms that an institution puts in place to continually review and improve practice Biggs, J. (2001), 'The reflective institution: assuring and enhancing the quality of teaching and learning'. Higher Education, 41, 221 - 238
Accountability vs improvement … external evaluations have accountability and compliance focuses rather than the encouragement of continuous quality improvement of the student experience. In most institutions where it occurs, improvement of the student experience is a function of internal review and monitoring processes, usually heavily reliant, nowadays, on student feedback, examiners reports, internal improvement audits, periodic revalidation of programmes of study and staff teams critically self-reflecting on their everyday practice. • All internal processes of quality monitoring have a greater effect on the quality of the provision than the external monitoring processes Harvey, L. (2005), 'A history and critique of quality evaluation in the UK'. Quality Assurance in Education, 13 (4), 263 – 276.
Part 2 Internal QA/QE Proceduresfor TEL
Internal QA procedures Validation Module evaluation Annual course review Periodic course review Student representation External examiner Peer observation Other…
Task 2 (15 minutes) In each group… Considering the internal QA procedures in place in your own institution, discuss: • Does TEL require new/changed internal QA procedures? • Does TEL enable new/changed internal QA procedures? Report back
National overview (QAA audits 2003-2006)
Part 3 Issues affecting effective implementation of internal QA/QE procedures for TEL
QA/QE for TEL The literature identifies differences between TEL and campus-based learning: • Disaggregated processes • Distributed teams • Distant location of students • Openness to review
Research study • Four case studies • Postgraduate courses in a range of universities • Explore how dual-mode HEIs approach the application of their internal QA procedures to their e-learning courses • For each case study • QA documentation • Interviews with stakeholders • Comparative examination of data: • Map of issues not captured by the QA procedures • Identification of those aspects of the courses which were impacting on the implementation of the procedures
Research results The application of the QA procedures was affected by: • Organisational context in which courses are located • Disaggregated processes • Distributed teams • Distant location of students • Openness to review
1. Organizational context - detachment Online courses were often in a ‘detached’ position in their institutions, which created both a sense of autonomy and isolation • On-line courses off senior management’s agendas • Courses without central oversight • This led to failure to collect relevant information
2. Disaggregated processes Distributed organisation of teams in terms of roles affected the levels of coordination and communication among team members • Unclear distribution of responsibilities • Collaboration with external and specialised units added further complexity
3. Distributed teams - coordination Online courses were often taught by a mixture of full time tutors, tutors with fee-based contracts and tutors working from home or elsewhere. Course teams were scattered and course leaders were often not aware of the coordination requirements of a distributed team • On campus team with face-to-face meetings, tutors fully integrated • Course leaders tend to use the same coordination and feedback mechanisms used for on-campus staff
4. Distant location of students Distant location of students also affected the quality assurance mechanisms, as it obstructed the implementation of some of the procedures in their current form(e.g. the use of student representatives) • Compensated for by a strong and trusting relationship between students and tutors • Opportunity was only occasionally taken up by teams
Effect on internal procedures • Annual Reviews • Module evaluations • Team meetings
Annual Reviews • Approached as an administrative burden, which had to be written up just for accountability purposes • Senior management is perceived as not prepared/not able to understand the relevance of TEL issues • Annual review often detached from its enhancement function • Perceived as an event rather than a process • Teams render two different accounts, one for external consumption and another to be used internally
Module evaluations • Distant location of students… • low response rates • teams discarding the results as invalid, regardless of their content • Distributed organisation of teams… • unclear allocation of responsibilities • led to responses being left untouched or only superficially analysed
Team meetings • Distributed teams • absence of a structure of formal meetings • put at risk the team’s capacity to deal with the issues identified and the monitoring of their resolution Evidence: • consistency in the information managed by team members • mechanisms for coordination and feedback relying on informal encounters • Adjustments to overcome the limitations usually took the form of increasing the formalisation of the communication and coordination channels either online or face-to-face
