In January 2023, Dr. Souma Alhaj Ali was appointed as the new Chair of the ICDE Quality Network, replacing Professor Alan Tait, who held the position since 2016. Dr. Souma shares her thoughts on the main quality challenges faced within open, flexible and distance learning, her motivation for responding to the call, and her vision for the future of the network.
Serving the ICDE community
Dr. Souma Alhaj Ali has a keen interest in the quality of open, flexible and distance learning (OFDL). As Director of Excellence and Governance at ICDE member institution, Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University, she has many years’ experience in the field, and is well-versed in the quality issues facing the field, both regionally and globally.
“When I learned that ICDE was searching for a new Chair of the Quality Network, my first thought was that this could be my way of giving back. Working with the network would give me a platform and an opportunity to share my experiences in this vital area.”
Souma also has the advantage of having previously served on the ICDE Quality Network; she held the role of Focal Point on Quality for the Arab region for four years. Now, she is looking forward to working with the current Focal Points on Quality to further inspire and encourage the adoption of the highest quality standards and best practices in OFDL.
“I am looking forward to working closely with the Focal Points for Quality. My role will be to guide, coordinate and support the development of ICDE global advocacy campaigns for quality OFDL, as well as to foster active engagement of all Focal Points and ensure that their regions are represented and their challenges are highlighted.”
Finding common solutions
Souma realises the list of challenges related to quality in OFDL can be extensive. Faculty and teachers’ skills and competencies, lack of student motivation, authenticity of assessments, internet access and bandwidth limitations, availability of high-quality content, appropriateness of curriculum and course design, and conventionality of the accreditation and ranking system can all play a part – to name a few.
“It is important to remember that even though we look different, we experience largely similar issues when it comes to quality. There are rarely challenges that affect only a certain region or university. In all likelihood, it is something we all faced during our journey to adopt online learning. What we want to do through the Quality Network is to create a platform for discussion and sharing good practices, and for working together to develop effective strategies and solutions to deal with challenges facing OFDL and drive the transformation toward the future.”
Read the latest Quality Network reportpdf
Model, inspire, encourage
Souma says her main goal for the ICDE Quality Network is based on a simple thought: model, inspire and encourage.
“I plan for the network to create a space to share studies, reports, and other useful resources related to quality with the ICDE community, with cross-references describing requirements for high-quality online learning as an effective option for inclusive and equitable quality education. This could support both existing and new adopters of OFDL and inspire and encourage further adoption of frontier technologies in education.”
According to Souma, ensuring high-quality, individualised, and engaging content can be a crucial part of inspiring students’ love for knowledge: “In today’s society, everything is competing for students’ attention. So, as educators, we need to offer something exciting and engaging, while also informative.”
Quality education for the future
Souma believes that early adopters of OFDL have a responsibility to share their knowledge and experience, not only to make the implementation process smoother for those new to the field, but also to prepare the education systems for the future.
“Education is, in my view, our tool for a better future. Education is a right for all, and we have a responsibility to provide access to high-quality education for everyone. If we want to build a better future, we need to ensure that young generations are educated properly.”
ICDE would like to extend their gratitude to Professor Alan Tait, for his dedicated years of service as Chair of the Quality Network. We look forward to working closely with Dr. Souma, and share her enthusiasm for ensuring quality in open, flexible and distance learning across the world.