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Looking at the Literature: Micro-credentials Under the Microscope

Mark Brown Chair in Digital Learning and Director of the National Institute for Digital Learning, DCU / NIDL

This contribution reports some of the findings from a comprehensive review of the literature on micro-credentials and their relationship to underlying drivers, including lifelong learning, employability and the changing nature of work. It outlines the research questions, the tripartite methodology, the sample of literature and the inclusion and exclusion criteria that defined the scope of the review. Placing the literature under the microscope, the presentation provides several insights, critical observations and major takeaways on the growth of the micro-credential movement.

Insights from MicroCreds: Irish universities collaborative approach to micro-credentials

Lynn Ramsey Programme Lead for MicroCreds, Irish Universities Association

This presentation will consider the experiences of seven Irish Universities Association universities working collectively though MicroCreds, a five-year €12.3 million project funded under the Human Capital Initiative. The presentation will share insights from Ireland on a national approach which is European focused in outlook and design. Dr Ramsey will explore progress on the creation of a national framework for micro-credentials. MicroCreds initial work has focused upon learners wishing to reskill, upskill or change careers and is piloting an enterprise engagement methodology which brings together future skills data, enterprise and public sector and academia to co-design innovative micro-credentials

Highlights and challenges from launching over 50 accredited microcredentials at FutureLearn

Matt Stanfield-Janner Director of Learning, FutureLearn

Matt Stanfield-Jenner, director of learning, will share their perspective and 'story so far' from FutureLearn. We work with over 250 partners worldwide to build, launch and teach online courses. This includes over 50 accredited microcredentials which each have between 100-150 hours of learning and come with university credit. We launched seven of our first microcredentials in early 2020 from some of the most innovative universities in the world including Dublin City University, The Open University, Deakin University, The University of California, Irvine Division of Continuing Education (DCE), Monash University, and Queensland University of Technology. Our move to launch microcredentials came in direct response to demand from both partners and learners. It was also just before the sudden pivot to online which came with both opportunities and significant additional challenges. Matt will share the highlights in this talk and open up for a chance to have discussion with the audience and other speakers.

Developing micro-credentials in European collaboration

Maija Urponen is Senior Advisor at the University of Helsinki and local Operational Lead for Una Europa. Her presentation will focus on the micro-qualification in Sustainability that is being developed by the Una Europa alliance.

Webinar week: Implementing Microcredentials in Continuing Education

16, 17 and 19 November 2021

Webinar week: Diversity & Inclusion in Online Education

8 and 10 June 2021

Accessible educational games: challenges and opportunities

by Lobna Hassan (Tampere University, Hanken School of Economics)

Dr. Lobna Hassan is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies (GameCult) at Tampere University and a visiting postdoctoral researcher at Hanken School of Economics. Her talk will focus on the importance of accessible games for education.

The lived experiences of students with disabilities

by Israel Reyes (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)

Israel Reyes is a Doctoral Researcher at the Open University of Catalunya. His presentation will be oriented on the lived experiences of students with disabilities at UOC during the lockdown and the lessons we can learn from the situation, in order to improve the support for this population in the coming future.

HOU openly supports diversity and facilitates inclusion

by Achilles Kameas (Hellenic Open University)

Achilles Kameas is Associate Professor of Pervasive and Mobile Systems with Hellenic Open University (HOU).

Open Universities are able and entitled to play a key role in facilitating an inclusive education not only by supporting but also by encouraging diversity; let’s not forget that valuing diversity in one of the pillars of European culture. As is the case with Open Universities, also in the topic of inclusion, their role cannot be confined within the boundaries of their campus and community. In Hellenic Open University, we take initiatives and implement projects that support diversity and facilitate inclusion at citizen and societal levels. In my lecture, I shall talk about a multitude of actions that we implement at HOU, which deal with many facets of inclusion, such as competences and skills (especially digital and entrepreneurial), groups (especially elderly, women and migrants) and sectors (especially education) and I shall present some key enabling results that we have achieved.

The institutionalization of diversity and inclusion. Lessons learned

by Tiberio Feliz Murias (UNED)

Tiberio Feliz Murias is Director at UNIDIS, UNED's service for students with disabilities, whose main objective is that students with disabilities who wish to study at UNED can enjoy the same opportunities as everyone else.

Webinar week: Online Education during and after COVID19

7 - 9 April 2021

DigiTeL Pro Strategic Partnership

by George Ubachs, (EADTU), Albert Sangrà (Open University of Catalonia) & Wiebe Dijkstra (University of Technology Delft)

The COVID-19 crisis has made universities switch to digital education and to re-organize their campus. In surveys of the European Commission, it turned out that in the first (semi-) lockdown period, 95,1% of the universities organized online and distance learning and 82,7% even online exams. At all levels, emergency decisions were made. Teaching staff feel this as a disruption, requiring an extreme workload to adapt to the situation. Students started to manifest the right of having ‘quality education’. Watching a video or following a lesson via zoom is no longer felt as a solution as it was in the first wave.

