1 1 10 YEARS OF QUALITY ASSURANCE: ACHIEVEMENTS AND IMPERATIVES Quality Assurance in Online Education Towards a Culture of Assessment Dr. Hilroy A. Thomas, Associate Dean/Associate Professor, St. Thomas University, Florida, USA 33054, ; Part One: The Quality Assurance Issue in Context The purpose of every college-related quality assurance activity is to ensure that the college adheres to program standards, national or accrediting agencies distance learning policies, and best practices for teaching online. Today, colleges everywhere are being asked to provide evidence for how they are maintaining those academic standards. Quality assurance normally requires a self-study (also known as compliance certificate or quality enhancement plan ) and a subsequent peer review or audit of the evidence as reported in study, certificate or plan. In the end, every college program, online or on-ground, should already be, or will be subjected to that review of evidence for quality assurance. This paper makes a case for implementing and managing a college-wide quality assurance system for online courses those challenges that relate to aspects of online delivery; and the importance of evidence of sound and varied use of technology in order to achieve the educational outcomes desired within a formal set of rules and constraints (online policies and national/institutional politics) which guide such an enterprise. The paper will attempt to review and identify program standards and best practices for those programs and courses. As the paper reviews the quality assurance process currently used in St. Thomas University s online programs, it will demonstrate how adequate quality assurance, in compliance with accrediting agencies distance learning policies and practices, can be ensured. Definition The term quality assurance in higher education, according to Brennan & Shah, 2000, is used to denote the practices whereby academic standards, i.e., the level of academic achievement attained by higher education graduates, are maintained and improved. This definition makes no distinction between academic quality and academic standards. It does, however, focus on the emergence of learning outcomes in the measurement of institutional quality the specific levels of knowledge, skills, and abilities that students achieve as a consequence of their engagement in a particular education program. More than a decade later, the focus on learning outcomes has intensified worldwide, but particularly in the United States. Equating academic quality with academic standards is consistent with the global emerging focus in higher education policies on student learning outcomes.
2 2 Harman & Meek (2000) more broadly defines quality assurance as systematic management and assessment procedures to ensure achievement of quality outputs or improved quality. By implication, quality assurance is a very substantial and strategic institutional reflection and selfassessment process, usually involving all institutional policies, every department and function within that institution. Dill (2011) makes a critical distinction between internal and external academic quality assurance. According to him, internal quality assurance refers to those policies and practices whereby academic institutions themselves monitor and improve the quality of their education provision, by using their institutional policies and practices designed to assure the quality of their programs. External quality assurance, on the other hand, refers to supra-institutional policies and practices whereby the quality of higher education institutions and programs are assured. In that context, those institutions operate within a national policy framework designed by the state to assure academic standards. In the Caribbean, most state colleges have both internal and external quality assurance systems. In the OECS, country-specific National Accreditation Boards as well as internal academic, administrative and operational policies exist. In the US, Australia, the UK, to name a few countries, these were established and developed over a century ago. The important question everywhere is the extent to which there is a viable culture to systematically manage and assess academic standards and academic achievements within their institutions. Is there a culture of assessment strong enough to motivate faculty in particular, to create the very best institutions as is manifested in their missions, to systemically assess and improve academic standards. Recently most OECS colleges have undergone a process of self-study. Whereas, college faculty were involved such self-studies, the process was overall not voluntary. In fact, the mandate and impetus for such were mostly external to the college itself. The standards for the self study were also externally established. Quality assurance and program evaluations usually lead to various self-studies and numerous reports (results). Those results of quality assurance and program evaluations are used by the academic institutions to assure and improve academic standards to enhance the academic achievement attained by higher education graduates. It is used to ensure that the academic institution is the best that it can be maybe an enhanced desire to be the very best in the region, the world! The quality assurance and program evaluation processes and activities can be very involved and comprehensive, depending on several factors. Some of those factors, particularly those relating to online education, will be examined in this paper. Once an institution is committed to a quality assurance process, it must be aware that its strengths and deficiencies will be completely exposed and documented. The results of quality
3 3 assurance and program evaluations will vary widely, both within and among similar institutions, highlighting positively in some areas and underlining the areas of concern in others. For an institution, excelling in every category of the academic standards is the ultimate goal. Invariably, many institutions do not attain this goal. An institution is measured and assessed against each quality standard which the institution itself has set within its institutional policies or those that are supra imposed by government or external agencies. Typically, an institution has a set of standards and (and sub-standards) which are all assessed. The results of quality assurance and program evaluations processes and activities can put institutions into one of four (4) general categories, which in turn will define the extent to which each quality standard has been met. As a result, institutions can a) fail to meet the minimum standard in an area of assessment, b) meet the minimum standard in an area of assessment, c) exceed the minimum standard in an area of assessment, or d) far exceed the minimum standard in an area of assessment. All areas of assessment are included in the results. When the institution goes through the internal academic quality assurance process, it is characterized by some very consistent principles: a) solicits the participation of skilled instructors and administrators, b) includes a self-regulatory process, c) is guided by internal or institutional policies, d) usually responds to the institutional mission and core values, and e) is mainly voluntary and not policed by governments or external agencies. In the case of external academic quality assurance, it may not be voluntary and will be policed by government or external agencies. Quality Assurance vs. Accreditation Quality assurance is closely associated with the term accreditation. In recent years, in some Caribbean states, colleges are more focused on accreditation or a lack thereof, and do not see the academic quality assurance issue in the same context or as an integral, and sometimes component and equivalent activity. In fact it has been repeated that this college is not accredited and we are not accredited. Those statements attest to the speculation that they view accreditation as paramount, but do not seem to see it as a method of quality assurance in higher education. Whether or not Caribbean national colleges and universities are accredited by their national or other agencies, many have never been through a voluntary and comprehensive quality assurance process in their entire existence. Many have created development and strategic plans, but these are in no way a substitute for the critical quality assurance process. Like in most countries globally, the function of educational accreditation (and quality assurance) in each Caribbean country is a function of a government organization (National Accreditation Board), under the authority of the Ministry of Education. Other non-oecs Caribbean countries also have their own accreditation body. Accreditation is a mandate of each individual Caribbean nation state, each responsible for evaluation and accrediting their national colleges. How this function is carried out or if at all, is a topic for a different audience.
