Accreditation, Benchmarks, and Competition: The ‘ABC’s’ of Quality Assurance in Open and Distance Learning
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Communicating quality to various publics remains a challenge for higher education institutions engaged in open and distance learning. The quality assurance tools and approaches developed in the past decade have largely failed to remediate the negative impacts of disreputable operators in the sector. Associations which allow for peer review have demonstrated success within particular subject areas but there seems to be less confidence in institutional level accreditation processes for distance education institutions. Indeed, it is not uncommon for some of the requirements of subject based accreditors to preclude cost effective ODL delivery. Several different frameworks have been developed to assist ODL institutions to compare their operational processes and resources with accepted good practices. The degrees to which these comparisons can be codified into distinct frameworks and/or effectively communicated to regulators and the general public are limited. Although institutions may prefer to establish member directed quality markers, it is more likely that published rankings would carry greater weight for the lay observers of the higher education sector. This paper will apply common criteria from available assessment schemes to the publicly available information from a number of large distance and dual mode universities to assess the coverage available for a specialized league table. It will then discuss the need for institutions to compete with the public accountability of campus based institutions. Conference Description: The theme of the 24th ICDE World Conference was “Expanding Horizons – New Approaches to Open and Distance Learning”. This conference provided a forum for sharing of ideas on redefining the roles and strategies of ODL in promoting cross-nation human capacity building under the following sub-themes: • ODL and human capacity building • ODL in a changing world • Quality and ODL – the way forward • Management and strategic development of ODL • Open Educational Resources (OER) in a global world • International development and distance learning The 24th ICDE World Conference featured 8 keynote speeches, over 200 paper presentations in 9 parallel sessions, and about 150 posters. Over 600 people attended from around the globe.