This is where the DigiTeL Pro Strategic Partnership (Professional Development for Digital Teaching and Learning) comes in. It brings together excellent groups of experts from universities, well-known for research and innovation in digital education and having developed good practices in digital solutions during the Corona crisis. George Ubachs, Albert Sangrà and Wiebe Dijkstra, all involved in DigiTel, will tell us about the project and will be available for questions and discussion.

Online Education after Covid

by Ormond Simpson (Consultant In Distance And Online Education)

After the pandemic dies down the old problems will come surging back – Global Heating, pollution – atmospheric and plastic, species extinction, terrorism, warfare, and - above all - poverty.

H.G. Wells once said that ‘Civilisation is in a race between Education and Catastrophe’ and it feels like never more than now. Online education is the only way we have of fighting back against catastrophe, but has two main problems – access and student dropout. How do we tackle these in time?


Pitfalls of (post) Covid-19 education: time for a critical reflection

by Hanna Teräs (Tampere University of Applied Sciences)

If there are any winners in the global pandemic, they would be commercial digital learning and communication platform providers. Digitalization is everywhere, and it is hailed as the savior of teaching and learning, social relations, and entertainment during the time of social distancing and lockdowns. In this presentation, the situation is assessed through a more critical lens. In the digital flurry, it is easy to forget that already before the pandemic, there was increasing critique of how ed-tech is redefining and reducing conceptions of teaching and learning. Moreover, digitalization has become a kind of a taboo – it is undefined, unquestioned, and unchallenged in educational strategies and visions. At the same time, it affects the roles of teachers and learners in reductive ways. Further, the prevailing trends of datafication and algorithm pedagogy are not only debatable, but actually potentially harmful if adopted hastily and uncritically.

This presentation urges educators and educational leaders to think critically about decisions that are currently being made and examine whether they lead to a desirable digital future.


Post pandemic speculative educational futures

by Eamon Costello (Dublin City University)

Much has now been written about possible post-pandemic educational futures. Such futures try to give speculative answers to questions that frame our current experience as a learning opportunity: Where will we get to? What have we learned? What would we keep from this experience and what have we deeply missed?

Futurism is a tricky business. On the one hand we may fall into a naive utopianism of quick tech fixes; never fear there is a technical solution that can vaccinate and inoculate ourselves from all of our current problems in education. Veering too far in the opposite direction may fix us in dystopian vision where educational technology and AI make everything inescapably worse. Critical utopianism (Ashcroft, 2017) has been posited as one way to chart a middle ground that might allow us to be hopeful but critical, cautious but bold. This talk discusses the use of critical utopianism as a lens and from this broad perspective the use of speculative methods (Ross, 2017) or fabulations (Haraway, 2016) and specifically science fiction are explored. Examples are drawn from recent publications in this area (Costello et al, 2020; Selwyn, Pangrazio, Nemorin & Perrotta 2020; Macgilchrist, Allert & Bruch 2020; Cox 2021) that may serve as windows into strangely familiar realms (Bayne, 2008) but that allow us to envisage futures of “radical flexibility” (Veletsianos & Houlden 2020).

The aim of such speculations for education is not so much to think about where we might get to but rather to see more clearly where we really are. We cannot see where we are going until we figure out where we are. We may need some different goggles for this task. And although the lenses might look weird the questions will still be familiar: To what ends do we try to either sustain progress or tear up the script and affect change? Who or what are we trying to care for and why?



Integrating MOOCS into formal programmes and courses

by Cengiz Hakan Aydin (Anadolu University)

C. Hakan Aydin is a professor at Anadolu University (Turkey), where he has been offering courses in the field of open and distance learning since the early 1990s. In his contribution to our Webinar Week, he will talk about how the Turkish higher education institutions integrated MOOCs into their formal programmes and courses during the COVID-19.

How to Design an Online Course – Staff Training in Designing Online Learning

by Henri Annala (Tampere University of Applied Sciences)

This presentation will give a brief overview of an online staff training course that is designed to enable the participating teachers to create a pedagogically well thought-out online course using a tailored, hands-on framework as a scaffold in their course building processes. The participants will also hear how the training course has evolved to tackle the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic and the lessons the course developers have learnt along the way.

Webinar week: Short Learning Programmes

13 - 15 October 2020

Short Learning Programmes in European Higher Education

Short Learning Programmes (SLPs) consist of individual learning units or building blocks that are combined in a programme that is valuable for both learners as well as employers. As part of a larger project entitled E-SLP, Open Universiteit in the Netherlands (OUNL) wrote a report about the possibilities to develop SLPs in European context both in their contributions to lifelong learning and within degree education.