4 4 What is Accreditation? For purposes of this discussion, this paper presents four definitions for accreditation. They are: Accreditation is a voluntary method of quality assurance designed primarily to distinguish schools adhering to a set of educational standards. The accreditation process is also known in terms of its ability to effectively drive student performance and continuous improvement in education. But such definitions, though accurate, are incomplete. While accreditation is a set of rigorous protocols and research-based processes for evaluating an institution s organizational effectiveness, it is far more than that. Today accreditation examines the whole institution the programs, the cultural context, the community of stakeholders to determine how well the parts work together to meet the needs of students (Global Standards for Excellence in Education ; Accreditation is both a status and a process. As a status, accreditation provides public notification that an institution or program meets standards of quality set forth by an accrediting agency. As a process, accreditation reflects the fact that in achieving recognition by the accrediting agency, the institution or program is committed to self-study and external review by one's peers in seeking not only to meet standards but to continuously seek ways in which to enhance the quality of education and training provided (American Psychological Association, Accreditation is a process of validation in which colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning are evaluated. The standards for accreditation are set by a peer review board whose members include faculty from various accredited colleges and universities ( Educational accreditation is a type of quality assurance process under which services and operations of educational institutions or programs are evaluated by an external body to determine if applicable standards are met. If standards are met, accredited status is granted by the agency (Wikipedia; From a detailed examination of their more comprehensive definitions of accreditation, several common criteria on which a college can be assessed seem to emerge: 1. Overall Mission of the college is considered 2. Needs pre-established quality standards 3. Involves a self-study 4. Includes a peer view 5. Funding and financial viability 6. Objectives and goals 7. Student requirements for admissions 8. Support services available to students 9. Quality of educational programs 10. Reputation of Faculty 11. Every operation and department of institution is evaluated 12. Academics are principally responsible for defining and enforcing the rules and norms assuring the quality of academic programs 13. Process may be government or private, non-profit agency driven
5 5 The National Accreditation Board of the OECS use a set of common criteria on which they will accredit their national colleges. Those are found primarily in the legislative language that created the National Accreditation Boards. International institutions such as Council of Learning, UNESCO and CANQATE also provide internationally accepted accreditation standards which can be adapted as needed. Those National Accreditation Boards are required to review and accredit their respective state colleges and certify foreign credentials. Because those boards are most inactive at present, results of their accreditation activities are still undocumented or unknown. Not to be confused with accreditation, all Caribbean states have a mechanism to approve, authorize, certify, provide oversight, register or license non-state sponsored institutions of higher learning. In most OECS the National Accreditation Boards are not involved in any of those activities. The Role of Program Standards in Quality Assurance In higher education, institutional or external policies and issues drive the quality assurance process and are normally defined in terms of program standards. This writer defines program standard is an established set of criteria or level of quality or achievement for measuring, evaluating and judging success or performance of an activity, process or entity. College faculty typically identify, develop, instill, promote, insure and assure program standards related to academic program quality. According the National Association of Gifted Children, standards provide a basis for policies, rules, and procedures that are essential for providing systematic programs and services to any special population. While standards may be addressed and implemented in a variety of ways, they provide important direction and focus to the endeavor of program development. They also help define the comprehensiveness necessary in designing and developing options these standards are grounded in theory, research, and practice paradigms ( It seems that while policies drive the quality assurance process and formation of program standards, the corollary is also true. Program standards do provide a basis for new policies and procedures. This observation is especially important because it highlights the obvious policies drive the formulation of program standards. However, through the quality assurance and assessment process, new issues emerge which in turn drive the need for new or more robust policies to support and regulate these emerging issues. In essence, the dissonance between the continuous creation of program standards and corresponding need for new policies is a hallmark of the quality assurance process. Notwithstanding, however, there are others, external to the institutions, involved in the formulation of program standards and the design of policy frameworks that effectively and efficiently assure quality. They may include, depending on whether or not their academic standards are internally or externally motivated, Ministries of Government, specific professional associations, agencies, employers and the market forces.
6 6 Below is a list of related questions that could guide an institution in defining or refining a college s unique program standards: 1. Do quality assurance mechanisms or program standards exist and are identifiable in your college? 2. To what extent do they exist? 3. Adequacy of both the traditional internal and external practices (and those institutional policies) for assuring acceptable academic standards? 4. Who has the majority authority to set and measure standards: institutions themselves, external forces, including governments, students, and their parents? 5. Extent to which innovation in academic programs is encouraged while maintaining and improving academic standards and institutional policies? 6. What is the evidence of growing or declining academic standards in educational achievement? 7. Is achieving a better linkage of higher education with the labor market as important as the educational attainment? 8. Is program relevance to graduates and the economy an important factor in establishing program standards? 9. Should the institution safeguard the public interest in the assurance of academic standards? 10. Is voluntary institutional and program accreditation an adequate mechanism for assuring the quality of student learning? 11. When were your first and last institutional self-study, external peer review, and a public report of findings? 12. Where should the balance exist between external (national/agency) control and institutional responsibility for improvement? 13. For example, does exclusively focusing on the subject level assessments provide limited incentives for the overall institution to develop an effective internal quality assurance process? 14. What is the role of informed student choice as an influential means of external quality assurance? 15. Role of outcome measures such as graduate placement and salaries as informative and generally valid quality information for potential students and their value as general indicators of effectiveness for academic programs? 16. Do the same standards also apply to online programs. Quality Assurance for Online programs Putting some courses or an entire program on an online learning platform and monitoring periodically with limited interaction and feedback has never been a good model, and in today s online learning environment where students expect instant gratification (or feedback) and they have more choices for their education than ever before, is fatal. The key issue here is determining how instructors and their institutions ensure the quality of online courses and programs under their jurisdiction, even when the parent institution does not perform systemic program quality assurance.
