Quality Assurance in Blended Learning: Case Study

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Slide 1

My topic today is quality assurance in blended learning and I will tackle it from the perspective of the Tempus BLATT project. Also, I’m presenting here today on the behalf of professor Jovanovic who could not attend due to his previous engagements.

Slide 2

My presentation will last about 15 minutes and I will describe two approaches to quality assurance, as well as our take on it. I will gladly address any questions or comments you have at the end.

Slide 3

Allow me to begin by presenting professor Jovanovic’s work with the Lithuanian Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education or as they call it for short SKVC. You can read some basic information about them on the screen. The Centre is an independent public agency and it implements the external quality assurance policy in higher education in Lithuania. The Centre was founded by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania as an expert institution.. The purpose of external assessment is to provide public accountability and help institutions in internal improvement processes. The Centre is an influential generator, implementer and disseminator of the ideas of quality and internationalism in higher education.

Slide 4

I will focus on their primary work on the evaluation of the study programs. In doing so, the evaluating team focuses on the six criteria you can see on the screen. I will quickly elaborate on the first three. The standards imply that the learning aims and outcomes are based on the academic requirements, public needs and the needs of the labor market and that they are consistent with the type and level of studies and qualifications offered. Furthermore, they should be well defined, clear and publicly accessible. Curriculum design must primarily meet legal requirements. Secondly, the design should abide by the cycle of constructive alignment where themes, learning activities, and assessment methods are appropriate for the achieving the learning outcomes. The teaching staff is also a part of the alignment cycle, their qualifications, research field, and professional development should be adequate to ensure the learning outcomes.

Slide 5

I would now like to show you the process from the evaluator’s perspective. As you can see from the graphic, the evaluators receive self-evaluation reports with all supporting documentation for analysis. Based on this analysis, they write a preliminary report which is then sent to the Centre which distributes it to all the parties involved. The next step is the on-site visit which is an opportunity to discuss the evaluation with the stakeholders from the management structure, to the teachers, students, as well as potential employers and business partners. The next step is drawing the final report with recommendations for improvement that the Center then amends and publishes.

Slide 6

EFQUEL is the leading international network in the field of quality in education and is open for individual members, academic & non-academic institutions, and corporations. EFQUEL’s services cover training, review services and conformity checks for higher education and other educational organizations and consulting, as well as certification. The certifications they offer are illustrated on the screen.

Slide 7

ECB check was of special interest to us. ECB check toolkit is a quality improvement scheme for e-learning. It is basically an assessment rubric for online or blended course design that consists of the 9 indicators you see on the slide. Each indicator is supported by several statements. The rubric can serve both as a guide in course design and as an evaluation tool.

Slide 8

This brings me to the main focus of my presentation, the quality assurance in Tempus BLATT project. Let me just quickly remind you all that our main aim was to introduce blended learning at the University through piloting several blended course in the fall semester 2013/14: Endocrinology, Basics of ECG and Pediatrics at the Faculty of Medicine; Biology of Exercise at the Faculty of Physical Science, IT in Environmental Protection at the Faculty of Technical Sciences, Project Management at the Faculty of Economics, and Contemporary English Language 1 at the Faculty of Philosophy. The project proposal stipulated an elaborate procedure for assuring the course quality. This was very important to us as we were treading the new and unfamiliar ground at the time. The first step was an extensive survey of the blended learning research we performed by the end of 2012. The aim of this survey was to familiarize the teaching staff with the idea and the philosophy behind the approach. We presented the results of the survey in Maribor in January 2013. You can find the summary of the survey on our Youtube channel. Maribor visit was also an opportunity to see firsthand the blended learning in action at their University. In addition, the roundtable discussion held there was focused on sharing our partner’s experiences and best practices in this field. In May and June 2013, our teaching staff underwent a series of training sessions delivered by our partners in the various aspects of blended learning, starting from the technical aspects of Moodle, to its pedagogical use, then the use of tools for synchronous learning, finding open educational resources, creating digital materials, course design, and finally making our courses accessible to handicapped students. During the summer of 2013, while we were designing and transforming our courses, we used the ECB check toolkit as a guide in the process. The first design outlines were submitted to our partners for review. All through our piloting stage in the fall semester, experts from partner institutions were monitoring our progress and were generally available for briefings and individual consults. We had regular online meetings once a month. Furthermore, the expert panel had guest access to our courses in the learning platform so that they could witness the process.

Slide 9

The final step in the piloting stage was the evaluation of the courses this April. The evaluation was the combination of the two approaches I presented in the first part of my presentation tweaked to fit our special needs and circumstances. The elements of the evaluation are presented in the slide. During the course, our students completed three questionnaires. The first one was to determine their readiness for online learning while at the same time inform them what is expected of them. On the other hand, it gave us the insight into their digital literacy, habits and skills. After the two thirds of the course were completed, we administered the native Moodle survey, COLLES Actual. This survey aimed at assessing the degree to which the learning activities and course materials improved and helped our students learn. The survey was organized in six categories: Relevance of the course content to students’ learning needs and educational profiles. Opportunities for reflective thinking. Degree to which students engaged with the course materials, their colleagues and instructors. How well the instructors facilitated the learning process. How sensitive their colleagues were to their learning needs. How well we understood each other in on-line communication. Finally, at the end of the course we distributed the student satisfaction questionnaire. The questions were divided into five categories: Basic demographic data (4 questions) Cognitive attitudes toward this course (10 questions) Moodle: ease of access (10 questions) Affective attitudes towards this course (10 questions) Students comments (4 questions) The results of these surveys, together with our self-evaluation reports were submitted to the expert panel. The panel analyzed the reports and then evaluated the online portion of the courses based on the ECB check toolkit now used as a rubric for assessment. After the analysis, the panel interviewed the teachers and randomly chosen students to discuss different aspects of the course delivery.

Slide 10

Final step in the evaluation is the course review report and recommendations. Our future ambitions are to make these courses integral to our study programs by submitting them for accreditation with the national agency. Then, after the next delivery in the fall semester 2014/2015 we would apply for the EFQUEL E-Quality Label.

Slide 11

Thank you all for your attention. I would now gladly answer your questions and discuss your comments.

Summary: Presentation delivered at the HERE expert seminar in Kosovska Mitrovica, May 2014. Description of QA activities in the Tempus BLATT project.

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