Throughout Europe there is a large variety in understanding of the concept as well as the availability of SLPs. In the report the focus is on programmes within higher education at European Qualification Framework (EQF) level 6 to 8 and a size of 5 to 30 ECTS. The most important characteristic of a SLP is that it should consist of coherent learning units leading up to a certificate (credit based certification). Both for higher education lifelong learners as well the more traditional learners of degree education, the potential of SLPs depend on the recognition of the programmes and how this is facilitated by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) as well as the national and European governments. By Tom Melai, The Open University The Netherlands

Short Learning Programmes design: expanding HE horizons

We will start presenting an empirical study that explored a broad range of design issues in 22 SLPs . Results were organised in a “Compendium of good practices” presenting detailed patterns of SLPs design and identifying shortcomings regarding the project principles of internationalisation, inter-institutional cooperation, flexibility, scalability, innovative digital pedagogies, market orientation, and recognition. We will continue by presenting the development of a document on “Design guidelines for flexible and scalable SLPs”, which were elaborated based on relevant academic literature, the Compendium, the documented practice of design and development of five joint SLPs, and the partners’ contributions around institutional policies and program recognition. By Marcelo Maina, Lourdes Guardia, Sandrine Albert, UOC, Spain

Implementing European SLPs: Recommendations for stakeholders

The webinar presents a set of recommendations to further the design and implementation of Short Learning Programs (SLPs) for a variety of stakeholders on European, national, and institutional level. It is based on two internal surveys conducted by the FernUniversität in Hagen among the partner institutions in the project. We distinguish broadly between the policy level – both national and European – and the level of the individual institution and consider their mutual influence. In general, and despite the Bologna process, educational systems in Europe differ considerably on all levels, most notably in formats (for example, the length of Bachelor and Master programs or the forms of national accreditation/quality assurance systems) and financing. Across these levels, we understand SLPs as the format that enables an institution-based approach to contributing academic knowledge to the existential issues of 21st century Europe. Whilst initial calls for action grow out of public discourse and educational policymaking, practice happens primarily on the institutional level and relates back to policy. Therefore, our set of recommendations addresses all these levels. By Ingrid Thaler, FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany

Challenges and opportunities for the recognition of short learning programmes (SLPs) within the European Higher Education Area.

The webinar will provide an overview of the challenges and opportunities for the recognition of SLPs. It will explore the approaches to recognition across the countries of the ESLP project and identify similarities and differences in recognition practices. Recommendations will then be presented for the recognition of SLPs, paying particular attention to curriculum design and the recognition of prior formal, non-formal and informal learning. By Clare Dunn, The Open University The United Kingdom

Setting up an SLP programme: lessons learned

In this webinar, we will discuss the lessons learned from the 5 pilot SLP's that were setup and run in the SLP project. We will highlight how to build a good partnership, how to involve key levels at the university, the decisions that have to be made and the difficulties and challenges to expect. We will propose some recommendations and guidelines. Based on the pilots, we will discuss different possible scenario's and their advantages. By Frederik Truyen, KU Leuven, Belgium

Lessons Learned from the Pilot Digital Competent Educators

In this presentation we will share our experiences of an international E-SLP development project Digital Competent Educators (15 ECTS). This developmental work (planning - implementation - evaluation - new developments) was done by four EADTU member universities. Digital Competence of Educators framework recommendations (DigCompEdu, 2017) were used as a basis of a new online programme. By Eva Cendon and Magda Zarebski (FernUniversitet in Hagen), Aysun GÜNEŞ (Anadolu University), Päivi Kananen and Virpi Uotinen (University of Jyväskylä), Glória Bastos (Universidade Aberta)

Webinar week: Artificial Intelligence in Online Education

16 - 18 June 2020

Artificial Intelligence in Teaching (AIT): A road map for future developments

The AIT project started in 2019 and aims to identify and analyse AI best practices in HE in three countries to develop a road map for future developments and use of AI. The AIT project will investigate three dimensions of AI in education: learning ‘for’ AI, learning ‘about’ AI, learning ‘with’ AI. The focus will be on identifying examples and best practices of AI in HE (across all AI dimensions). The analyses will include outlining national characteristics, specific technologies, and didactic and pedagogical approaches to AI in HE in the United Kingdom, Portugal and Denmark.