7 7 Notwithstanding the last paragraph, if an institution has online programs, not only will it be required to maintain high course and teaching standards, but it will also need to show evidence of sound and varied use of technology in order to achieve the desired educational outcomes. Assessing the quality of your online program is tantamount to maintaining higher education standards. For higher education institutions anywhere that do not currently have a functional and well designed institution-wide quality assurance system, designing, reviewing and establishing program standards and best practices specifically for online programs and courses can be problematic, but not insurmountable. It is problematic if there is no established verifiable set of program standards from which to model, and b) the quality and rigor of online program should not be any different from those of the established tradition on-ground programs and determining quality standards may still be evolving. Why Do It? Regardless, quality assurance of online learning programs and courses is essential in today s learning environment and must be promoted. All colleges that teach courses online, including those in the OECS, must have a plan to assure quality programming. This is important and is highlighted by the needs of the three most important interests in the process: 1. College: To protect and enhance the reputation of the college in attracting quality students and instructors while ensuring that business and industry can trust the quality of graduates they employ. 2. Student: To give students the confidence that their credentials have value and relevance in today s workplace, and will be recognized and accepted by prospective employers and other reputable accredited institutions, regionally and overseas. 3. Faculty: To provide training, resources, and technical support for the development of online courses, the maintenance (including teaching) of on-going online courses and assessing the learning outcomes of those programs or courses. There are other interests, of course: accrediting agencies, legislators, tax payers, private sector and other employers and other institutions of higher learning.
8 8 Part Two The Case for St. Thomas University, Miami, Florida ( St. Thomas University, Miami, Florida, is a Catholic university and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The rest of the paper will present the specific quality standards with the corresponding applicable description of how that standard was met or achieved. Other institutional specific quality standards are included in Appendix C. Standard # 1: Definition of Distance Education 1. The University defines Distance Education (D.E.) as a formal program of synchronous or asynchronous instruction and learning in which the greatest proportion of the process occurs when students and instructor are not in the same place. In addition to traditional learning resources, D.E. uses any of a variety of technological media that enables interaction and sharing of information across disparate locations. Among these, the Internet, radio, cable television, audio or video conferencing, DVD s, and CD-ROMs, have become prominently featured (Commission on Colleges Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, 2009). 2. At the University, all D.E. courses have a scoring rubric, grade book and discussion forum that is appropriately managed by the instructor. Courses include both credit and non credit. Standard # 2 Student Privacy and Authenticity: The institution must demonstrate that the student who registers in a distance or correspondence education course or program is the same student who participates in and completes the course or program and receives the credit by verifying the identity of a student who participates in class or coursework by using, at the option of the institution, methods such as (1) a secure login and pass code, (2) proctored examinations, and (3) new or other technologies and practices that are effective in verifying student identification. 1. Any student participating in an on-line is provided a secure login and pass code to ensure the same student who completes the course is the student who registered for the course. 2. St. Thomas University can demonstrate that the student who registers in a distance or correspondence education course or program is the same student who participates in and completes the course or program and receives the credit. It can verify that the identity of a student who participates in class or coursework by using methods such as (a) a secure login and pass code, (b) proctored examinations, or (c) new or other technologies and practices that are effective in verifying student identification (e.g. ProctorU). 3. St. Thomas University has a written procedure for protecting the privacy of students enrolled in distance and correspondence education courses or programs. 4. St. Thomas University has a written procedure distributed at the time of registration or enrollment that notifies students of any projected additional student charges associated with verification of student identity. 5. The University requires each student registering in its D.E. Program to provide verification of his/her identity. Each student is responsible for protecting the secure login and pass code assigned him/her. Furthermore, the student may be required to participate in other designated activities that allow the University to confirm that the registered student and person participating in courses and evaluations, and being granted credits or credentials is one and the same person. 6. In addition to the secure login and pass code, each student who is required to take a written exam or provide a demonstration may be subjected to participate in the ProctorU system of monitoring exams. 7. ProctorU technology connects to the student via web cam and by connecting electronically to the student's computer screen. After that, the proctor requests photo identification and asks several identifying questions to
9 9 make sure students taking the test are who they say they are. That way, the university can have greater confidence that cheating is not taking place. 8. ProctorU is an online proctoring service that allows students to take exams online while ensuring the integrity of the exam for the institution. The service uses proctors who monitor exam takers in three ways. ProctorU proctors: a. Observe the test taker via a web cam. The student is connected to a real person who guides him/her through the process. b. Watch the test taker's screen in real time and can see everything the student is doing both at the location and on screen. c. Authenticate the test taker s identity to ensure that the person being monitored is the correct student. 9. If a student is taking an online course that offers a ProctorU option, this will be announced in the student s course syllabus. 