Quality Assurance of Distance Learning [Archives:2003/684/Education]

November 9 2003

By Dr. Bashar
Ghazi Askar
[email protected]

Distance learning has its roots in America, Europe, Canada, and Australia since seventies of the last century. However, it has begun to establish its roots in the Asian countries. Early this century it has commenced to find its way toward the Arab world. Distance learning is not a traditional classroom regular program of the known universities, but is based on certain system designs, approval and review procedures, all of which pour into student assessment and quality control assessment.
The providing institution of such programs is responsible for ensuring that programs to be offered at a distance are so designed that the academic standards of awards will be demonstrably comparable with those of awards delivered by the traditional institutions in other ways and be consistent with any relevant benchmark information recognized within the UK or USA.
In designing distance learning programs of study, and any component modules, a providing university should ensure on the one hand explicit and reasoned coherence, the aims and intended learning outcomes, and, on the other hand, the strategies for teaching at a distance, the scope of the learning materials and the modes and criteria of assessment.
It is significant that the providing university ensures that programs of study and component modules once designed and in use, are monitored, reviewed and subject to re-approval regularly. The university should ensure that the content of all learning materials remains current and relevant and that learning materials, teaching strategies and forms of assessment are modified in the light of findings from feedback.
The providing university is responsible for ensuring that each distance learning program of study is delivered in a manner that provides, in practice, a learning opportunity which gives a fair and responsible chance of achieving the academic standards for successful completion. Learning at a distance should be treated as an activity involving all participants in the system. Monitoring, supervision, review and feedback are used regularly just like the traditional system of the universities to enhance all components of teaching, learning and the system of delivery.
Quality control assessment for the distance learning programs under counseling and guidance of supervising professors is of great importance. Otherwise the programs do not meet the academic requirements and the standards of the traditional universities' programs.
Students enrolled on the distance learning programs now and then are asked to attend or write or participate in seminars through the mail, fax, telephone or the Internet. Such participation provides an opportunity toward more direct contact with the supervising professors working in the field. There should be an interaction between the student and the program selected for study. The relationship between achievement and assessment, academic progress and accumulation of credits are of great significance as well. In this sense, establishing an academic standard and quality in the program design, approval and review procedures are an imparative that providing institutions fulfill for students enrolled in distance learning programs.