The number of students studying partially or wholly net-based courses at Umeå University, Sweden has tripled in the last five years. Parallel with this development there is also an increase in the use of learning technologies in campus-based courses. That interactive, communicative technology (ICT) has had a profound effect on the learning environment in higher education is clear, but what is not as clear is how quality in technology enhanced education can and should be assessed by the institutions themselves and within the framework of a national quality assurance system.
In their report, E-learning quality. Aspects and criteria for evaluation of e-learning in higher education, (2008) the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (HSV) present a model for evaluating quality in net-based education with the intention of integrating this model into the national quality assurance system. The model consists of ten aspects that HSV regard as being central to the assessment of quality in net-based learning: material/content, structure/virtual environment, communication, cooperation and interactivity, student assessment, flexibility and adaptability, support (student and staff), staff qualifications and experience, vision and institutional leadership, resource allocation and finally, a holistic and process aspect.
The Pharmaceutical Science programme at Umeå University is a net-based three-year programme programme delivered using a virtual learning environment, with an annual intake of around 100 students. From the initiation of the programme in 2003, evaluation and quality assessment has been a prioritized feature of the programme. The individual courses are evaluated using online questionnaires, information on the structure and overarching goals of the programme is collected by means of focus interviews and questionnaires with students and staff and the resulting feedback is continually presented to the programme board and staff responsible for course content, thus ensuring a continual revision and improvement of the programme.
With the pharmacy programme as a starting point, this paper presentation aims to share the results of the existing quality assurance system and the benefit s and difficulties experienced in applying the model presented by the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education. And finally, is a separate quality assurance model for net-based education necessary?
Åström, Eva (2008) E-learning quality. Aspects and criteria for evaluation of e-learning in higher education, (2008), Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (HSV) Report 2008:11 R, Stockholm