10. Student Privacy: Student privacy is protected by the University at several levels: a. students are issued privacy protected passwords and user names which are used by students for accessing their courses, taking exams, checking grades, paying bills, checking and sending s, and chatting with their instructors and follow course mates; b. privacy protected user names and passwords are issued to all students free of charge; c. the University reserves the right to charge student user fees for additional security associated with verifying the student identification for purposes of participating in the course and taking exams; d. whenever such fees are associated with a specific course, students in that course will be informed of such costs upon registration for that course. Standard #3 Enrolment Report: An institution that offers distance or correspondence education must ensure that it reports accurate headcount enrollment on its annual Institutional Profile submitted to the Commission. 1. It is the responsibility of the Office of Institutional Research to report an accurate headcount in St. Thomas online programs and courses as required by the Commission of Colleges in its annual Institutional Profile. 2. Those statistics are found in the University s FACT Book, published annually. Standard #4 Compliance: Institutions must ensure that their distance and correspondence education courses and programs comply with the Principles of Accreditation. This applies to all educational programs and services, wherever located or however delivered. 1. All online programs and courses are treated as a new program or a course. All online programs or courses adhere to the same academic policies and procedures as traditional courses, including the initial approval process. This procedure is to ensure each online program or course complies with the SACS/COC Principles of Accreditation. 2. Furthermore, St. Thomas University Distance Education Policy is subsumed within its overall academic and administrative policies and enhances the University's mission to develop leaders who contribute to the economic and cultural vitality of the regions they serve. The University s Distance Education Program is subject to its Academic Policy Approval process, the Academic Conduct Code, and distance education students have a responsibility to familiarize themselves with the Student Handbook and all applicable requirements and regulations where those academic policies are found. Instructors are similarly obligated. Academic policy already established as part of onsite programs at the University, also apply to all distance education offerings, unless otherwise indicated in its Distance Education Policy. 3. The Academic Policy Council (APC) is mandated by the University to provide policy formulation for the D.E. Program. APC receives input from the Technology Governance Council, and the Office of the Provost, in order to identify policy and procedural needs and issues of the D.E. Program. The Council reviews and approves policy for D.E. and promulgates such policy via the Technology Governance Council. The APC reviews all
10 10 academic policy every two years. Standard #5 Mission Curriculum and Instruction: If an institution offers significant distance and correspondence education, it should be reflected in the institution s mission. 1. St. Thomas University Distance Education Policy is subsumed in its overall academic and administrative policies and consistent with the University's mission to develop leaders who contribute to the economic and cultural vitality of the regions they serve. Standard #6 Curriculum and Instruction, Faculty s Role: The faculty assumes primary responsibility for and exercises oversight of distance and correspondence education, ensuring both the rigor of programs and the quality of instruction. 1. The School of Leadership Studies offers six undergraduate bachelors, eight masters and one doctoral program. All Masters and the doctoral programs are progressively more advanced in academic content than the undergraduate programs. On the average, the Masters programs require a minimum of 36 academic credits of course work beyond the bachelors degree. At the Masters level, a Thesis or Comprehensive Examination (Institute for Communication, Entertainment and Media Arts, ICEMA)is required in some programs while others require the completion of a capstone course (Institute for Professional Studies, IPS) or specific professional education courses with State of Florida Certification testing (Institute for Education). 2. More specifically, the Masters in Professional Studies in the Institute for Professional Studies requires the successful completion of the capstone course (MPS 640) while all Masters of Science degree programs in the Institute for Education prepare its graduates for specific State of Florida Certification. The doctoral program (Ed. D. in Leadership and Management) requires a Qualifying Paper (involving major research and writing), a Dissertation (embodying original research) and an Oral Defense of the Dissertation. 3. Advanced Academic Content: The academic content of the Masters degree programs are more advanced than the content of the baccalaureate programs. This is evidenced by the fact that the program learning outcomes of the undergraduate programs focus more on general competencies of knowledge, understanding and analysis of subject matter. At the Masters degree level the program learning outcomes focus more on advanced treatment of course material using consistent analytic, comparative and summative treatment of the learning cognitive domain. The doctoral degree program focuses on the higher and more advanced areas of the cognitive domain which is exemplified by the treatment of research material and the creation and evaluation of original research, constructs and concepts. The course learning outcomes for all three levels of academic work are contained in the course syllabi which are stored on the University s Course Management System (Blackboard Collaborate) and in the respective Institutes. 4. Although independent and original research are encouraged and nurtured at the baccalaureate level, evaluating peer reviewed research and content and the creation of original research are part of the learning experiences in the masters degree programs, particularly in those where a thesis is required for graduation (e.g., Communication Arts). In the case of all the masters programs in the Institute for Education, the academic content prepares students for various and specific State of Florida Department of Education professional certifications. In the Ed. D program, constructing and orally defending a dissertation of original research indicate that the academic rigor is more involved and more advanced than those programs at the Masters degree level. 5. At the baccalaureate level, particularly in the Organizational Leadership Program, Action Research is part of the curriculum with emphasis on introducing students to the field of academic research and its various components and challenges. At the masters level (e.g., Communication Arts), the research courses focus on how to use research to advance knowledge and solve problems. In the Ed. D. program the research courses are used to evaluate other research and to create original content which must follow the specific guidelines outlined for the
