OERu 13.10 Course approvals and quality assurance

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We need an OERu Quality Group formed to approve subjects submitted by OERu partners for inclusion in the OERu programs. Consideration is also urgently needed to the curriculum and courses as a whole. This proposal outlines 2 options for how this might work: Option A (a single group) and Option B (2 separate but co-ordinated groups.)

Recommended Action

We endorse Proposal B as the preferred option, and call for a minimum of 5 volunteers for each group, including expressions of interest for the chair and deputy-chair role. The chair and deputy-chair are required to volunteer for both groups (they can be just a regular member of the second group however) to ensure co-ordination between the 2 groups. The chair and deputy chair share the role of calling and facilitating the meetings, to ensure nobody is overburdened. If we do not receive enough volunteers to fulfil the 2 group structure, we merge the volunteers into the one group (as per option A.)

Details for Options A and Option B are outlined below. The proposal concludes with some notes summarised from the planning meetings (pages 4-5) which may be used to inform the development of a Terms of Reference of each group/theme.

Option A: One group for curriculum and quality components

One group looks at both curriculum building (the course level view) and the quality of each component (the subject level view).

Rationale: The Course Quality Group should fulfil the course and subject approvals function (that we are familiar with and operates locally at each institution) as well as fulfilling the pro-active leadership of curriculum to ensure we don't end up with all education courses, or too many MOOCs and not enough full courses. In other words to make sure the individual threads being put forward can be woven into a meaningful OERu tapestry leading to meaningful credentials. And doing this parallel to looking at what's in each subject - particularly with regard to assessment structure, embedded support, appropriate use of open resources and technologies.

Pros of conflating Curriculum and Quality together: When done separately the result is that the "low hanging fruit" or "what's achievable" gets moved along and committed too. Lots of random lovely flowers bloom. It all looks nice up close, but doesn't amount to a fully engaging course with the kind of distinctive "wow" factor that sets an institution apart. It doesn't take advantage of collaborations or new technologies. It doesn't align with over-arching strategy or philosophy. Targets are often missed. But when both are looked at together overall quality is improved, increased engagement between the partners for collaboration should occur and overall OERu goals for real and relevant qualifications are achieved.

Cons of conflating Curriculum and Quality together: The task becomes too big and overwhelms the members of the group.

Option B: Separate groups for curriculum and quality components

We maintain 2 separate groups. The first looks at curriculum building (the course level view), and builds on the Twinkle in our Eye list. It balances theoretical knowledge-building courses with more vocational/employability focussed course. It keeps touching base with the goal to educate to employ underprivileged, not just keep our wealthy western retirees in free continuing education. The second group looks at Quality at the subject-level - including factors such as learning design, assessment structure, embedded support, appropriate use of open resources and technologies. It uses/modifies existing minimum standards and quality matrices.

Pros: If the 2 groups work in parallel and in reference to each other, (including setting a timetable of meetings that are closely aligned?) and perhaps have a couple of common members then perhaps we can get the benefit of coordination as outlined in proposal A with the benefit of sharing the workload around a larger pool of OERu rep.

Cons: if individual members keep missing the skype meetings, if they do not commit and consistently engage for the next 6-12 months or if people drop in and out and no collective knowledge moves forward - then having 2 dysfunctional groups is worse than having one small committed group of 4-6 just rolling up their sleeves and getting on with the curriculum and quality issues. If we can't maintain 2 viable separate groups or the membership ends up being pretty much the same bunch of committed folks, then we are better off having one functioning group looking at both.

Medium term issues for the group: As the OERu matures the group will need to turn its attention to a system to handle changes made to subjects over time. A definition of what constitutes a minor vs a major change will need to be clarified so that these changes can be transparently and meaningfully communicated to the members - because those institutions who have accredited the course will need to review the modified offering and see if they will still endorse it for credit.

Resources needed: Volunteers from institutions with a passion for subject design and quality, support from our libraries to support in research/review of open resources to include in our course, quality standards already in existence (thank you for eCampusAlberta quality website.) Bring in discipline experts if needed (the group itself will be pretty broad) talked about what happens if the courses change or get taken up and localised - no problems

Issues for the Curriculum group to consider

General vs niche courses ie Bachelor of General Studies vs more focussed offerings that will provide more vocational skills needed in developing nations - how will a general degree help Africa's youth? (Don't forget the vision). Strong support for putting energy into local study group in local libraries and community centres as part of the quality model. Also looking at foundation learning-to learn/digital literacies subjects to scaffold learners into becoming effective and confident self-directed/online learners.

Importance to build curricula not only from 'twinkle in the eye' list of what's possible/who's keen (which i think is important in this capacity building phase to get some runs on the board and some courses in the offerings) - but to MAKE possible courses which really match our philanthropic vision. What will energise and light the fire in the learners for whom learning thus far has been a real challenge and whose aspirations for learning are not yet what they spend their time thinking about. Let's be pro-active - Sandra's paper list helps us make concrete what the threads might be - lets put some time into this so we can start to talk about what the tapestries might look like.