Moving closer to national recognition for your online designs


We use lenses to self-assess our subjects all the time. Often it’s merely the lens of our own personal teaching / design experience, sometimes it’s internally created frameworks (e.g. Online Learning Model), and other times it’s external frameworks (accreditation, anyone?). Recognition adds another layer altogether…

Couldn’t we all do with just a little bit of recognition?

Last month I participated in the final workshop for TELAS, the accreditation framework for online design (see original post from 2018).

Why just online design? Universities were very clear that this is what was needed, and that other mechanisms (internal and external) were in place to evaluate both teaching and content. So if you’re thinking in terms of the TPCK framework, this framework looks at technology, and how the online environment provides opportunities for and supports learning.

And why just online? The framework has been customised for different kinds of offerings, including full courses, online subjects, blended subjects, MOOCs and commercial packages – so in our terms, it can be used to help evaluate the online components of both online and on-campus courses.

Aaargh…another framework to judge us?

Not so fast. Remember, this is an opt-in framework so will only be used if and when it meets your needs. Some of those needs might be to:

  1. help select external educational technologies more easily,
  2. help self-assess and prioritise improvements to our own subjects and courses,
  3. help both you and the Faculty gain external recognition for your outstanding designs.

The idea is that we could self-evaluate internally, and if we feel certain subjects / courses would benefit from being evaluated externally for formal recognition, that’s a road that could be taken. Of course there are individual benefits to this, as well as benefits to the Faculty (recognition, marketing) and to students (an external signal, beyond our own words, of course quality).

The framework focuses on four core themes or ‘domains’ – the online environment, learner support, learning and assessment tasks and learning resources. Within these, there are a number of standards which each have criteria, success indicators and measures attached to them. Importantly, while some are requirements of all offerings, some are able to be noted as not applicable, with reasons offered, depending on the nature of the subject. This is something that has been requested by staff within this Faculty going back quite few years.


Just one lens…

For the cynics amongst us, no, this isn’t the panacea of quality and recognition. We have our own processes for aspects of that, some of which are happening right now. But these too have their limitations – they are internal, and rarely if ever lead to the kinds of external recognition that demonstrate to others the quality of our course designs.

And it’s obvious a framework such as this can’t be used to recognise the quality of the whole learning and teaching experience. After progressive rounds of quality improvement within just this Faculty, we are all aware that a poorly designed subject can still lead to the most empowering learning experiences for students in the hands of a skilled teacher, just as a well-designed subject can fall completely flat in the hands of those still developing those skills.

The power will be in whether we can combine this with other frameworks to:

  • help illuminate priorities for ongoing improvement to their subjects – as quickly and simply as possible;
  • ensure our quality assurance efforts are focused on improvement and recognition, not merely on simple metrics that serve the needs of University leadership but few others;
  • help us gather examples and self-help resources that provide a rich foundation of ideas to feed into design work within subjects and courses.

The framework will be renamed and should be ready to use, with trained external evaluators in place (for when formal recognition is sought) by the end of the year.