The European quality benchmark for online, open and flexible education

5.  Staff Support

 

The objective of staff support services is to enable all members of academic, administrative and technical staff to contribute fully to e-learning development and service delivery. Institutional adoption of innovations from the media and technical landscape will trigger the need for specific staff development activities. There is also a need for ongoing dissemination of good practice.

Academic staff need particular support to make the transition from traditional face-to-face teaching to effective teaching using an online environment; this support should encompass both educational and technical aspects without demanding that academics become ICT or media specialists in their own right.

Teaching through e-learning should be acknowledged when managing staff workload. Career development incentives should promote the use of e-learning. It is important to address the needs of both full time and associate staff who may be employed in a number of teaching and administrative roles.

 

25. Staff in academic, media development and administrative roles can adequately support the development and delivery of e-learning components.

This benchmark requires institutions to demonstrate that they provide effective support to their staff in addressing the challenges of e-learning.

A good performance in this area will be achieved by institutions that have secured the commitment of a broad section of their staff, not simply those who are enthused by technological developments.

If an institution is to integrate e-learning into the mainstream of its programmes, all academic and other professional staff must be confident that they can exercise their professional skills in this area.

Competences related to development and delivery of e-learning should be included in job descriptions and considered routinely in performance review.


26. The institution ensures that appropriate training and support is provided for staff and that this training is enhanced in the light of technological and educational developments.

Staff must be adequately supported in learning the software and technical systems that they are required to use.

Academic and administrative staff must have access to a comprehensive suite of training opportunities that equip them with the capabilities to operate the software and hardware necessary for them to contribute effectively in an e-learning environment.

Training may be provided by:

  • induction programmes on appointment
  • training associated with the introduction of new systems
  • updating programmes
  • on-line training materials
  • helpdesk services.

27. Educational research and innovation in e-learning are regarded as high status activities, and are promoted by career development incentives.

This benchmark is designed to assess the extent to which e-learning activity is highly regarded within the institution.

Poor performance in this area may indicate that the achievements of staff working on e-learning developments are not widely recognized. Improvement may require the introduction of new reward structures. 

Academic staff must become willing and effective users of the pedagogic techniques available to them.

Institutions must foster an environment that encourages and supports the development of pedagogic skills and expertise amongst its staff. Recognition of these in its structures of reward and esteem is an important factor. 


28. There are mechanisms for the dissemination of good practice based on experience and research on e-learning.

The provision of support for staff in the pedagogy of e-learning is essential if e-learning is to be implemented as an integral component of institutional activity.

Professional development seminars and symposia on pedagogic issues need to be organised (and well attended).

Internal and external publication on pedagogic issues related to e-learning must be encouraged. The institution must support the research and development of e-learning pedagogy.

Tutorial and other support staff must be encouraged to take part in pedagogic developments.


29. The institution ensures that issues of staff workload, and any other implications of staff participation in e-learning activities, are taken into account when managing courses or programmes.

Good performance against this benchmark will indicate that the institution has addressed the changes in working practice that e-learning demands.

Poor performance may indicate that institutional workload planning has not kept pace with technical developments and that a review process should be implemented. 

The introduction of a new system changes well established patterns of working and formalises interactions between groups of staff that previously operated on an accepted custom and practice basis. New formalised procedures may be regarded as an increase in workload and may have a negative impact on attitudes towards the system.

Significant changes in operations (e.g. the introduction of devolved teaching involving tutors/mentors) may create a new tier of activity. The institution should therefore model the workload implications of new modes of operation and develop appropriate staffing plans and workload norms.


30. Adequate support and resources (e.g. technical help desk and administrative support) are available to academic staff, including any affiliated tutors/mentors.

All staff should have access to technical support in the use of the e-learning environment and the hardware and software used in teaching. This may be provided by a helpdesk service. For those working remotely, technical support can be provided online or by telephone.

Effective administrative support should be provided to all staff involved in the development and delivery of e-learning courses and programmes, including tutors/mentors working on a part-time basis.

The introduction of e-learning may create new administrative tasks or shift the administrative burden to different staff (e.g. the administration and management of teaching activities devolved to tutors/mentors). The impact on staff should be assessed and workloads adjusted if necessary. 

Staff should be supported in the acquisition of information and media materials necessary for them to fulfill their role in the development and delivery of e- learning.