Task 3 (35 minutes) Select one internal QA procedure In each group: • Quickly review the procedure’s purpose and how should it work • Quickly review how the procedure is intended to aid quality enhancement • Describe any issues impacting on the use of this procedure for QA/QE arising from the use of TEL • Suggest solutions Produce a one page written report: • List issues identified affecting the procedure selected • List suggestions for changes/improvement
Part 4 Planning actions to improve the effective application of QA/QE procedures to e-learning courses
Validation criteria Evaluation of e-learning courses Embedded evaluation PROPP Peer Observation Periodic review framework Techniques - research & practice
1. Additional validation criteria (IoE) • Staff experience of, or training in, use of on-line teaching methods • Evaluation plan • Arrangements for the support of students with disabilities • Explicit course management procedures (including the role of administrators, and a named person responsible for quality assurance) • Arrangements for obtaining feedback from students • Explicit arrangements for tutor peer observation
2. Recommendations for evaluation • Obtain feedback from all stakeholders: students, tutors, administrators, technical support • Organise frequent formal staff meetings, face-to-face and/or online, with agendas defined by the staff, and covering all key issues • Carry out evaluation as an integral part of the activities of the course, both during and after the course • Ensure that responsibility for collection and analysis of results is clearly assigned • Take advantage of the technology in use in the course to collect feedback Evaluation of e-learning courses WLE Occasional Paper 4
3. Embedded evaluation • Project studying e-learners’ experiences in a mixed-mode course • Student learning is enhanced by evaluation which is concurrent with teaching • Embedding evaluation tasks as part of the activities of the course • encouraging students to think about their own learning and how the course design, materials and/or activities have supported them (or not) in this pr Daly, C. Pachler, N., Pickering, J. & Bezemer, J. (2006) A study of e-learners’ experiences in the mixed-mode professional degree programme, the Master of Teaching.
Examples of evaluation questions Writing online or in face to face seminar MASTER OF TEACHING Only two of you had prior experience of learning online before joining the MTeach, so this has been a new way of communicating to learn for everybody else in the group. These discussions form a significant alternative to talking about issues at the face-to-face days or in traditional seminars. What has it been like to ‘discuss’ by using writing to communicate with each other like this? RESEARCH SYNTHESIS FOR POLICY AND PRACTICE Conducting a systematic review is a collaborative process, involving both face-to-face meetings and online discussions/activities. The course has been designed to mimic this process - carrying out activities both in the workshops and online - how has it been to learn like this? Please offer your thoughts…
4. PROPP Peer Observation • Project studying the implementation of peer observation of teaching for tutors of an online course • Development & piloting of approach to peer observation • regular meetings course tutors are held • at each meeting, individual tutors bring an example of a problem, issue or a project (e.g. feedback prepared for a student, transcript of a virtual seminar, marks awarded for student’s work) • this material is used as the basis for discussion with other tutors supporting reflection, and challenging assumptions Swinglehurst (2008) Peer Observation of Teaching in the Online Environment: an action research approach
Example of a PROPP meeting Topic • How do we assess our students? Evidence: • Two student tutor marked assignments with the marks and tutor feedback Main outputs • The instructions in the assignment task were ambiguous, and so needed to be altered • The task needed to be broken down into smaller components • Written feedback should include specific examples rather than relying on general comments which may not be well understood by students • Feedback should refer back to previous feedback given to students, it is worth exploring the possibilities for enabling this more easily within the VLE
5. Periodic review framework University of Reading Pathfinder DIRECT - Driving Institutional Reform: Exploring Change with Technology
Plenary discussion Summaries of discussions from Task 3 Discussion: • How can your institutional procedures be made more effective in assuring and enhancing the quality of TEL? • What obstacles stand in the way of improving these institutional procedures ?
QA-QE SIG • JISCmail list: ‘QA-QE SIG’to join go to http://jiscmail.ac.uk and sign up • More information: www.lkl.ac.uk/research/qa-elearning