E-learning has become mainstream provision in European higher education and is essential in supporting lifelong learning and internationalisation. By becoming integral part of higher education, e-learning should also be integral part of the QA systems, internal and external, with related innovative and appropriate criteria.
In a recent report (E-learning Quality (ELQ) – Aspects and criteria for evaluation of e-learning in higher education. Report 2008:11R) the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (NAHE) has surveyed the work on quality assurance of e-learning in higher education on a European level in nine selected countries. One conclusion is that quality in e-learning is a non issue for many, especially for the quality assurance agencies. In the NAHE report, it is suggested that the same criteria for quality should be applicable to e-learning as it is to traditional campus-based education. The accreditation, audit and assurance process of e-learning should therefore be integrated in the national framework and not be evaluated separately. To this end, there is a need for methodological development within quality assurance agencies. At the same time, there is a need for increased cooperation between national agencies as e-learning enhances the development of borderless education. (From ENQA seminar Sigtuna 10/09)
Although initiatives on QA in e-learning are running for some years now it is still restricted to some interested universities. The QA agencies put QA in e-learning only recently on their agenda and are searching for the expertise for setting the specific criteria and indicators. The expertise and responsibility for QA in e-learning is however in first instance within the universities. The universities have taken that responsibility by sharing expertise in developing the E-xcellence instrument. Further integration of the benchmarks in the institutional QA systems of the universities as well as the QA-agencies is necessary to mainstream QA in e-learning European wide within the existing channels. The E-xcellence instrument was from the start developed as a building block to the existing systems, not interfering with the current models, but fitted for integration.
How E-xcellence operates within the existing systems; a view from the Dutch-Flemish Accreditation Body (NVAO)
Click here to read the Statement of Fred Mulder (NVAO)
What is the E-xcellence Associates in Quality Label?
With E-xcellence, EADTU is leading a European movement on QA in e-learning. More specifically, the building of an e-learning benchmarking community of Associates in Quality. The E-xcellence Associates are focusing on the improvement of four priority elements of progressive higher education: Accessibility, Flexibility, Interactiveness and Personalization.
Working on the European level with different countries and different systems of higher education, setting standards for Quality Assurance in e-learning is not only impossible but would also disregard the complexity and variety of the European HE systems. A benchmarking approach as a system of references is therefore much more appropriate and effective.
In our approach, benchmarking is an improvement tool; a process of comparing the universities performance with best practices in the field of e-learning. This process guides universities in critically looking at their own business models and practices leading to identification of weaknesses and strengths in comparison to other universities. By offering also directions and examples of enhancements, users of E-xcellence are guided towards improving their e-learning performance based on benchmarks.
This process of improvement can be a stand-alone exercise for the higher education institution, leading to a first insight in fields of improvement. The approach can be extended with a review at a distance or on-site from e-learning experts. This extension is formalised in an E-xcellence Associates label. (www.eadtu.eu/e-xcellencelabel)
The E-xcellence Associates label is not a label for proven excellence but rather a label for institutions/faculties using the E-xcellence instrument for self-assessment and take measures of improvement accordingly.
This label was established to reward the efforts of universities in a continuous process of improving their e-learning performance and offer them the platform and networking opportunities to meet virtually with peers and experts in the field. On their part universities can present their fields of expertise as well to this community.