How to use the Quick Scan

The Quick Scan online questionnaire is intended to give you a first orientation on the strengths of your e-learning performance and the potential for improvement. An initial self-assessment via the Quick Scan can be the basis for a subsequent review using the resources in the manual and assessors’ notes.

The Quick Scan should ideally be filled out by a team which includes different stakeholders in your organisation: management, academics, course designers, tutors and students. It is therefore recommended that you build a small team which includes members of the stakeholder groups. The review can be conducted at institution, academic department or module level to suit your own needs. However, if you are operating at department or module level, you should ensure that your team includes those with experience of institutional policy and practice relevant to e-learning.

The team should identify which benchmarks are relevant, and which are less important for your organisation. The team should then collaborate to complete the Quick Scan, including adding comments in the open text areas which are provided.

The result of the Quick Scan exercise should be an agreed self-assessment against the benchmarks that fit your organisation. This will reveal those aspects of e-learning where your organisation is already strong, and those aspects where there are opportunities for improvement.

Results of the Quick Scan will only be visible for the user and not recorded for any other purposes.
1. Strategic Management

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, staff development, 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.


2. Curriculum Design

An important aspect of the quality of e-learning concerns the design of the curriculum. It is assumed that curriculum design is broadly constrained by expectations or requirements on the knowledge, skills and professional outcomes-based curriculum elements; these may be set at national, European and international levels.

The major challenge that institutions face is that of designing curricula that combine the flexibility in time and place of study offered by e-learning without compromising skills development or the sense of academic community that has traditionally been associated with campus based provision. Key challenges and opportunities include: programme modularity, online assessment methods, building online academic communities, integration of knowledge and skills development, and offering personalised learning to meet different learning needs and aspirations.

Curriculum design should address the needs of the target audience for e-learning programmes that, in the context of growing emphasis on lifelong learning, may differ significantly in prior experience, interest and motivation from the traditional young adult entrant to conventional universities.

3. Course Design

The course design process should demonstrate a rational progression: the need for the course within the overall curriculum should first be established; then a conceptual framework for the course should be designed, followed by the detailed development of course materials.

Each course should include a clear statement of the learning outcomes to be achieved on successful completion. These outcomes will be specified in terms of knowledge, skills, vocational/professional competencies and personal development.

The development of each course should include a clearly documented course specification which sets out the relationship between learning goals/outcomes, teaching and learning activities and assessment methods. A course may include a blend of e-learning and face-to-face elements; attention should be paid to the appropriateness of assessment methods, the levels of interactivity and the provision of adequate feedback.

Aspects of course design and implementation may be delegated to an outside agency (a consortium partner, commercial developer or through use of OER). However, the parent institution should retain oversight and responsibility.

4. Course Delivery

Course delivery encompasses the Virtual Learning Environment, personal learning environments and/or other channels, such as social media, through which students receive their course materials or communicate with fellow learners and staff. These systems represent a very significant investment of financial and human resource in their acquisition and on-going support.

The selection of a particular system, which may influence teaching developments for many years, should be driven by both educational and technical requirements. Educational requirements include delivery of learning resources, facilities for online communication and tools for assessment. Technical requirements include reliability and security standards. The delivery system should be reviewed and monitored to ensure it continues to meet these requirements.

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.

6. Student Support

Student support services are an essential component of e-learning provision. Students’ retention, success and satisfaction are their main objectives.

Institutions should develop policies and strategies for the design and provision of student support services. Although the delivery of student support services may vary between institutions, some aspects of student support should be taken into account in all e-learning programmes.

Summarizing, support services for e-learning students should be designed to cover the pedagogic, technical and administrative aspects that affect the online learner:

  • Clear and up-to-date information and advice about courses should be provided to enable students to make informed choices.
  • Information and advice about technical and administrative matters should be easily accessible.
  • Guidance, resources and activities should be provided to support students on their journey through university, including induction, pastoral support, the development of generic study skills and e-learning skills, and career advice.
  • Staffed helpdesk and advisory services should be provided at times appropriate to students’ needs.
  • Online library services should be provided to e-learning students. Study centres may be appropriate for some courses.
  • Students should be supported through online communities.

Quality student support services depend on adequate numbers of professional staff. Students should be provided with identified academic contacts responsible for providing feedback and support. Other supporting roles and services should be also available.

© 2009 EADTU