ICDE, China, 2013
Olivier Chapman, Head of Institutions Assurance, University of London
Patricia McKellar, Associate Director, ULP, University of London
Using Quality Assurance to enhance the learning experience at remote teaching institutions.
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) have described the teaching model of the University of London International Programmes as ‘distinctive in UK higher education’.  Since 1858 the University has been offering flexible study programmes through collaboration with Colleges of the University Federation. To promote its mission ‘to provide worldwide access to the internationally-renowned programmes and awards of the University of London’ students study remotely or choose to receive support through a network of independent teaching institutions. In a total of 52,000 students worldwide studying through the International Programmes, around 18,000 are working towards either a degree or diploma in Law.
Maintaining and evaluating the quality of the student experience of distance learners presents a challenge – both at an internal local level and nationally and internationally through engagement with quality agencies such at the QAA. This paper will review the University of London’s longstanding and unique track record of international engagement with teaching institutions that bridge the gap between distance learning and local face-to-face learning support. Drawing on historical perspectives and more recently through the University’s scheme of formal recognition for teaching institutions – the Institutions Policy Framework (IPF) – the paper will discuss how quality assurance tools and processes (such as review visits and annual monitoring) enable the assessment and identification of potential learning and teaching enhancements.
As an illustrative case study from the Undergraduate Laws Programme (ULP), this paper will consider how the Laws team have improved the quality of the experience of its distance learners through a learning and teaching strategy designed to identify activities which will increase the effectiveness of the student support mechanisms. Enhancement of the quality of the student experience is informed by a wide range of factors including the diverse nature of the student population (there is no ‘typical’ student), the globalisation of legal education, increasing competition in the transnational education sphere and aligning the University’s access mission with the provision of a world class legal education. The ULP also plays a key role in the development of local institutions recognised through the IPF and identifies ways to support the implementation of the learning and teaching strategy at a local level and thus enhance the quality of the student learning experience. Working alongside University colleagues in quality enhancement, the ULP seeks to reinforce competence and capacity within these institutions. Advances in technology, communications and ‘blended’ approaches to learning and teaching and student engagement all provide the programme with opportunities to be explored.
This embedded programme case study will provide evidence as to how the University of London’s quality framework for the recognition of teaching institutions supports ULP academics as they access and assess information on “distance” learner and teacher needs. It will consider how these needs might be addressed in the context of the current ULP programme structure and if there are lessons to be learned by the wider distance learning community.