No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Special feature: UK HE – developing quality through e-learning


HE institutions are increasingly realising the role e-learning can play in helping them to meet their quality goals. Here, Tim Collin, European Director at WebCT, looks at some of the challenges currently affecting the Higher Education sector, and the role technology can play in helping it move forward.

'With UK HE facing some of its sternest challenges to date, how can it successfully make the grade?'

The issues of funding and elitism dominate the HE media agenda. And with good reason. After all, the idea of children being denied the opportunity to make the best future for themselves because of their background is hugely emotive. Similarly, it's understandable why images of students staging street protests in anger over top-up fees grab the front pages. However, delve a little deeper into HE in the UK today and you'll find a third issue that's every bit as pressing: quality. As a story it may not have the drama or the human-interest value of funding and access, but as an issue it will have just as much clout in shaping tomorrow's HE sector.

So, what is meant by 'quality'? Well, if we refer to the dictionary, it talks about a degree of excellency or a superiority of some kind. So, following along these lines, is there consistent and high enough quality of education throughout the UK? The recent Ofsted and Adult Learning Inspectorate report, which addressed the question of quality, certainly did not think so. The report stated that not only were ten percent of lessons unsatisfactory, but that employers were not happy with the level of education today, saying it is not relevant to the needs of the workplace. This should make worrying bedtime reading for all those involved in higher education.

The government’s recent Future of Higher Education whitepaper went some way towards setting out new standards for quality in the sector, but it is clear that more needs to be done. After all, the aim of those involved in higher education should be to provide students with the best education possible. Yet, currently there is simply no guarantee as to the quality of education students might receive. Students are investing more than just their time in attaining their education; students are also investing significant amounts of money (set to grow in the future). Isn’t it time they were given the return on investment they deserve?

But how is this to be achieved? The first step is to try to understand what factors are involved in ‘quality’ – something that in itself causes great debate. But areas that could and should be included are improved program quality, easy access to flexible learning opportunities and a range of teaching materials and IT resources, and consistency. This is something that the UK government wants to see in every HE institution today. But, this is perhaps something that is easier said than done.

One thing it does mean, however, is that institutions will need to start taking advantage of recent technology developments such as online learning. In fact institutions are increasingly realising the role e-learning can play in helping them to meet their quality goals.

e-Learning can offer higher education one of the most innovative and flexible learning methods today. Online offerings can range from classes with an online component to fully online degrees. Many schools combine traditional lecturing with online environments that can include chat rooms with peers, online tutoring, and online assessments. In addition to the many communication capabilities that e-learning offers, it is also able to provide extremely rich learning and teaching capabilities. Some research studies have even shown that combining traditional and online instruction can lead to better student outcomes than using either method alone.

In the offline world, it can be extremely difficult to evaluate quality levels and likelihood of student success because lecturers only spend a small percentage of time with their students. For example, a student today probably has one weekly hour tutorial session and then two or three lectures with hundreds of other students. This means that lecturers don’t have the access or the opportunity to measure how the student is learning, how much time they are actually spending on reading the suggested class material, how often they participate in class etc. In comparison, with some online learning solutions lecturers have the ability to track each of their students’ learning paths so they are able to view if a student is falling behind or not keeping up with their reading material and proactively do something about it. This helps build a much more motivating and personal learning environment. The collection of this learning activity data also gives institutions the opportunity to assess quality across the curriculum. In turn, this can be used to ensure that retention and success rates are higher.

So, what does this mean for UK HE today? What lessons can be learnt?

Overall, it’s essential that higher education in the UK doesn’t settle for second best. This means that the education system has to remain open to new teaching and learning solutions and embrace the innovative technology that is available today. Moreover, it means accepting that there may be a more effective learning solution than traditional classroom-based teaching. And that this solution may go some way to solving the type of quality issues facing HE today.


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!