FURTHER GUIDELINES FOR DESIGNING OFFICIAL ONLINE AND SEMI-ONSITE BACHELOR S AND MASTER S DEGREES.

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1 FURTHER GUIDELINES FOR DESIGNING OFFICIAL ONLINE AND SEMI-ONSITE BACHELOR S AND MASTER S DEGREES. DECEMBER

2 1. IN TRODUCTION The present document seeks to provide universities of the University System of Castilla y León with information concerning aspects to be taken into consideration when planning the official degrees they wish to teach either wholly or partly on-line using information and communication technologies (ICT) in order to ensure the quality of said degrees. The list of points to be considered, and which are contained in the present document, has been put together by the members of ACSUCYL s Quality Commission and its Degree Commission, drawing on the Agency's experience in official bachelor s and master s degrees in the above-mentioned modalities over the last few years, in addition to consultation with ACSUCYL s area committee evaluators and contributions from the universities in the Castilla y León higher education system. Also included are the protocols and recommendations set out by other national and international agencies and bodies. This document does not aim to provide a comprehensive list of all the criteria to be taken into account for verification of an official degree, since these are already detailed in the Evaluation Protocol for Verification of Official University Degrees (Bachelor s degrees and Master's degrees) published by the Spanish Network of University Quality (REACU) 1. Rather, it seeks to pinpoint certain aspects on which specific information should be made available concerning a degree for which offsite teaching is to be provided. It is important to point out that distance education in the present document is understood to be teaching which basically, although not exclusively, uses ICT. Said modality of teaching and learning does not require the student s physical presence yet does demand direct interaction between teacher and student. In offsite learning, the quality of the material designed to convey knowledge, the various procedures and the technological and support resources devised to ensure student progress and learning all prove essential. The offsite nature of such teaching enables the barriers of time and space to be overcome whilst also adapting to students needs. It is perceived as a dynamic and flexible approach which adjusts to rapid changes in technology and evidences a high capacity to embrace constant innovations and improvements in the teaching-learning process and in the teacher-student relation. This document has been published in an effort to help guide the introduction and application of new technologies in distance teaching and learning, bearing in mind the possible inclusion of any new technological and methodological developments that might emerge in the future. The document does not set out from any pre-determined notion of how an online bachelor or master's degree taught using ICT should be approached in terms of design, planning or organisation, but recognises and respects universities independence as well as their capacity in this sense. The document merely seeks to provide certain guidelines on how to ensure quality in degree courses. Three different modalities for teaching official degrees currently exist: 1 Available on ACSUCYL s website: 2

3 Onsite teaching, which requires direct interaction between teacher and student, sharing a physical space: classrooms, laboratories, workshops, etc. Online teaching through the use of new technologies. A degree is deemed to be taught as a distance course when all of the credits in the degree are delivered offsite, in other words when the physical presence of the student is not required other than when taking whatever examinations are considered necessary for each of the courses in the degree. Semi-online (or blended) learning when the two systems mentioned above are combined. A degree is deemed to be semi-online when the number of credits taught offsite is equal to or greater than 25% of the total. The term blended learning therefore refers to the co-existence of two methods: onsite teaching and offsite teaching using ICT in the previously mentioned proportion. Should said proportion of offsite or distance teaching not be reached, the course is deemed to be onsite. Finally, information should be provided concerning the aspects indicated in the criteria listed below. Each degree will be evaluated bearing in mind its particular nature and orientation. As already pointed out, this information will complement that required to verify each degree. 2. CRITERIA CRITERION 1. DESCRIPTION OF THE DEGREE The type of teaching in which the degree is taught should be defined: DISTANCE 2, BLENDED 3. Explain whether this is a change to or an extension of the teaching method for a degree already being taught, or already verified for onsite teaching. Should this be the case, detail the measures to be taken to safeguard the rights of students presently enrolled in the modality verified 4. The total number of new places on the degree should be specified. CRITERION 2. JUSTIFICATION OF THE DEGREE Sufficient justification should be provided of the appropriateness of the semi-onsite or distance method of teaching for acquiring the skills foreseen in the degree. 2 A course is deemed to be a distance course when students must take all the credits without their presence being required at the centre to attend lectures or practical classes. Where applicable, onsite examinations or tests are excluded. 3 A course is deemed to be a blended course when students must take 25% or more of the credits offsite. 4 Students who begin their bachelor s degree or master's degree in the onsite modality must be given the opportunity to conclude it in the same manner. 3

4 National and international benchmarks should be provided, specifying the website where the content of these curricula and degrees may be consulted, and stating why they have been chosen as benchmarks, as well as indicating which aspects of the degree have been taken as an example, together with the approach and ideas used when drawing up and submitting the proposal. The number of new admission places available for each modality should be indicated. CRITERION 4. ACCESS AND ADMISSION Define the student admission profile with regard to knowledge in the use of ICT, availability of equipment and standards to be met when implementing the degree. Those in charge of the degree should provide students with all the information concerning the pre-requisites and necessary knowledge required prior to enrolment on an offsite teaching and learning modality, focusing particular attention on any students who may have a physical, mental, or sensory disability. In the information provided to the student prior to enrolment, specify the involvement that this particular type of teaching and learning will require. Said dedication should be closely linked and justified with the teaching method to be applied. Describe the resources available to the degree and the procedures to be applied to help guide future students when appraising the suitability of this modality of learning prior to officially enrolling. The availability of technical resources and time available to the student should be checked as should the previous qualifications taken. Where onsite practical work is included in the curriculum, information concerning which centres said work may be carried out at should be provided prior to the commencement of the enrolment period. Detail the mechanisms for tutoring and follow-up of students work 5, indicating the duties of the teachers/tutors, the procedure to be followed and the criteria to be applied that will allow each student s participation and interaction to be traced during the courses, discussion forums and required tasks. It is important to specific how regularly the teacher/tutor should contact the student, and in which instances the teacher/tutor must be alerted to contact the student should the latter fail to carry out the required tasks and so on, etc. In the case of first year student enrolment, tutorials should be specified as should how students need to be trained to use the platforms and the technical means made available to the degree by the university. In the case of countries in a different time zone, details should be provided of the measures taken to ensure tutoring and follow- 5 In all instances, the tutoring and follow-up mechanisms used should be specified even if they are the same as in other modalities in which the degree is taught. 4