By Wayne Holmes, Nesta, The United Kingdom, José Bidarra, Universidade Aberta, Portugal, Henrik Køhler Simonsen, SmartLearning, Denmark

Human-Computer Learning Interaction in a Virtual Laboratory

Simulating a real biology laboratory can enhance student training and better prepare students for the actual on-site experience. At the same time, the increased amount of practice can improve safety, and reduce equipment wear and tear, as well as reduce the usage of consumables. A production-level system, Onlabs (, now also supports activity scoring but, for this to scale up to the number of devices used and experiments carried out in a real laboratory, a semi-automatic approach is being developed to facilitate the elicitation of expert knowledge as to what constitutes a successful experiment. We review the R&D set-up and present machine-learning based techniques for capturing the scoring patterns of expert instructors.

By Vassilis Zafeiropoulos, Hellenic Open University, Greece

Empowering education by Artificial Intelligence

There is nothing new in realising that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used in educational processes (AIED) with an increasing level of success for over four decades of research and development (Lane, McCalla, Looi, & Bull, 2016). What is new is that it is a felt demand to use it already as a key tool useful at all levels of education based on the intelligent management of a growing number of data and resources. However, AIED at scale entails organisational, educational and learning changes in all educational levels. Higher Education Institutions (HE) have a head start on this and an urgent demand to fulfil because both they have more technological infrastructure in place and have been collecting data for long and students are already used to enjoying personalisation in their daily activities "barring" learning. But first things first. Do we have a clear idea of what is personalised learning and how the whole educational system has to be refocused so that each learner becomes the main centre of the learning process? This needs for a global approach that covers all that is involved, starting from the nature of the daily tasks of the main protagonists, teachers and “learners”. It also considers the need to properly take care of large-scale data-sets which account for authenticity, consistency and transparency, careful management of data learning processes, privacy and ethical issues. All this along with organisational changes are arguably achievable goals if the approach is based on: 1) Clear analysis of the implications in deploying personalised learning at scale, 2) Supervision and assurance of governance in terms of the intertwining relationships among AI, data and ethical issues involved, 3) Massive production of digital materials which are to comfort to standards and interoperability requirements, 4) Methodological and technical support to implement the required infrastructure and 5) An unshakeable commitment with taking on board all the stakeholders involved before making the required profound changes to make this happens, i.e., changing from “education” to “learning”.

By Jesus Boticario, UNED, Spain

A personalized early warning system for supporting learners: the UOC case

Personalized learning environments have become a highly preferred structure with the developments in information and communication technologies. In particular, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools is one of the most preferred modern approaches in the provision of personalized learning. These AI tools are capable of being utilized for different use cases, such as learning preferences, assessment results, learning outcomes, or communication preferences, depending on students' attitudes in educational environments.

LIS project has been initiated at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) within the scope of intelligent learning systems to accomplish the mentioned rationale. The main objective of the LIS project is to develop an adaptive system to be globally applicable at the UOC campus to help students to succeed in their learning process. It mainly has predictive analytics and recommendations designed upon artificial intelligence techniques. Predictive analytics tries to predict the students' behavior individually based on historical data and current activities to prvide personalized recommendations. Also, LIS gives support to teachers in the daily work to provide direct support and feedback to help students passing the courses.

The presentation will focus to present three main results of the project until now: 1) the predictive models used to predict students’ risk level of failing the course; 1) the developed infrastructure to support the complete system; and 3) the features for students and teachers in order to provide support during the learning/teaching process.

We consider that this webinar could be of interested for the audience since it will show a fully functional system based on AI techniques for helping on education.

By David Bañeres, UOC, Spain

AI applications in higher education - challenges and opportunities in ODE

Artificial Intelligence in Education (AIEd) is one of the currently emerging fields in educational technology. Whilst it has been around for about 30 years, it is still unclear for many educators how to make pedagogical advantage of it on a broader scale, and how it can actually impact meaningfully on teaching and learning in higher education. Based on a systematic review of 146 studies, Olaf Zawacki-Richter will provide an overview of research on AI applications in higher education in four areas: 1. profiling and prediction, 2. assessment and evaluation, 3. adaptive systems and personalisation, and 4. intelligent tutoring systems. A stunning result of the review is the almost lack of critical reflection of risks and ethical issues of AIEd. Challenges and opportunities of AIEd will be considered for the field of open and distance education (ODE).

By Prof. Olaf Zawacki-Richter, Ph.D., Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Germany

I would not worry so much about buying an intelligent learning system but spending money on buying a sexist one

The data refute that today most software developers are male and only 27.5% of developers in the world are women. Already in 2015, Amazon realized that their recruitment system did not judge in a gender neutral manner. It had a bias in favor of men when examining candidates for software developer positions and other technical occupations. The problem seemed to stem from the fact that the machine learning specialists had trained the artificial intelligence tool from patterns that could be observed in the curricula presented to the company for a decade, and most of them belonged to men. The result of male domination in programming has led to the development of, for example, voice recognition technologies that, trained and tested only by men, struggle to understand female voices. The industry is already filled with services and products that have gender bias effectively programmed into them.

