The European quality benchmark for online, open and flexible education

1.  Strategic Management

 

Strategy

The majority of institutions evolved when the prevalent mode of study was face-to-face and campus-based. New modes of study offered through ICT should prompt institutions to review their strategies to take into account increased use of ICT, both in institutional and public online spaces.

The institution should have defined policies and management processes that are used to establish strategic institutional objectives, including those for the development of e-learning. In a mature institution, strategic management will operate over several time horizons.

The institutional strategic plan should identify the roles that e-learning will play in the overall development of the institution and set the context for production of the plans of academic departments, administrative and operational divisions. 

The institutional plan should outline options for the use of e-learning in teaching that may define a spectrum of "blends" of e-learning and more established teaching mechanisms. Institutional plans should also consider issues of resourcing, information systems, innovation and collaboration with partners.

Faculty and departmental plans should aim to best match the student requirements of their particular market sector (national/international focus) in presenting e-learning/blended learning options.

The institutional strategic plan should ensure that plans of academic departments are consistent with each other. Student mobility between departments should not be restricted by major differences in policy or implementation with respect to e-learning.

 

1. The institution has an e-learning strategy that is widely understood and integrated into the overall strategies for institutional development and quality improvement. E-learning policies conform to legal and ethical frameworks.

It is recommended that institutions have a strategic plan that forms the uppermost tier in a planning hierarchy. The plan should encompass a vision for the use and development of e-learning within the institution.

The e-learning strategy of the institution should include:

  • Prioritisation of e-learning by the institution within its teaching and learning strategy
  • Measures to assess the impact of e-learning (on teaching and learning, administration procedures, student data and so on)
  • Mechanisms to ensure that e-learning meets legal and ethical requirements (e.g. copyright, data protection, privacy)

A low score against this benchmark may indicate that the institution’s approach to e-learning is not integrated within its overall planning processes. Action may be required by institutional leaders to address the issue. 


2. The institution investigates and monitors emergent technologies and educational developments in the field of e-learning and considers their  integration in the learning environment. There is an organisational framework through which innovation and development can be fostered.

Institutions should:

  • maintain awareness of emerging technologies and new educational approaches (intelligence gathering)
  • provide staff support for the use of new technologies and approaches
  • organise internal seminars or conferences so that staff can share knowledge and experiences of e-learning.

3. The resourcing of developments in e-learning takes into account requirements such as equipment purchase, software implementation, recruitment of staff, training and research needs, staff workload and technology developments.

The institution’s strategic plan should address provision of the human, technical and financial resources necessary for e-learning.

Issues to be considered include:

  • technical infrastructure and equipment
  • staffing, staff development and staff workload
  • management, responsibility and accountability.

There should be an effective infrastructure for delivery of teaching materials and student support services. The institution may need to review and revise policies on the deployment of resources to ensure that it has in place an adequate technical and physical infrastructure.


4. Institutional policy ensures that e-learning systems (e.g. an institutional Virtual Learning Environment) are compatible with related management information systems (e.g. a registration or administrative system) and are reliable, secure and effective.

Implementation of e-learning may require significant changes in administrative systems, so that students have online access to all the information and materials they need. 

The institution must ensure that its information systems are effective, reliable and secure. Administrative systems (e.g. student registration) and e-learning systems (e.g. an institutional virtual learning environment) must be compatible with each other.

Low performance against this benchmark requires a review of systems from the perspectives of institutional users and student users.


5. When e-learning involves activities or resources beyond the institution (for example, virtual mobility of students, institutional partnerships or development of Open Educational Resources), the roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, communicated to those concerned, and controlled by operational agreements where appropriate.

The infrastructure and developmental costs of e-learning may create circumstances in which collaboration with other institutions provides an attractive route for the development and delivery of e-learning.

Collaborative ventures should be formally ratified prior to the course design stage. Contractual arrangements should define the scope of the collaboration, the responsibilities of partners, financial arrangements and the relationships with students and teachers. All collaborative ventures should be subject to risk analysis, and appropriate contingency planning should be in place in the event of the collaboration breaking down.

Another, less formal, collaborative approach is the use and/or development of Open Educational Resources (OER). Sharing and reuse of e-learning material in OER repositories can mitigate the cost of development. They also provide a low risk entry route into online resource-based teaching for individual academics. Institutions should provide guidance to staff in the role envisaged for OER within the institution.