Dublin rain welcomed over 800 delegates from over 80 countries to the first day of the World Conference on Online Learning https://wcol2019.ie/
It was opened by the Minister of State for Higher Education who was keen to praise the work of the co hosts Dublin City University and the National Institute of Digital Learning (do we have something similar?.. not really..). The minister focused on ethical matters in regard to online learning and on keeping students at the heart of matters and even had a gentle dig at waiting for the UK to make up its mind about Brexit!! Three thoughts came to mind during this and other welcome presentations
- In regard to online learning, will we ever get global reach on our courses without global partners?
- That we need to use free access courses as a marketing tool to grow online numbers
- That we need to engage with professional organisations in the field of online learning .e.g International Council of Distance and Online Education (ICDE) … European Network of Distance Education (EDEN)
On day 1 decided to focus on areas I felt I knew something about and flitted in and out of presentations happening across 10 parallel sessions, during 3 presentation slots in the day. So I selected presentations dealing with three issues; quality assurance and OPM’s (Online Programmer Management) providers and the Community of Inquiry (COI) model. I will comment on probably he most enlightening presentation of the 7 I attended on Day 1.
Jennifer Matthes from the US based Online Learning Consortium (OLC) outlined ‘Global Best Practices in Online Learning to Support a Quality Student Experience’ and reminded us that credibility is still an issue, with QA still not widely implemented. She argued that QA was needed as a baseline to improve form and to reflect an institutions commitment to quality of online provision. This certainly struck home as S.U. has not adopted any QA online specific processes, to my knowledge. Jennifer outlined the slightly different approaches of 4 QA online frameworks, those provided by the OLC, the European Assoc. of Distance Learning Universities (EADTU), Quality Matters (QM) and the American Council of Distance Educators (ACDE) and highlighted the different course design rubrics (including some that are freely available) from the OLC and QM and from ASCILITE (Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education).
If online learning is to be a strategic part of our offer at Staffs, then we need to take QA seriously and need to move to approaches that capture and assess the online bits of online learning.
Two final observations… The conference has a lot of presentations from (a) North America (not surprising) and from the African sub continent (more surprising). Well maybe not, as the WCOL s partly under the auspices of the ICDE, which has always has a strong international focus. Secondly, for such a large conference the number of Sponsors/Affiliates seemed rather small, approximately 15.. I spoke with 3 to date and will comment on these later, they were FutureLearn (OPM) provider (www.futurelearn.com) commercial offshoot of the Open University; Urkund www.urkund.com (Plagiarism Detection) and Studiosity ( 24/7 online study support see www.studiosity.com).