This study carried out on behalf of the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) by a team coordinated by the European Association for Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU) is for:
- institutional leaders responsible for quality in online, open and flexible higher education
- faculty wanting to have an overview of the field
- newcomers that want to develop quality schemes
- policy makers in governments, agencies and organisations
- major educational stakeholders in the international community
It is a must read for any person concerned with quality in online, open and flexible higher education.
The report provides the first global overview of quality models in online and open education, an overview which is very timely, delivered as it is for Global Education 2030, the new global educational agenda which replaces Education For All, EFA.
The report paints with a broad brush the landscape of quality in online and open education – and its challenges. Illustrating that quality in online learning is as complex as the reality of online learning itself, it addresses new needs such as quality in MOOCs and Open Education Resources. It shows that one size does not fit all, that improving quality of student experiences is more than ever extremely important, and it warns against implementation of quality models that restrict innovation and change. These are all important issues to reflect on and discuss.
It delivers insight into the quality concept, the aspects of quality, and describes a selected number of models in relation to certification, benchmarking, accreditation and advisory frameworks, and can therefore serve as a guide and inspiration for building quality frameworks.
While its findings on the one hand shows there is no need for new quality schemes as such, it reveals a huge gap and need for knowledge building, knowledge sharing, capacity building and for coordination among stakeholders.
The research team makes 11 recommendations, spanning from important principles such as mainstreaming e-learning quality into traditional institutional quality assurance, to topical issues such as the establishment of quality criteria for mobile learning systems, and addressing unbundling and the emergence of non-traditional providers. Some key recommendations relate to knowledge building and sharing, to ensure knowledge resources for guidance and capacity building among experts and stakeholders.
While It is difficult to pin-point one recommendation as the most important or most urgent, my overall impression is that its findings – and recommendations on the need for information and knowledge sharing, collaboration and coordination are the most crucial and most urgent to address. This major and important task can best be carried out in partnership between key stakeholders; inter-governmental organisations (e.g. UNESCO, Commonwealth of Learning), quality assurance networks (e.g. INQAAHE) and networks of higher education institutions (e.g. ICDE and others).