11 11 doctoral dissertation process by the UMI Dissertation Publishing, a business unit of ProQuest LLC. UMI produces a dissertations and theses database that contains all doctoral and some master s level dissertations from U.S. and Canadian universities. It also provides additional information about dissertations from around the world. All Ed. D. students who have completed and defended the dissertation have successfully participated in the UMI Dissertation Publishing, one additional piece of evidence that the Ed. D. program features acceptable academic rigor. The Ed. D. program offers research courses in qualitative and quantitative methods and four graduate seminars each semester, focusing specifically on Research Design. These activities are in addition to those Doctoral Seminars offered each semester by the University Library. 6. All courses in the University follow a numbering system and sequence which differentiates them according to their academic level (baccalaureate, masters and doctorate). Courses with 100 to 499 designation suggest that they belong to the bachelors program. Courses with designation between indicate that they are taught at the masters level. All courses in the doctoral program are in the 800 range. 7. St. Thomas University requires that all course syllabi contain course descriptions and learning outcomes that clearly indicate the level of rigor expected for each course and the type of assessment associated with each set of learning outcomes. Whereas the graduate requirements for the baccalaureate programs only require that students complete the courses as is exemplified by successfully completing the assessments for each course, at the post-baccalaureate level students must, in addition to successfully completing the course assessments, also successfully meet other program requirements which may include a capstone course, comprehensive examination, thesis or dissertation. The dissertation and oral defense are also among the most rigorous among the three levels of academic programs. 8. The faculty in their specific programs determines the academic rigor of those programs. This process is further reviewed by the Academic Policy Council (APC), comprising of academic experts from various academic disciplines within the University. The APC also approves new courses and programs. As part of the new course approval process, each course must show evidence that the academic content is rigorous and appropriate to the academic level for it is designed (see New Course Proposal). 9. Table One in the Appendix depicts an example of the progression in rigor among the learning outcomes in the three levels of academic degree programs in the Institute for Professional Studies. Standard #7 Curriculum and Instruction, Technology: The technology used is appropriate to the nature and objectives of the programs and courses and expectations concerning the use of such technology are clearly communicated to students. 1. All Schools, College, Institutes and departments delivering the D.E. Program consistently use the University approved Blackboard Learning System as their course management system (CMS). This system is appropriate to the nature and objectives of courses and programs. The expectations concerning the use of this technology are clearly communicated to each student in the Course Syllabus, DE Policy Manual and University Catalog. 2. The management of the University s D.E. Program acknowledges that technology emergencies can militate against timely completion of course work. Examples include the failure of the Internet connection, failure of Blackboard or breakdown of the University s computer system. Technology can fail from within or outside the University's system. Because of that, instructor routinely advise students to back up computer assignments regularly. In addition, college, schools, institutes and their academic departments and units who issue the certificate, degree or credential have a clearly defined and established emergency plan to manage the delivery of courses when technology fails, for whatever reason. LINK DE POLICY MANUAL Link EMERGENCY PLAN AND Manual Standard #8 Curriculum and Instruction, Copyright: Distance and correspondence education policies are clear concerning ownership of materials, faculty compensation, copyright issues, and the use of revenue derived
12 12 from the creation and production of software, tele-courses, or other media products. 1. Records of classroom instruction, lectures, or other instructional or performance events, undertaken by instructors as part of the D.E. Program, are not sold or re-transmitted in future semesters, except under the terms of a written agreement between the University and the instructor. 2. The copyright for instructional materials and courses developed by instructors must adhere to existing University Policy and the Fair Use Guidelines of the current United States copyright laws. 3. All D.E. instructional material, syllabi and courses developed by any instructor for the University and under contract with this Institution become the exclusive property of the University. Work created by instructors/staff will be recognized by the person s name on the document, according to the Laws of Copyright of the United States and the established Academic Policy of the University. Policy relating to the treatment of inventions and patented works is documented in the Faculty Handbook and does not distinguish between onsite and distance activities of the University. 4. Compensation for instructors teaching or developing DE courses are subjected to the same guidelines as pertain to teaching and developing traditional face-to-face courses. PROVIDE LINK TO CPYRIGHT RULES Standard #9 Curriculum and Instruction, Academic Support: Academic support services are appropriate and specifically related to distance and correspondence education. 1. St. Thomas University provides appropriate and adequate support and services for its DE programs. In that regard, it provides free online tutoring services for all students in need, 24/7 student support and integral instructor involvement in courses and instruction. 2. In addition each student is assigned an academic adviser and has easy access to the Program Coordinators and Program Directors. PROVIDE LINKS TO 24/7 site Standard #10 Curriculum and Instruction, Program Length: Program length is appropriate for each of the institution s educational programs, including those offered through distance education and correspondence education. 1. The program length for each educational program is determined by the program curriculum committee and the University s Academic Policy Council and is guided on best practices in the higher education industry and a broad peer review and Program Review processes. DE program lengths are the same as those in the University s traditional programs. 2. The University offers courses only in the semester format, one course representing three semester hours, with 12 semester hours representing a full student load in a semester. All university programs, DE or traditional, follow this format. The fall semester normally ranges for mid August to mid December, the spring semester ranges from early January to mid May and the summer ranges from mid May to early August. Standard #11 Curriculum and Instruction: For all degree programs offered through distance or correspondence education, the programs embody a coherent course of study that is compatible with the institution s mission and is based upon fields of study appropriate to higher education.