Even though modifications can be made to the software, it is hardly difficult to assure the absence of biases. As artificial intelligence becomes an increasing part of our daily lives, educational institutions from all academic levels are being transformed by intelligent systems that might help humans learn better and achieve their learning objectives. AI systems can be used to tailor and personalize learning for each individual student, developing a custom learning profile of each student and customize the training materials for each student based on their ability, preferred mode of learning, and experience. This can bring a high impact on the learning of disadvantaged groups, such as students with disabilities or people in risk of inclusion. But precisely, these groups need the systems did not devise other forms of discrimination.

By Covadonga Rodrigo, UNED -Spain & Francisco Iniesto, OUUK, The United Kingdom

Webinar week: Blended and Online Education

7 - 9 April 2020

Developing study skills through online interactive workshops


Student Hub Live (SHL), the OUUKs live online interactive platform, encourages effective engagement with learning though extracurricular events and workshops that facilitate academic community and develop academic skills. This webinar focuses on non-modular, non-disciplinary, online interactive study-skills workshops. The workshops are an hour and each focus on developing a specific study skill such as academic writing or critical thinking, through teaching, processing and applying the skill. They are designed in such a way that participants can interact without any preparation and students are encouraged to apply the general learnings to their own situation. This webinar will showcase the learning design and explain how we achieve an intimate environment and opportunity for individuals to engage while in a large scale learning environment with around 200 students in a session. We will also discuss the impact that these workshops have on those who attend, and convey the confidence that students report in developing their skills and also meeting likeminded others.

This session will be of interest to those who are keen to develop interactive online learning environments at scale, and/or in offering supplementing online opportunities for students to develop essential academic skills. The community aspect is an element that enhances the learning at these events, and those interested in facilitating belonging at a distance will also find value in the discussion. By Karen Foley, The Open University, The United Kingdom

Combined use of MOOC, eLearning and workplace learning to support professional development - the case of project MuSA

Project “MuSA: Museum Sector Alliance” designed 4 new occupational profiles for the museum sector, which integrate digital and transferrable competences, so that museum professionals are enabled to deal with the challenges posed by museums of the future. For each profile, a learning path was designed and implemented, consisting of the following stages:

Stage 1: An 8-week MOOC titled “Essential skills for museum professionals”. This was the first training stage that was common for all profiles. About 5.200 people enrolled in the MOOC and 1.350 of them completed it successfully

Stage 2: A 6-months specialization course, different for each profile. The blended course was delivered using a combination of online learning and face-to-face training. 120 of those who completed the MOOC enrolled in the 4 specialization courses

Stage 3: A 2-month workplace learning that took place in museums. Each learner, under the combined supervision of a tutor and museum professional, implemented a project, in which he/she applied the knowledge and skills gained during the previous two stages to solve a problem of the hosting museum. In this stage were involved all those who participated in stage 2.

The project offered a holistic learning experience, combining online and face-to-face training and cumulating with a real-life project implemented within a museum. In total, the participants received training in more than 40 digital and transferrable competences using specially developed digital OERs. Due to this approach, the project has been included as a best practice in the EU DigComp User Guide (2018). By Achilles Kameas, Hellenic Open University, Greece

Synchronous online learning in short learning programs

Short learning programs (SLPs) are independent learning units of variable sizes (between 5 and 30 ECTS) which are usually awarded with a certificate and are recognized in larger degree program structures. They focus on complex (academic) learning and are mainly offered online. In this webinar I will discuss the design of SLPs and focus on the challenge of enabling synchronous collaborative learning within such programs. By Iwan Wopereis, The Open University of The Netherlands

Supporting strategies for the development of blended education

Blended and online education in all its diverse forms are impossible to overlook in the current policies and curricula in higher education. However, what are strategies to translate the current developments in online and blended education into the daily practice of higher education institutions? How can you translate the developments within the field of online and blended education all the way into higher education classrooms? This webinar will share different supporting strategies that foster the development of blended education within KU Leuven. The strategies range from a broad an new learning network: KU Leuven Learning Lab, to online learning modules all the way to a very concrete project called MYCA (Make Your Course Attractive).

This session will be of interest to those who develop blended learning within higher education institutions, whether this is at the policy or the local level and everything in between. By Tim Boon, KU Leuven, Belgium

Good practices in Online and Blended Education

Predictions of student success can be helpful, both in open education - enabling us to focus support on the most vulnerable students; and in selective education - to reduce false positives (students selected who subsequently fail), and false negatives – (potential students who were not selected but could have succeeded). This seminar reports a project at the UK Open University which attached a ‘predicted probability of success’ to some 3500 new students based on a logistic regression analysis. The predictions were used to focus support on the most vulnerable students, increasing their retention rate by more than 5.

