IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF USER GENERATED CONTENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Friderich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (GERMANY)
The "explosion" of the amount of user generated content (UGC) takes place at such a magnitude and extent that - in analogy to the division of learning into formal, non-formal and informal - the term UGC was defined to describe the phenomenon and to draw a line between UGC and content created by professionals/experts in a professional environment.
Although the term UGC and its exact borders are subject to controversial discussion, some traits and/or characteristics of UGC can be identified:
• Publication and sharing: be it on a publicly accessible website, a collaborative project work, or on a page on a social networking site accessible to a select group of people;
• Creative effort: UGC often also has a collaborative element to it, as is the case of websites which users can edit collaboratively. Yet the minimum amount of creative effort is hard to define and depends on the context;
• Creation outside professional contexts: but with the possibility to feed the content back into organisational settings. It often does not have an institutional or a commercial market context. Motivating factors include: connecting with peers, achieving a certain level of fame, notoriety, or prestige, and the desire to express oneself.
User generated content poses a number of challenges to the current understanding of education and its institutions. Such challenges are very much due to its success and the quantity of UGC in comparison to content elaborated by experts. There are evident implications in terms of opening up the "ivory tower" of education to the wider world. Hierarchies and the concept of "authority" are questioned. In addition to that, the rapidly growing number of learning materials and repositories generated by users makes the issue of quality a pressing one.
In a scenario of global competition among higher education providers, enhancing quality of user generated content and ultimately fostering its acceptance and diffusion into teaching and learning practice is fundamental for universities in their modernisation agenda and might provide them with a competitive advantage.
Thus, the CONCEDE (Content creation excellence through dialogue in education) project developed a three-layered quality framework with the following layers:
• A first level of quality assurance is based on users' comments, reviews and ratings in relation to a learning experience taking place within one HE institution;
• A second layer of quality assurance is based on institutional quality procedures undertaken by universities;
• The third layer consists of dialogue and negotiations between the representatives of these two levels of quality assurance (i.e. teachers and learners) in order to reach a consensus which determines a synthesis of both layers described above.
The validity and usefulness of the three layers and their transformation into concrete measures are subject to piloting in different Higher Education institutions across 6 European countries. The presentation will focus on the results of the piloting activities and especially on the solutions to overcome the detected obstacles.