13 13 1. Instructors assure the quality of the programs and courses they develop and teach, including course coherence, adherence to University s mission, content suitability to the level of the course, methodology and assessment appropriate to the type of learning, and appropriate professional practice, using a broad peer review process. 2. Instructor also manages interaction between instructor and students, and among students to provoke thoughtful, scholarly, ongoing and inclusive dialogue, using appropriate educational technologies and methodologies appropriate to higher education programs. Standard #12 Curriculum and Instruction, Credit Level: For all courses offered through distance or correspondence education, the institution employs sound and acceptable practices for determining the amount and level of credit awarded and justifies the use of a unit other than semester credit hours by explaining it equivalency. 1. The University provides comprehensive information about its D.E. course and program offerings to students, in order to facilitate appropriate decision-making for successful participation and completion of studies. The information provided includes, but is not limited to, University academic policy and course syllabus: number of course credits, level of instruction, learning outcomes, content topics, required technology and resources, types of assignments, evaluation of learning and other requirements. Information about the accreditation of D.E. programs is also available to students. 2. The University subjects its D.E. programs to the same rigorous academic standards of design and evaluation as it applies for its on-site programs. D.E. programs are comparable in instructional inputs, amount and level of credits awarded per course, learning outcomes and evaluation, as those offered on-campus at the appropriate levels. Through ongoing evaluation of program effectiveness, each college or school is able to update and improve distance programs continuously. 3. The University awards semester hours for successful course work, DE or traditional face-to-face. Standard #12 Curriculum and Instruction, Contractual Arrangements: An institution entering into consortial arrangements or contractual agreements for the delivery of courses/programs or services offered by distance or correspondence education is an active participant in ensuring the effectiveness and quality of the courses/programs offered by all of the participants. 1. St. Thomas DE program currently does not have any consortial arrangements. All cooperative agreements, in D.E., between St. Thomas University and other institutions shall be negotiated according to the standard University procedures for such agreements, where applicable. 2. The Provost is responsible for approving cooperative agreements, which uses D.E. facilities of the University.. Standard #13 Faculty, Adequacy: An institution offering distance or correspondence learning courses/programs ensures that there is a sufficient number of faculty qualified to develop, design, and teach the courses/programs. 1. The University has appropriate number of qualified faculty to teach, design and assess DE courses and programs. All DE programs are subjected to the same full-time to part-time ratio as apply to the traditional face-to-face programs. 2. Instructors are assigned to teach in the D.E. Program and must meet the academic, credential and experience requirements for teaching the specific subject matter, as set out by the University and the college, school, institute or academic department and must first be approved by Department Head, Dean and the Provost.
14 14 3. It is incumbent on instructors, who intend to teach in the D.E. Program, to avail of University provided training to prepare for teaching in D.E. 4. Only instructors meeting the academic and experience requirements for teaching the specific subject matter of the course are assigned to teach in the D.E. Program. In addition, all such instructors must participate in ongoing training on the University s principles, policy and processes in delivering distance education, using upto-date technology. ATTACH DOCUMENTATION 5. Whenever course load permits, D.E. courses are taught as part of the normal teaching assignment for full-time instructors. 6. Prior to developing a D.E. course, the instructor must be trained and certified by the University to teach via Distance Education. Training may only be waived if the instructor demonstrates sufficient competence and experience for the applicable tasks. If the certification process is waived, the name of the instructor is included in the roster of trained instructors and treated appropriately. 7. Instructors are not paid for their participation at D.E. training workshops and seminars, conducted on the campus or online by the University. Standard #14 Faculty, Evaluation: The institution has clear criteria for the evaluation of faculty teaching distance education courses and programs. 1. All faculty teaching DE courses are evaluated at the end of the course by students enrolled in that course. The evaluation is the same and the procedure for evaluation the course is the same as those courses taught in the traditional classroom. 2. Faculty are also evaluated through the Faculty Activity Report which is submitted each year for further review by the Dean. The University reviews and evaluates its D.E. Program and its instruction on an ongoing basis for continuous improvement of content, processes and the technological media through which it is delivered; and endeavors to incentivize excellence and outstanding performance of its instructors in the development and delivery of D.E. 3. Faculty are responsible for assessing, measuring, grading and recording the quality of students participation and achievement of learning outcomes in courses. Through that practice, faculty and students generate feedback on students progress and on faculty s teaching. This feedback is used by both students and teachers to enhance both learning and instruction. Instructors must also ensure that the person being evaluated or assessed is the same person who registered for that course. Attach copy of COPY OF FAC AND STUDENT EVALUATION Standard #15 Faculty: Faculty who teach in distance and correspondence education programs and courses receive appropriate training. 1. Faculty training is provided by the University to develop their capacity to produce and teach distance courses. This includes enhancing their instructional capacity to provide a high quality D.E. system for the University s students, within the United States and worldwide. 2. The training is both classroom-based and virtual, focusing on how to: a) convert traditional courses to online formats, b) create new online courses, and c) teach online with advanced educational technologies. Standard #16 Institutional Effectiveness: Comparability of distance and correspondence education programs to campus-based programs and courses is ensured by the evaluation of educational effectiveness, including assessments of student learning outcomes, student retention, and student satisfaction. The institution regularly assesses the effectiveness of its provision of library/learning resources and student support services for distance or correspondence education students. USE ASSESSMENT RUBRICS or other measures
15 15 1. Academic departments follow established policy and procedures with respect to DE curriculum and program review. 2. The University is responsible for assessing and measuring student retention and satisfaction. Faculty are also use the same instruments and methods as are used in the traditional classroom to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs in which they teach. One of the primary means of comparing the effectiveness of DE and traditional programs is the use of the Program Review process which is applied to all programs, regardless of teaching and delivery modalities. All programs are reviewed every three years. 3. It is also the responsibility of College, Schools, Institute and their academic departments and units to ensure that: a) specific standards are in place to compare and improve their courses and programs learning outcomes; b) their D.E. programs educational effectiveness is measured, using several methods; c) the results of program evaluation are used to improve the teaching/learning process; and d) the established learning outcomes are regularly reviewed to certify their clarity, utility and relevance. 4. It is the responsibility of the College, Schools, Institute and their academic departments and units to develop the criteria that guide peer reviews of courses. Each ensures that all D.E. instructors are given the opportunity to review and analyze courses of their peers. Review results are used by these bodies to update and improve the quality of their courses and programs (especially in the Program reviews). 5. The following DE policy statement outlines the quality standards which are set and applied consistently across the D.E. Program: 6. College, schools, institutes and their academic departments are ultimately responsible for ensuring the quality of programs offered via D.E. and for observing applicable accreditation and other standards for course development. They must screen and assign qualified instructors based on the University s established academic personnel policies and procedures. Each of these bodies must assign a communication contact person for D.E. 7. The University Library offers comparable services and resources to D.E. students as to on-site students. The University Library has expanded its resources to support the University s DE program. A periodic library needs assessment is routinely conducted and library staff who continue to liaise and coordinate library needs regarding online programs. The University allocates funding each year for library resources to support its DE programs. 8. The St. Thomas University Library participates in curriculum review and preparation for services and collection development in order to support the information needs of all online programs within the budget guidelines that the Library has submitted and the administration has supported. This includes the purchase of e-books, magazines, data-bases and other resources along with annual collection development to support the information needs of the online student population. 9. Library, learning and student support services and resources are regularly assessed for their effectiveness. This is achieved through periodic Program reviews, course and student evaluations and Faculty Activity Reports. The feedback received during and at the end of each course, and from faculty evaluations is analyzed periodically to determine where adjustments are needed and how efficiently and effectively students, faculty and administrators use those resources and services. Program Reviews provide comprehensive assessments of the quality and appropriateness and utility of services and resources and how to adjust. Standard #17 Library and Learning Resources: Students have access to and can effectively use appropriate library resources. Access is provided to laboratories, facilities, and equipment appropriate to the courses or programs 1. St. Thomas University Library supports the distance education students and faculty with online video bibliographic instruction on Library Services, Finding and Using E-Books, Finding and Using Databases, Finding Print Resources and Using the SEFLIN Library Network and Interlibrary Loan Services with telephone, , and chat support to answer any questions and trouble-shooting problems.
