ESTABLISHING QUALITY ASSURANCE FOR E-LEARNING IN HIGHER EDUCATION: CHALLENGES, INITIAL CONCEPTS AND PROCESS REFLECTION
Munich University of Applied Sciences (GERMANY)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Like many other higher education institutions, Munich University of Applied Sciences (MUAC) enhances its on-site teaching with flexible online formats, using a great variety of tools and specific educational designs. For many years these endeavors have been mainly pioneers’ work. Recently, the integration of online elements into regular study programs has been mainstreamed and an overall “e-learning strategy” has been devised for the university. Within the “Quality Initiative for German Higher Education” and the university’s development project “Well Equipped for the Future” (duration 2011-2016) within this initiative, new support structures and services for e-learning at the university have been established in the last year, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany (BMBF). The next step is now to establish an adequate system of quality assurance and management for the support services provided in order to further mainstream e-learning activities at the university and to implement flexible learning formats that integrate online learning elements in a sustainable way. This process is presently underway and some steps have already been realized successfully.
The process and the initial results form the backdrop of the case study in this paper. Presenting the case study, firstly, we will describe and analyze the different challenges that are entailed in this situation: Many different stakeholders are involved in e-learning support services and have vested interests, shaped by their particular perspective (students, lectures, university management, IT-services, etc.). Furthermore, there is no established quality assurance or management system for e-learning in higher education. Many different approaches and quality management models from other branches and sectors or generic models like EFQM or ISO 29990 can provide orientation but need a lot of adaptation and customizing work to be able to guide day-to-day work in an academic context with limited resources. In addition, there is even a controversial debate as to whether the whole concept of “quality management” developed in industry can be transferred to the educational sphere and if so, which special measures have to be taken in order to conceptualize the co-production process inherent in any successful teaching.
Thus, secondly, we will briefly outline these approaches and will investigate which elements can help, nevertheless, to shape a customized concept that meets MUAS needs and requirements. In a third step, the initially developed concept at MUAS will be portrayed. In a fourth step, we will critically assess and reflect upon the overall process: What were the lessons learnt? Which obstacles needed to be overcome? Which procedures turned out to be helpful? Conclusions and recommendations in the final part of the paper will wrap up the case study.
The contribution will inform all stakeholders in higher education that are confronted with a similar challenge of mainstreaming and fostering flexible online formats as part of up-to-date, on-site teaching. It will be of special value for those involved in attempts to assure and develop quality in e-learning support services in a systematic way.
Keywords: e-learning, quality assurance, quality management, e-learning support services.