So, how do we start on all of this quality assurance stuff?
Have these framework element teams supported by senior admin and the designated QA leader; these teams should be reporting in on a regular basis. Have review meetings booked in at least six months ahead. It is important to keep all meeting notes, offer Lessons Learned to senior admin, act upon and retain feedback from leadership.
How do we make sense of this QA document?
Why should I do it, why me, I'm too busy, what's in it for me?
This extra work will end when we hand in the QA report, right....?
'I have a PhD, I don't need to be involved with all of this, just let me get on with my teaching...'
What is a quick, painless and inexpensive way to start the online learning process?
What's the difference between an Audit and an Assessment?
There is a general confusion around this, mainly because institutions use them interchangeably, however, an audit is essentially compliance with set criteria, such as with the Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) aspects of your institution. Usually these are high scoring elements as they ensure the safety of students and staff.
Whereas an assessment adjudges how far along your quality journey you have travelled, reviews and offers guiding comments on your planning for the next stages of this journey.
So an assessment examines your functional process reviews, the improvements made, lessons learned, and the planning for future improvements.
This is a journey that will continue, there is no final destination as such, other than continual improvements being sought and implemented.
Just by way of clarification, even if assessors came in and offered up their considered view that the institution was 'Outstanding', the quality processes will still continue to be assessed and constantly moved forward. You will still be drafting self-assessments and submitting them to the Ministry of Education's Higher Education Review body.
It is feasible that if the institution's QA efforts then diminish that your next assessment can lower your standing and scoring, recommending another triangulation-of-evidence visit from the assessment board within perhaps three months.
What is the best approach to e-Learning within our specific learning culture and institution?
We need to define our use of the term, as it still seems to carry differing and somewhat conflicting ideas.
e-Learning is sometimes considered to be the holistic view that encompasses all learning or delivering of learning materials via computer technology.
There is a great difference between 'learning' and 'teaching' the delivery of materials or content.
In our educational context of learning we simply mean the use of online technologies where it will enhance learning, but is in no way a substitute for face-to-face interaction in this learning environment with its need for supportive teacher-student social interaction.
With the emphasis on enhance, online support will be for clarification, learning support or transparency.
Whether that be the Internet for the use of communication purposes, such as email or online discussion boards and the use of an internal intranet system to retain a www presence secure from prying eyes; or a fully fledged learning www learning portal.
A few years ago we were involved with the first joint venture fully online course to be administered in the UAE - involving:
and Knowledge Village in Dubai in conjunction with a platform purchased from institution D in the US.
This was designed with a control - one of the universities offered purely online learning with no face-to-face interaction with the teachers.
Outcomes from this study were not so positive, and illustrated clearly the following aspects we need to bear in mind when utilizing this technology for learning purposes:
The awareness to the needs of the specific student body.
Many of these courses and platforms are being sold ‘off the shelf’ to educational institutions on the basis of impressive features which may be as state-of-the-art as it gets, but often without sound cultural resonance or an appropriate cultural pedagogic basis.
Students need to be accultured into this learning process, features need to be scaffolded, tutorials need to be offered.
The process needs to be offered within a supportive and secure dynamic as possible.
(For theoretical aspects see: Maslow, Freire, Krashen, Gardener, Spiro, Jonassen, Flowerdew, Murphy, etc.)
Unless the prior knowledge and culturally preferred learning styles of the second language student body are considered then the outcomes are likely to be weakened. Which makes it very difficult for the teachers working under the added pressures of this invariably top down imposition.
So, what is the best approach to e-learning within our specific learning culture and institution?
Well, if we support appropriate courses with the internet we can add value to the courses and the learning environment. There is no need to present the students (or teachers) with a confusing array of features just for the sake of appearing upmarket or cutting-edge. Most E-learning systems are marketed for the range of facilities, much the same with new cameras – users will rarely use more than 10% of the cutting-edge features.
Faculty need to continually consider the question, not just from your elevated opinion but step into the shoes of your learners:
Are you actually adding value to the learning process or detracting from it?
There are students who are absent from class, sometimes through illness or from extended family holidays etc. Many wish to further their studies and academic explorations in the evenings and at weekends.
An online course portal then is an excellent source of information and asynchronous exchange (such as the discussion board) for them to keep up with the workload and deadlines, even able to submit their work online before a midnight deadline.
If we take the foundations of our sessions and post them online before the day of classes it gives the students the chance to pre-read and offers more opportunity for stimulating debate within the classroom.
This also offers a wider perspective of perceptions and opinions with carefully chosen guided links for expanded learning, thus enabling individual leaning journeys.
This system of presenting introductions to topics enables the students to consider the concept or theories introduced from their colloquial perspective; gaining some aspect of ownership and enlivening the classroom dynamic, feeling a valued partner within the learning and exploration process, developing subsequent consolidation and maintaining motivation.
Many positive attributes are gained.
The outcomes of multi-representation, critical thinking and autonomous learning is what undergraduate studies should be about; positive preparation for lifelong learning.
We can add links to appropriate and high-quality sites to direct the students in their autonomous investigations.
Please do check out the first couple of generations of links for any sites that may be wholly unsuited to cultural sensitivities.
We can upload the assessment and evaluation criteria, posting for example, questions to be researched (problem-based learning) issues to be considered, and offer links for the initiation of investigation.
Thereby, not only offering transparency of process but contextualizing their studies and extending their autonomous learning skills. Hopefully enabling the transfer from instrumental to intrinsic motivation.
You can quickly add prompts for deadlines and reminders. You can open an online discussion board and facilitate and consolidate learning via peer collaboration and teaching through quick postings.
We have absolutely no need to spend a great deal of the budget by inviting market oriented companies to join in our teaching processes. All we need is an introductory platform that can easily be built upon as our needs grow with teaching staff confidence. For this purpose we usually utilise the free, well established, open-source educational package – Moodle. (moodle.org).
By way of summation, if you consider the process of learning and studying from a student-centered point of view, as well as from a pedagogic one, you can do so much to assist the learning process and overcoming learning barriers, by the added value of supplementing motivational content, student oriented expansion and consolidation to the courses that we teach.
So, we should emphasize that E-learning in our context is not so much a portal for delivering information, but rather as facilitating our students’ individual pathways through this second language maze of constructivist and essentially western teaching and learning processes so that together we can cross the bridge to lifelong and meaningful applied learning.
Why do my Asian students either never speak, or just chat with each other though my classes?
Maybe because the Japanese and Korean students are reticent to try their English in front of the class, it's way too hazukashii...