16 16 Standard #18 Student Services, Access: Students have adequate access to the range of services appropriate to support the programs offered through distance and correspondence education. 2. The University has a range of services appropriate to support programs offered through distance education. A complete list of student support services at St. Thomas University is provided in the Student Handbook and DE Policy Manual. 3. Each student is required to participate in an DE Orientation to the University s D.E. Program, prior to starting or enrolling in a DE program. A student continuing enrollment in subsequent distance courses may proceed without additional orientation, except in cases where significant time (12 months or more) have elapsed without participation in a distance education course. This is a responsibility of each program. 4. While the college, school or department offering the particular program makes the University support services available to its students, it is the responsibility of each student to avail of those services. Students are responsible for any applicable fees for the usage of support services and resources. Where fees apply, students are informed of such fees before enrolling in a DE course or program. All fees are included in the University s published fee schedule and available to all students in print or electronically. 5. St. Thomas University provides a Live Help Desk Support Team that is available to both staff and students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This service is convenient and flexible to address the needs and queries of administrators, faculty and students regardless of their time zone. Such services include: a. Webform with capabilities b. Live online chat support c. Live toll-free telephone support d. Self-Help/FAQ area e. Online audio tutorials 6. Students also have access to Online Tutorials (Smart Thinking), the Writing Lab, ProctorU, and Testing and Academic Enhancement Center. STUDENT HANDBOOK AND DE POLICY MANUAL; FEE SCHEDULES Standard #19 Student Services, Appeal: Students in distance or correspondence programs have an adequate procedure for resolving their complaints, and the institution follows its policies and procedures. a. The University is aware that distance education students do have concerns with the technology or aspects of the DE course/program. Faculty, Program Coordinators, administrators and support staff provide opportunities for students to communicate such concerns, appropriately. That is achieved by engaging the faculty, Academic Advisers and other appropriate staff in resolving student issues and complaints. b. The faculty, program Coordinators and administrators acknowledge the students concerns and work to bring satisfactory resolutions and closures to each issue by either implementing changes directly (where appropriate) or bringing the issues or concerns to the attention of the student s advisor, especially if the issue/concern has systemic roots, is expressed abusively or excessively. c. Distance education students may avail of the Appeals process, as set out in the Academic Conduct Code. Students complaints are always documented by faculty, Academic Adviser or University Ombudsman in the same manner in which such complaints are managed for traditional, face-to-face students. Standard #20 Student Services, Truth in Advertising: Advertising, recruiting, and admissions information adequately and accurately represent the programs, requirements, and services available to students.
17 17 1. All marketing and promotion for D.E. programs, courses and events are the responsibility of the School, College or Institute from which the programs, courses or events originate. All advertising and recruiting information accurately represent the programs, their requirements and services that they promote. 2. Advertising and recruiting material are approved by the University s Marketing department prior to dissemination. 3. Admissions information reflects the University approved texts contained in the University Undergraduate and graduate catalogs. 4. The University s Marketing department provides oversight on all promotion of the University s D.E. Program. Standard #21 Student Services, Security in Assessment: Documented procedures assure that security of personal information is protected in the conduct of assessments and evaluations and in the dissemination of results. St. Thomas University has: 1. Has a written procedure for protecting the privacy of students enrolled in distance and correspondence education courses or programs. 2. Has a written procedure distributed at the time of registration or enrollment that notifies students of any projected additional student charges associated with verification of student identity. 3. Requires each student registering and participating in instruction, assessment or evaluation of its D.E. courses and programs to provide verification of his/her identity. Each student is responsible for protecting the secure login and pass code assigned him/her. Furthermore, the student may be required to participate in other designated activities that allow the University to confirm that the registered student and person participating in courses and evaluations, and being granted credits or credentials is one and the same person. Standard #22 Student Services: Students enrolled in distance education courses are able to use the technology employed, have the equipment necessary to succeed, and are provided assistance in using the technology employed. 1. Students enrolled in DE programs are given, upon enrollment, information on the technology and personal skills requirements to adequately and successfully participate in this modality of instruction. In addition, to one to one technology assistance which is available to all DE students from Monday to Friday (9.00 AM to 6.00 PM) via telephone, fax, in person or via St. Thomas University also provides pre-registration Orientation and live help desk support team that is available to both staff and students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This service is be convenient and flexible to address the needs and queries of administrators, faculty and students regardless of their time zone. 3. The live help desk services include: a. Webform with capabilities b. Live online chat support c. Live toll-free telephone support d. Self-Help/FAQ area e. Online audio tutorials Standard #23 Facilities and Finances: Appropriate equipment and technical expertise required for distance and correspondence education are available. The institution, in making distance and correspondence education courses/programs a part of its mission, provides adequate funding for faculty, staff, services, and technological infrastructure to support the methodology.
