What you need to know
When designing or redesigning learning to take advantage of digital technologies, keep the following key questions in mind to ensure that your designs really do enhance your students’ achievement:
- What are your institution’s strategic aims for learning, teaching and assessment?
- What points for improvement have been identified in programme/module reviews or external inspection reports?
- What learning outcomes are you trying to achieve?
- In what context will the learning take place?
- What technologies are available to enhance learning?
- What support do you need?
- What do you already do well?
The answers to these questions provide the building blocks for your choice of approach - see approaches to learning design. Getting the mix right will enable you to deliver a high-quality learning and assessment experience.
Do not be surprised, however, if your design ‘template’ differs from context to context – one size does not fit all.
Why digital quality processes matters
Digital learning is increasingly embedded into quality assurance procedures. There are a number of reasons for this.
Large institutions, in particular those offering modular programmes or courses split between different campuses, including as a result of mergers, need to provide parity of experience for all students and staff – for example, by ensuring consistent, comprehensive access to high-quality digital learning that has been fully ‘thought through’, as outlined above.
The need to improve assessment has led some higher education institutions to standardise the credit value of modules. Some have set a maximum number of learning outcomes and assessments for a certain number of credits and many more are working to ensure information about assessment is easily accessible to students and tutors. However, achievement of this goal depends on efficient and effective processing of data about the curriculum – another way in which digital technologies impact on quality assurance.
Further education colleges are similarly working towards a standardised student experience by rolling out institution-wide technologies such as a new VLE, Office 365 or iPads. Such whole-scale change is often driven by the need to improve the quality of learning across all courses, but can only be achieved by embedding digital use into routine quality assurance and CPD processes.
What the experts say
"Quality matters - it is not about the percentage of online content but how effective the learning is."
James Kieft, learning and development manager, Activate Learning
Be inspired: case studies
Manchester Metropolitan University – achieving a consistent student experience
In the course of one year, Manchester Metropolitan University, a multi-campus university, implemented a new curriculum framework that changed the size of undergraduate modules and set limits on the number of learning outcomes and assessments.
This resulted in the need for every undergraduate module to be rewritten, reviewed, approved and set up in supporting systems and processes. At the same time, new web and mobile technologies were introduced to ensure that all students received maximum benefit from the changed curriculum.
“The ambitious scope and timescale for the project required unprecedented innovation, excellent project management, support from the highest level, and the wholehearted engagement of almost every member of MMU.”
Mark Stubbs, professor and head of learning and research technologies, Manchester Metropolitan University
Forth Valley College – embedding quality across a merged institution
Forth Valley College became the first regional college in Scotland when Falkirk College merged with Clackmannan College in 2005. With campuses in Alloa, Stirling and Falkirk, its catchment extends across a broad area of central Scotland.
To ensure quality across all its provision, the college has implemented a four-year plan across all campuses which focuses on one common theme – making learning work – and has embedded its learning and teaching goals into all quality assurance processes, from appraisal to continuing professional development (CPD).
“This mission has permeated the organisation like writing in a stick of rock. Everyone knows we are here ‘to make learning work.’”
Ken Thomson, principal and chief executive, Forth Valley College
University of Strathclyde – enhancing institutional responsiveness
The University of Strathclyde found that an online process for gathering curriculum information creates a single, accurate source of data that can enhance quality and approval processes. The introduction of the university’s centralised C-CAP system has also improved institutional responsiveness in a rapidly changing global market place.
“C-CAP is the first step in a move from a bureaucratically onerous design and approval process to one that is more efficient, effective and better placed to be responsive to the needs of stakeholders.”
George MacGregor, institutional repository co-ordinator, University of Strathclyde
Mainly for higher education
The Rough Guide to Curriculum Design provides an overview of revised design processes at Birmingham City University.
Manchester Metropolitan University’s Accreditation! board game explores what’s involved in course design and accreditation.
Mainly for further education
The Blended Learning Consortium’s collaborative funding model ensures high-quality online content for further education courses. There is also guidance for member colleges on embedding the resources into learning designs.