October 22, 2009
More Principles for Improving Online Transparency, Quality
In Tuesday’s post, we introduced Transparency by Design, an initiative from a consortium of adult-serving educational institutions with significant commitments to distance education. Today we conclude the organization’s list of eight basic principles for supporting transparency:
#4 Faculty competence: First, and most basic, the faculty that are going to be teaching online must have the content background. But beyond that they have to get the appropriate training to teach online. They have to understand online pedagogy and they have to understand the technology they’re using. You need to be able to certify that the faculty have the appropriate skills. Then you need to constantly update the faculty on those skills. Finally you need to have a faculty evaluation system and use that information to feed back into the courses.
#5 Institutional integrity: Again, starting with basics, the institution must be accredited. Regional accrediting agencies are your allies in ensuring institutional integrity. They will help you look at what you say you’re going to deliver and what you’re actually delivering and help you make sure they match. Institutions must be rigorous in establishing outcomes for programs and courses and measuring their effectiveness—are you achieving those outcomes?
“You say you’re going to do something and you show that you’re actually doing it,” says Merle Harris, president of Charter Oaks State College. Here, too, a key point is to make this information easily accessible to students. “You have to be upfront about it and make sure that people know that you are going to be upfront about it,” Harris says.
#6 Excellence in student services: The guiding principle is that you have to recreate online all the services that are offered on the ground. You have to be sure that students can get online advice and counseling. You have to make sure they can get complete information about their courses in advance. The online registration process has to be efficient. Students must have access to library services online. Online tutoring services should be available. You have to be able to accomplish financial aid transactions at a distance. Since the students are using technology they have to have a help desk. Not only must you recreate the services that students could walk to on campus—in most cases you actually have to do a better job because often enough students have a difficult time connecting with services on-campus.
#7 Integrity in marketing: Make sure you’re giving a clear and accurate message about what you actually can and do deliver, so that you’re not making promises that can’t be fulfilled. As with other aspects of transparency, integrity in marketing has to do with providing relevant information on your website—what the graduation rate is, what the alumni say about the program, etc.
#8 Curricular quality: “We have to make sure that there is quality in the content,” Harris says. For example at my institution courses are reviewed by other faculty members both before the course is offered, and the first time it’s offered, and then it comes up for review again within at the most five years—it could be earlier.” This periodical review is necessary to be sure that outcomes are clearly stated and that the students are achieving those outcomes.
“The keys are disclosure, transparency, the ability to interact with students easily and the quality of the curriculum. So that we know what we’re trying to achieve and we regularly measure it.”
Excerpted from Transparency is Good Practice for Online Administration, Distance Education Report, April 1, 2008.