Like a Long Quiet River: Quality Assurance and the Development of a Qualitative, Open and Distance Learning Environment
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The Globethics.net Academy is inviting its network to join an alliance of knowledge creation and sharing. Through its online repository with a plethora of themed collections in applied ethics and a wealth of publications mostly in open access format, scholarly research is made available for a broader audience of readers and an international platform of exchange provided for authors, especially for the majority world.
It is within the development of such a qualitative, open and distance learning environment that the Globethics.net Academy situates its initiative for quality assurance. This entails the completion and revision of a quality assurance documentation, which offers the framework for organisational procedures and structures. This framework comprises for example the planning, monitoring, evaluation and reporting calendar and provisions. In addition, the handbooks for course participants, staff and instructors were updated and streamlined. A substantial part of this documentation was completed for the benchmarking of the Ethics in Higher Education for Teaching Professionals course in 2020-2021. The Education Counseling and Credit Transfer Information Service (ECCTIS) provided helpful recommendations in this context, which assisted the Globethics.net Academy in streamlining the entire framework and in making it more coherent. More efforts will be invested by the Academy team in harmonising and complementing the documentation for the growing course programme in the next months.
Quality assurance, however, is more than a documented formality. In as much as the completion of the benchmarking exercise in May 2021 constitutes a crucial milestone for consolidating the quality of Globethics.net Academy's educational offer, quality assurance addresses also the internal organisational needs. Training and capacity building for staff members, course instructors, board and committee members, as well as other stakeholders, are complementary measures which ensure that information on the quality procedures are shared across the organisation. A training calendar has been established and integrated in the human resources development plan for this purpose. Another important component of Globethics.net Academy's emphasis on quality is the regular collection of feedback both from course participants and course instructors through surveys and evaluation sessions.
The course programme evaluation is currently conducted as a self-guided internal process. Team members grow in the understanding that the outcome of the evaluation helps to define objectives more clearly and to adjust the course contents, delivery and accompaniment most efficiently. The consultation of course instructors regarding the assessment of assignments or the presentation of contents on the online programme directly informs the curriculum development and the design of the online course pathway for new courses.
Globethics.net Academy also endeavours to contribute in this manner to creating awareness for a culture of quality evidence and to cultivating a self-understanding as learning organisation. The latter aspect comes increasingly to the fore, as all team members understand that it is not only about shaping a conducive and qualitative learning environment for participants, but that it is about the value of learning as an organisation, too. The times of the pandemic was for Globethics.net Academy undoubtedly a period of adaptation, but also of introspection and interrogation: How can we deliberately nurture this sense of learning, so that quality assurance becomes a part of the team's professional work ethos?
The valuable lesson we learnt as an organisation that aims at promoting ethics in higher education in this past period was the discovery of the intersection between the ethical contents in the taught course programme and the quality assurance measures applied. Teaching about research integrity therefore means that the value of integrity needs to be modelled in the professional behaviour of every team member. Globethics.net Academy has made an effort to cultivate this awareness for example in the monthly academic programmes and resources team meetings. We are convinced that it makes indeed a qualitative difference if users of our programmes realise the intentional and values-based attitude and determination behind the course programmes – the ‘why' matters at least as much as the ‘what'.
Last not least, we notice how quality assurance is a perpetual endeavour to strengthen the effectiveness and the profile of our educational offer in an integrative manner. Quality assurance cannot be understood as a once-and-for all exercise. There is and will always be a continuous need for improvement. It is more like a long quiet river that never stops flowing and whose currents sustain the organisational aims of providing, at all times, the best possible conditions for qualitative learning environment for all, both inside and outside.
Amélé Adamavi-Aho Ekué