5 up are conducted correctly. Information should also be provided concerning what action will be taken to prevent students leaving the degree early. Prior to first enrolment, explicit information should be provided on: External placements. National and international mobility. The procedure for doing the bachelor s degree final project or master's degree final project. The terms under which assessment procedures will be carried out, always verifying the student s identity, and how personal information and details will be handled. The terms of use and dissemination of teaching materials owned by the university or which are subject to intellectual property law vis-à-vis their use by third parties. Where applicable, terms under which students may opt to switch from one modality of learning to onsite learning within the same degree. The report should clearly set out how students are to be informed of the above-mentioned aspects. Mobility may be offered for students to do part of their studies at one or more universities which have a similar method available, for instance by taking degree courses at a university which offers distance teaching. In such cases, it should be made clear that mobility does not necessarily involve the student moving and changing teaching method. Mobility in distance learning or blended learning may be undertaken so as to study under any existing learning modality. In the rules governing continuance, any aspects addressing this particular modality of learning should be clearly set out. CRITERION 5. PLANNING OF TEACHING Specify those who are in charge as well as the profiles required of those who draw up, approve and conduct follow-up of each of the teaching materials used in the degree. The university must declare it has authorisation for use of or owns the intellectual property rights of teaching material. Specify the measures to be taken to ensure that the socio-cooperational skills contained in online and blended learning modalities are acquired. Examples of such skills include: leadership, teamwork, communicative skills etc. The online teaching methods to be applied in the degree for each of the proposed modalities should be detailed 6. Furthermore, information should also be provided on the subject matter, skills included in each course as well as the teaching methods to 6 These should also be specified even if they are same as are applied in the onsite modality. 5

6 be used in each so as to give a clear vision of what is being proposed in each modality in which the degree is to be taught. In all instances, this information should allow the various activities which are to be put into practice such as interactive seminars, supervised assignments, teamwork, discussion forums, etc to be visualised. Where applicable, the list and content of available external placements should be set out. It is important to ensure sufficient external placements are available for all the places offered and in all instances to adapt these to the content of the degree. The follow-up work to be carried out by tutors during compulsory external placements should be specified. The assessment procedures in place in the degree and in each specific course should be clearly set out. A clear link should be ensured between skills, teaching method and assessment procedures that will allow students expected learning outcomes to be verified, ensure that the foreseen curriculum is being followed, and that the external placements as well as any examination or evaluation procedures and so on are being conducted correctly. Information should be provided concerning what measures will be taken to check student identity clearly for their final examination in the various courses. Should evaluation involve students physical presence, it should be understood that said presence need not necessarily be at the university s main centre. The university must, however, provide an appropriate area/room where the examination may be conducted. Should a student s physical presence at a place designated by the university be deemed impossible, the university must specify how the student s identity will be checked if the latter is to take any examinations online. The methods foreseen for the horizontal and vertical coordination of the degree should be detailed, indicating precisely the measures adopted for the coordination of teaching staff vis-à-vis use of ICT throughout the course. CRITERION 6. ACADEMIC STAFF Academic staff involved in teaching the degree should be specified, indicating position and functions. Teaching staff hours of dedication to the degree and to the university as a whole should be specified: information should be provided on teaching staff involved in teaching in the bachelor s degree or master s degree using a table stating the teacher s identification, qualifications, academic rank, type of accreditation/figure with favourable evaluation awarded by the agency, courses taught - indicating the number of ECTS for the course -, hours dedicated to the course each year, total number of hours dedicated to the degree per academic year and total number of hours dedicated to the university per academic year (where applicable, distinguishing between dedication to onsite and offsite teaching). 6

7 For each degree and for each course in the curriculum, the university should specify the maximum number of students per group, the student-teacher ratio and the maximum number of students each teacher is responsible for so as to ensure student learning taking into consideration the educational profile and skills foreseen for the degree. The mechanisms the university has in place to ensure that its teaching staff hold the necessary qualifications required to teach a degree in this modality, (previous experience, training and refresher courses, etc.) should be set out. Indications should also be given as to how teaching staff skills are to be kept up to date with any technological developments that may emerge. CRITERION 7. MATERIAL RESOURCES AND FACILITIES Details should be provided of available human support resources and information systems maintenance, their functions and whether 24-hour 365-day-a-year help exists. Available technical resources for teaching online using ICT should be detailed. It should be stated whether the information system used holds any kind of officially recognised certification. Where computer facilities are outsourced, service level agreements should be detailed. CRITERION 8. ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES The expected outcomes for each of the teaching modalities in which the degree is to be taught should be specified. General university procedure for gauging expected student progress and learning outcomes in each modality should be set out. CRITERION 9. INTERNAL QUALITY ASSURANCE SYSTEM Assessment and follow-up for tutoring should be specified. Mechanisms for gauging student progress and learning outcomes should be specified. A description should be provided of the control mechanisms to be implemented to ensure the anticipated outcomes related to the various indicators in each of the teaching and learning modalities are achieved. 7

8 CRITERION 10. TIMELINE FOR IMPLEMENTATION The timeline for implementing the new degree should be specified. 8

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