Preserving Quality in on-line education

Article by Diane Shawe M.Ed.

Various transformations taking place throughout the world had impacted  changes in teaching and learning– one of the activities with the oldest traditions in human history. Globalisation is changing established relationship, practice and culture and destroying territorial boundaries.  An important role in reorganising education systems and the implementation of lifelong learning principles is an obligation of higher education institutions, especially K2 educational institutions.

It is important for higher education institutions to respond to changing social needs for new learning styles and ways.  These include training teacher within the lifelong learning sector and administrators to focus on quality improvement in on-line education.

To continue discussion about on-line study quality and areas of effective use of these studies it is necessary to conceptualise what is quality in on-line studies.  Exploring by what means it can be achieved and what is the impact of technology on these studies. However, analysis of scientific literature shows that still little attention is given to on-line learning quality, more research studies are devoted to analysis of quality of traditional education, although much from the latter is adapted in on-line learning.

The term ‘quality’ can rarely be heard in public discussion about learning. What I mean by ‘quality’ is in the delivery and assessment processes when delivering  blended learning contents via various media’   Opinion about the quality of learning depends on numerous aspects, for example, on a person’s experience, status (teacher, student or other), circumstances and so on.  Even if learning is determined to be ‘quality’ at a certain period, it will not remain forever static, because the assessment of ‘quality’ is forever developing, on-going innovative learning technologies and methods are being discovered, approach to learning is changing and so on.

I believe that we should endeavour  to agree that ‘quality’ in on-line learning is an objective which is improving, continuously being searched for but it is not possible to claim that it is achieved.

Seeking to use modern technological opportunities for the delivery and improvement of on-line learning  several  necessary external conditions need to be satisfied in order to move towards ‘quality’:

  • Both students and teachers must possess satisfactory computer literacy;
  • Learning Management Systems must be synchronous and asynchronous;
  • Both students and teachers have to have access to e-learning technologies;
  • Quality digital contents (courses and learning material) must be designed;
  • Computer networks and the Internet reaching all communities of the country must be established;

E-administration tools that delivery Course Management Systems (CMS) is often confused with Learning Management Systems (LMS);  for  instance Moodle which is predominantly  a Course Management System has probably hampered the real introduction of asynchronous LMS from which real on-line interaction between student and teacher can be directed.  Whilst there is a place for CMS to support self-service,  it is to be viewed as a segment that would contribute to the whole online LMS blended learning  principles.

Every new learning technology (books, computers, the Internet) has caused revolutionary changes in learning. The quality of on-line study is a goal. It can be improved, sought, but the process is never-ending due to changes of conditions, learning technologies and at last– the concept of the quality itself.

Diane Shawe CEO of Academy of Vocational and Professional Training

Can on-line courses be accredited successfully?

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