18 18 a. Equipment, technical expertise and resources are adequate to support the University s DE programs. Consistent with the University s DE policies and procedures, the College, Schools, Institutes and their academic departments and units develop annual program plans, including budgets, in collaboration with the Provost s Office or designate, the Office of the Registrar and the Office for Information Technology to provide the necessary equipment, technical expertise and resources for their DE programs. b. That includes a fully staffed Office of Information technology, office of the registrar, 24/7 live help desk support services, 7 fully equipped computer rooms on the University s main campus, a comprehensive E- Portfolio Lab, appropriately trained faculty and staff within the DE programs to assist students with technologyrelated issues, structured training, certification and incentives for faculty to develop and teach interactive DE courses. c. The University's budgetary mechanism is charged with allocating funds for the fiscal management of the D.E. Program. d. Funding sources for the D.E. Program include reallocated and specifically budgeted general funds, special department allocations, tuition, and federal, local or private support. The Vice President for Administrative Affairs determines formulas and arrangements for the distribution of tuition and fee revenues from the D.E. Program across the University and provides incentives and funding to sustain D.E. options. (See Sample Budget in Appendix D). Standard #24 Distance Education Policy Review Procedures: 1. The Academic Policy Council (APC) is mandated by the University to provide policy formulation for the D.E. Program. APC receives input from the Technology Governance Council, and the Office of the Provost and Program Directors, in order to identify policy and procedural needs and issues of the D.E. Program. The Council reviews and approves policy for D.E. and promulgates such policy via the Technology Governance Council. 2. The Technology Governance Council (TGC) provides policy oversight for all D.E. programs and works with the APC, Program Directors and Office of the Provost to identify policy and procedural issues related to the D.E. Program at the University. It evaluates the effectiveness of meeting D.E. program goals. This Council also provides input on policy and procedural issues to inform the work of APC, Office of Information Technology and the Office of the Provost and Chief Academic Officer. TGC supports an academic sub-committee to address matters related to D.E. and interfaces on all D.E. matters with all the offices named above. Standard #25 Course Work for the Degree: The institution provides instruction for all course work required for at least one degree program at each level which it awards degrees. If the Institution does not provide instruction for all course work and (1) makes arrangements for some instruction to be provided by other accredited institutions or entities through contracts or consortia or (2) uses some other alternative approach to meeting this requirement, the alternative approach must be approved by the Commission on Colleges. In both cases the institution demonstrates that it controls all aspects of its educational program. Applicable St. Thomas University Distance Education Activity, Policy and Procedures 1. It is the policy of the University that a student is eligible to receive a maximum of 45 semester hours of alternative credits which may be counted toward graduation. No other institution or entity provides any instruction for any its courses, except for the credits it awards via the alternative routes described below. 2. This includes CLEP, Advanced Placement credit, Dual Enrollment courses, credit by examination, Life Experience credit, and credit for military or corporate training.
19 19 3. St. Thomas University counts: a) credits from military or corporate training that have been recognized by the American Council on Education (ACE). Credit recommendations made by the American Council on Education are advisory and applicants may apply for more than one military learning experience, b) credit by examination for matriculated students who satisfactorily pass a comprehensive examination on the subject matter. The examinations are written and administered by a professor assigned by the Dean within the appropriate academic division, c) life experience portfolio credits for adult learners (23 years and older) who demonstrate the knowledge and learning outcomes experiences acquired outside the traditional classroom that constitute college-level learning. Adult learners must first complete the POR 300 Adult Development and Life Assessment course. A maximum of twenty seven (27) additional credits may be granted through evaluation of the portfolio by members of the St. Thomas University faculty; d) CLEP credits; e) DANTES credits; f) St. Thomas University accepts college credits from students who have studied in areas such as Police and Corrections Academies, Emergency Medical Services, Hospital Based Training and Fire and Paramedic Academy. A maximum of 45 semester credits are allowed for any of these alternative methods (individually or collectively). Undergraduate Catalog , pages Reference Brennan, J. and Shah, T. (2000) Managing quality in higher education: An international perspective on institutional assessment and change. Buckingham, UK: OECD, SRHE & Open University Press. David D. Dill, Quality Assurance in Higher Education: Practices and Issues, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, AUGUST WASHINGTON, DC. Institute for Research and. Study of Accreditation and Quality Assurance. Harman, G. & Meek, V.K. (2000). Repositioning quality assurance and accreditation in Australian higher education. Evaluations and Investigations Program report 00/2. Canberra: Higher Education Division Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs. [Online] Available: [6 June 2001]. Global Standards for Excellence in Education ; American Psychological Association, 50States.com: Wikipedia; St. Thomas University, Documents in Preparation for the SACS Visit, 2013
20 20 APPENDIX Appendix A Website Resources 1. Analytic Quality Glossary: 2. Association of Commonwealth Universities Yearbook; 3. Center for Higher Education Development (CHE): 4. Centre for Research into Quality: 5. Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) - US: 6. European Association for Quality Assurance for Higher Education (ENQA): 7. Graduate Careers Australia (GCA) - Australian Graduate Surveys: 8. International Association of Universities (International Handbook of Universities, published by UNESCO); 9. International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE): National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE): Public Policy for Academic Quality Research Program (PPAQ): Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) UK: Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC): The Country Series (published by the Australian National Office on Overseas Skills Recognition); 15. The joint quality initiative: UNESCO Higher Education/Quality Assurance and Recognition: World Bank - Tertiary Education: World Education Series (published by AACRAO); www4.aacrao.org/publications
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