The seminar will also outline the ethical issues around the use of such data and ask participants ‘would you tell a student their prediction?...’ By Ormond Simpson, fomer The Open University, The United Kingdom

Mobile and seamless learning design: support of continuous learning processes in higher (distance) education

Learning not only occurs in formal settings, within higher educational institutes, but across various (professional and private) environments in which learners are intentionally and actively engaged. Currently, these learning environments learners move through are still separated in many ways. Opportunities to facilitate continuity in learning (and support) processes through the use of (mobile) technology are still left unexploited.

In this session we introduce the ‘Seamless learning design’ paradigm and present recent example implementations. Furthermore, we look into the relevance of this paradigm for higher (distance) educational institutes and explore challenges and opportunities that university lecturers indicate will help or hamper further uptake and implementation. The session is interesting for lecturers, educational designers and policy makers who design, develop or implement technology-enhanced learning models within higher (distance) education. By Ellen Rusman, The Open University, The Netherlands

Webinar week: Quality Assurance in Blended and Online Education

12 - 13 November 2019

Looking deeper into Quality Assurance: ICDE report

This report was developed to provide a platform for development of guidelines for quality in online, open, flexible and technology enhanced education in all regions of the world .

By working with regional experts, this report provides an overview of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to educational quality in online, open, flexible and technology enhanced learning. It is not intended to be all-inclusive as there are many institutions that have not participated in the opportunities to provide feedback. However, it does provide a good foundation regarding areas of success (strengths) and an overview of the challenges faced by many.

One important take away that was identified within all of the regions is that quality assurance models are of central importance and value . Those areas that do not provide good guidelines, policies or sharing of best practices face more challenges than others since they need to spend time proving the value of this range of modes of education.

By Jennifer Mathes, Interim Chief Knowledge Officer and Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Online Learning Consortium, The United States & Alan Tait, Special adviser ICDE on quality in education. Emeritus Professor of Distance Education and Development at the Open University, UK Open University, The United Kingdom

European SWOT analysis on Quality Assurance in online education

This report was developed to provide a platform for development of guidelines for quality in online, open, flexible and technology enhanced education in all regions of the world.

By working with regional experts, this report provides an overview of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to educational quality in online, open, flexible and technology enhanced learning. It is not intended to be all-inclusive as there are many institutions that have not participated in the opportunities to provide feedback. However, it does provide a good foundation regarding areas of success (strengths) and an overview of the challenges faced by many.

One important take away that was identified within all of the regions is that quality assurance models are of central importance and value . Those areas that do not provide good guidelines, policies or sharing of best practices face more challenges than others since they need to spend time proving the value of this range of modes of education.

By George Ubachs, Managing Director EADTU, The Netherlands

Quality assurance strategies in distance education - the Hellenic Open University (HOU) use case

The Educational Content, Methodology and Technology Laboratory (e-CoMeT Lab) is an independent unit of the Hellenic Open University (HOU), one of the European Open and Distance Teaching Universities. Over the years, HOU follows, to a lesser or greater extent, the educational trends and adapts to a digitally driven society. The need to grasp the technology in the area of online education and scientific evolution and taking into consideration the singularity of the learning process, combined with the emerged educational methodologies, has recently led the HOU -through the e-CoMeT Lab- to make the firm decision to build new strategies.

e-CoMeT Lab’s missions are the implementation of innovations to support the creation of high quality educational material, the design of methodologies for distance learning and adult education and developing educational services using modern ICT tools. Throughout the years, several processes have been developed and maintained in order to support the educational content creation. The move to the digital era is leading e-CoMeT Lab to redesign the processes or create new ones, building a modern education ecosystem, including the educational environment, the tutors/mentors, the students and the educational material in the evolution center. Technological initiatives and new educational methods (digital and interactive material standards, teleconferences, new pedagogical and technical educational solutions, modern methods of supporting and evaluating students) are being supported in the form of specific templates, aiming to improve the quality and the time-consuming procedures of the digital course design process.

In this webinar, they will present:

• The historical background of quality assurance strategies of e-CoMeT Lab for the HOU

• The quality assurance strategies of the work development process of printed educational content for open and distance learning

• The quality assurance strategies for the work development process of digital educational content for open and distance learning

• The internal evaluation procedures (course design formative evaluations)


By Lampros Tsiknas, HOU, Greece

Equal opportunities for all: Accessibility in higher education online studies – from quality guidelines to the practice

Diversity of higher educaiton students is growing. Only the number of disabled students in higher education have increased gradually since the late 1990's. Online education offers new possibilities to study for the diversity of students, but noly if it is accessibly.

