Quality control

Maintaining quality starts with defining a purpose (mission), desired results in a 1- to 5-year period (vision), actions we will do to achieve those results (strategy) and constant assessment of progress.  In an environment where informational and communicational technologies and practices create “rapid, profound, unpredictable, and likely discontinuous” changes (Duderstadt, 2001), quality has become a “moving target” (Moore, Maintaining Quality in Online Education, 2007).

In such an ever-changing environment, quality control can be based on:

  1. Well-designed internal continuous quality-control framework and
  2. Benchmarking

Continuous Quality Improvement

The Sloan Consortium, an institutional and professional leadership organization dedicated to integrating online education into the mainstream of higher education, has created an elaborated Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) framework.

Five Pillars of Quality. Source: sloan-c.orgThe five pillars of the Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) framework are (Moore, Maintaining Quality in Online Education, 2007):

  1. Learning effectiveness,
  2. Institutional commitment and cost effectiveness,
  3. Access,
  4. Faculty satisfaction,
  5. Student satisfaction

Figure 4. Five Pillars of Quality. Source: sloan-c.org

A detailed  description of the Sloan Consortium Quality Framework and tools they use to evaluate each of the Five Pillars is available at (Moore, The Sloan Consortium Quality Framework And The Five Pillars, 2005): http://www.sloan-c.org/publications/books/qualityframework.pdf

E-moderators – the key quality factor. Research shows that the most critical success factors of online courses are “skills, effort and guidance of the subject experts who moderate each course.” Therefore, selecting, training, benchmarking, and supporting good e-moderators (online tutors/mentors) should be one of the top priorities (Short et al., 2007) .

Benchmarking

Benchmarking is methodology used to improve performance by finding high-performing organizations and importing their practices to the home organization (Keehly, Abercrombie, 2008).

Nowadays, when we define quality as a “moving target” that should be monitored and improved daily  and when we have tools to create a highly interactive network of veterinary educators, solution-driven benchmarking is the method of choice.
The essence of the method is the network of professionals and organizations that the benchmarker can tap for promising practices.

Five Steps of the Solution-Driven Benchmarking Method are:

  1. Discover the challenge
  2. Establish criteria for solution
  3. Search promising practices
  4. Implement promising practices
  5. Monitor progress

Networks and community of practice created/supported by Moodle community hubs and Mahara can significantly ease and accelerate the benchmarking process.

Sloan Consortium is an organization we can use as a benchmark and its Effective Practices Site is a good example  we can import in the veterinary education community.

Sloan Consortium Effective Practices Site is available at: http://sloanconsortium.org/effective.

Universitas 21. Another good benchmark partner may be Universitas 21. It is an international network of 21 leading research-intensive universities in 13 countries (650,000 students, more than 130,000 staff members and more than 2 million alumni). Sharing good practice and benchmarking activity is one of the key goals of its strategic plan (2007-2012)  http://www.universitas21.com/StrategicPlan.pdf.

Moodle Comments Block

Peer-reviews (accuracy) and feedback generated by students (ease of use and understanding) can play significant roles both in continuous quality improvement and in benchmarking (Bernardo, 2007). Both peer –review and feedback generated by students provide very valuable information. Because these  are two different types of information, it is better to use both instead of relying  on one type.

Moodle Comments Block. In addition to the Community Hub Framework, new Moodle 2.0 comes with a Comments Block. The comments block allows comments to be added to any page and any activity. Comments can be public or visible just to teachers (and/or administrators). With that feature each user can become a reviewer; each user can add value to a course.

Case Studies

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