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Guiding the use of elearning: Joined up Thinking: integrating eLearning with Quality Assurance and Enhancement -- 107 -- Short (oral) Paper

13:40 - 14:40 on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 in 3.204

This presentation gives an overview of how in a large Faculty of 1500 course units and around 700 teaching staff the eLearning team and Teaching Quality collaborate to ensure developmental eLearning support is fully embedded into Faculty Quality Assurance and Enhancement processes and supports strategic planning in Schools. The presentation will be of interest to policy makers, eLearning mangers and eLearning technologists

The adoption of eLearning across the Faculty of Humanities has not been consistent despite institutional strategy. There are examples of innovative and creative uses of eLearning which blend seamlessly with face-to-face teaching to provide students with a rich and interactive learning experience. Unfortunately, there are also examples where the online element of a course contains only basic unit information. Our eLearning Team works with the enthusiasts, the willing new adopters, and occasionally the frantic, but we had no systematic or proactive means of directing our resources to support and encourage course development across the spectrum. Our presentation showcases a different approach to embedding eLearning into quality assurance procedures and mainstreaming eLearning support and strategic planning in Schools.

Manchester's enhancement-led approach to quality assurance mirrors the aims of the QAA's Institutional Review process (QAA, 2011) – to set and maintain standards; provide learning opportunities; produce public information and enhance the quality of provision. The assurance and enhancement of eLearning is embedded into those procedures. By embracing eLearning within teaching, learning and the student experience, the aim is for a non-disruptional change (Marshall, 2010) in culture within the institution.

The key to a strategic approach was embedding a developmental exercise, which involved eLearning Technologists (eLTs) supporting individual staff to improve their online environments, into the established 5 year Periodic Review (PR) process. The resultant eLearning report is considered by the school and the faculty at the PR meeting, which includes an eLT as a panel member. The aim is to develop a school focussed, strategic approach to the enhancement of online provision.

The Programme Review process has been well received by academics, subject and School leads. The review became an ‘event’ in the School, as distinct from 1:1 isolated support, resulting in a collective and collaborative response from staff and a positive impact on the relationship between the school and the eLearning team. Overall the process engaged around a third of the academic staff covering 22% of courses. The resultant action plan will be reflected on as part of the Annual Monitoring process (submitted by Schools October 2012). We are currently comparing student feedback in our yearly ‘Unit Evaluation Questionnaires’ for the course units reviewed to identify any increase in satisfaction vis a vis School and Faculty averages. We will also be able to report on the results of a qualitative survey with staff involved in due course.

The process is part way through the second cycle, and the outcomes and recommendations from the school reports and PR process are now beginning to shape the way we work with the school and to shape school teaching and learning strategies.

As a Faculty we did not have systematic school engagement or ownership of eLearning. The approach we adopted allowed us to develop an understanding of current practice, at discipline and school level and the engagement allowed us to negotiate recommendations for strategic action in the school. Embedding eLearning in the PR is a way of ensuring that assurance and enhancement of eLearning happens and is not just a ‘checklist/tickbox approach’, while the method of 1:1 meetings met cultural expectations of individualized support. For the Faculty, this approach provides the opportunity to evaluate the implementation of policy and procedures which have implications for eLearning.