Accessibility, according the Europan Commission (2010), means that "people with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, transportation, information and communication technologies and systems (ICT), and other facilities and services. In online studies it means that learners have access to DLE (digital learning environment), content and experiences offered by technologies regardless of their special educational needs, disabilities or the assistive technology they use. The new European legislation also demands higher education institutions to be responsible for accessibility issues while developing their online practices (Directive (EU) 2016/2102).

Diversity of students including students with special educational needs and disabilities has been taken into account in quality assurance guidelines and quality indicators for higher education institutions. But what does it mean in educational practices? How is it implemented in educational practices? These themes are discussed in this webinar mainly based on the framework of ongoing national and international project of University of Jyväskylä.

By Tarja Ladonlahti, Jyväskylä University, Finland

Webinar week: Blended Learning

25 - 27 June 2019

In the Mix

Blended. It used to refer to something you did in the kitchen. With a machine. It saved you having to mix ingredients with your hands or a utensil. It took away a lot of the effort. Hopefully, the end result was edible. Now blended has come to mean something else, at least in the education domain. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about blended learning? 

Once, blended learning was an easy concept to understand. It described the difference between traditional and distance education. Face-to-face learning experiences were mixed with remote learning, usually mediated through some kind of technology. First, it was paper-based, and then followed a rapid evolution of technology, so that now the ‘ distance' side of blended learning comes in many shades and hues. The most common form of blended learning today is where you spend some time in the classroom, but the majority of your time studying online. Sams and Bergman call it the flipped classroom. It's a form of blended learning, but it’s not new. Blended learning is taking on a number of other connotations, because thanks to the advent of the digital device, there are now many more modes of learning. Consider for example the blend between mobile and tethered learning experiences. You can be mobile and take your learning beyond the classroom, but you can be away from the classroom and still be tethered to your technology. In this session, I will explore issues around these developments, and some of the alternative possibilities for what we now call 'blended learning'. By Steve Wheeler, Plymouth University, UK


European Maturity Model of Blended Education 

Universities face challenges as keeping quality with large student numbers and lower budgets per learner, supporting study progress and success and meeting the needs of part-time students. Innovation by blended education will lead to quality enhancement of the learning experience, personalization, accessibility,  flexibility and inclusion. Furthermore, blended education is suitable for teaching large groups synchronously and asynchronously; constituting small learning groups; capitalizing on the worldwide connection with research; multi-campus education and blended mobility, etc.

Blended education combines conventional and digital methods to achieve an “optimal exploitation of ICT and internet” integrated with the conventional technologies of physical material and co-presence in space and time. The value of blending the two is that digital methods offer much greater personalization, flexibility, inclusiveness and efficiency than conventional methods can, but they have to be used appropriately (Laurillard, 2015). The concept of blended learning itself is far from clear-cut. The literature spans various definitions and meanings,  e.g. ”the thoughtful integration of conventional and digital methods of teaching and learning” (Graham, et al., 2013). It is agreed that the digital is not a supplement and does not simply replicate aspects of the conventional – each should enhance the other. The EMBED project is about introducing innovation in higher education by the implementation of blended learning (b-learning) in a strategic partnership and beyond. The partnership consists of frontrunner universities in b-learning European wide for full expert representation. They will create a reference model for developing and implementing blended learning, embracing all levels of an institution: the design of the blended course, organisational aspects such as staff support and training, and institutional leadership, developing policies and strategies making the institution continuously innovative. It is a maturity model with criteria and instruments to assess the degree of maturity of b-learning and innovation. (Wiebe Dijkstra, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands)

Proposal for strategic refocusing in UNED Local Centers

The success of UNED since 1972 can be due to some classic factors of open universities (e.g. change from an elite to a massive system of high-quality services, innovation in learning and teaching, flexible practice centred on the student, use of new technologies or admission of non-traditional students), but it has also been cemented in other factors as its blended-learning model with a large physical territorial structure: 61 Local Centres and 120 classrooms within the Spanish State, besides 13 Centres in different countries of the world, mainly in Europe, North and South America and Africa, whose funding depends, in addition to those of the university itself, on the public or private initiative and local or regional administrations that become part of its governing board and make strategic decisions, in unequal and variable proportions, plus an academic structure at its headquarters by the Ministry of Education. 

Traditional face-to-face tutoring is progressively decreasing due to the current support that all our students receive by online means; in this sense, our blended-learning model requires to be updated according to the evolution and development of society itself and the availability of advanced learning methodologies supported by technologies (such as the incorporation of artificial intelligence). Local centres are urged, thus, to develop new academic services giving an answer to the demands and challenges of higher education in the XXI century. In this context, I will explain the possibilities for a recalibration of the role of UNED Local Centres, suggesting some relevant developments more focused on life-long learning possibilities, such as higher support to entrepreneurship,employment, specialisation, research and transference; and other contributions such as local support to open and online programs under a GLOCAL approach, taking advantage of our privilege connection with the immediate environment. By Luis Fernández, UNED, Spain


Active learning and blended & flipped models

A selection of tools to improve feedback in virtual and face-to-face spaces 

 "Flipped learning and Blended learning models are often used with the same meaning, but there are some differences, we could say that “all flipped is blended but not all blended is flipped”, we will start by clarifying some misunderstandings and wrong conceptions about both learning strategies. Once we have done this, we will analyse some tools with a huge potential to improve feedback with students both in the virtual and face-to-face spaces, Specifically, we will pay special attention to features as “heat maps”, “gamification possibilities and “multimedia options”. (Raúl Santiago, University of La Rioja, Spain)

Why Diversity Matter in ODL? Case of Anadolu University

Learner demographics have a wide range of differences in massive education systems. Disadvantaged groups, digital skills groups, different socio-economic levels, different learning styles are some examples of these differences. Thus, ODL needs to be accessible for all learner groups with diversity in learning environments, learning materials, media types, student support services, blended learning opportunities and assessment types. ANADOLU University Open Education System as a Mega University aims to provide this diversity to 1.2 million students from 36 countries. By Elif Toprak and Mehmet Firat, Anadolu University, Turkey 

Digital Media Arts in Open and Distance Education 

This presentation introduces a PhD programme in Digital Media Arts and explains how we explore expressiveness to its maximum extent through computer graphics, digital sound and music, computer vision, digital storytelling, virtual reality, amongst other technologies, in the context of Open and Distance Education. Through a blended learning, approach students explore techniques of artistic expression in order to generate new media applications, products, narratives, games and aesthetic experiences in such areas as the cultural industries, education and entertainment. (José Bidarra, Universidade Aberta, Portugal)

Panel discussion on the present and future of Blended Learning

Panel discussion by Stephan Poelmans, KU Leuven, Belgium & Steve Wheeler, Plymouth University, UK & Antonio Moreira Teixeira, University of Aberta, Portugal

Webinar week: Virtual Mobility

20 - 23 May 2019

Innovative models for International Collaboration and Mobility in Europe

The report is based on new developments in higher education and international collaboration, using new modes of teaching and learning. This results in three types of collaboration and mobility: physical, blended and online. Main parameters for innovative education and mobility formats are defined as well as basic principles of international course and curriculum design. Examples illustrate the complete opportunity space between fully face to face and fully online collaboration. They relate to mobility within single courses, exchange mobility (classical Erasmus), networked programmes and mobility windows and joint programmes with embedded mobility. The report shows concrete mobility schemes, also achievable in small international collaboration and mobility settings. It underpins policies for international networking and delivers tools to organise innovative education and mobility formats. By Piet Henderikx, EADTU, The Netherlands

KU Leuven - Stellenbosch University Think Tank

One of the mobility schemes mentioned in 'Innovative models for International Collaboration and Mobility in Europe' is the KU Leuven - Stellenbosch University Think Tank. The KU Leuven - Stellenbosch University Think Tank is an extra-curricular Honours Programme that is predominantly an online programme but supported by two very short physical mobility periods. It is a student-driven programme for which each university selects up to 20 students. From February until November, an interdisciplinary group of students independently shapes a research project within a given theme. An international and interdisciplinary team of academics coaches the students. Work sessions, including video conference sessions, are organised in the evenings. Online platforms and tools facilitate the collaboration between the students. During the Easter Break, the students meet on campus for a Focus Week. In November, they participate in an on-campus Workshop Week culminating in a concluding event where they present their findings to a broad audience. Ms. Katrien Vanelven from KU Leuven's International Office will talk about the format and lessons learnt. (Katrien Vanelven, KU Leuven, Belgium)

Open Virtual Mobility Skills

Research Results & Application in the Design of MOOCs

This contribution will present how Open Virtual Mobility Skills have been elicited and used to design Open Online Courses Erasmus+ strategic partnership Open Virtual Mobility (2017-2020), Participants will learn about the research methodology and the key research results from Group Concept Mapping and how these results have been translated to the design of massive open online courses (MOOCs). Open Virtual Mobility Skills encompass a set of eight skill clusters. These skills are useful for successful participation in Open Virtual Mobility and at the same time can be gained from participating in Open Virtual Mobility. Participants will also learn how Open Virtual Mobility Skills are assessed and recognised in the Open Virtual Mobility Learning Hub.  By Ilona Buchem, Beuth Hochschule für Technik, Germany 

UOC with Latin-American Universities

The UOC, which is sensitive to the need to bring lifelong learning to a larger and more diverse number of people, prioritizes, with special emphasis, collaborations with foreign universities which share the same goals. UOC’s innovative virtual mobility model it’s based on our pedagogical model, student-centred, with the necessary adaptations, such as knowing the university of origin, maintaining a stable and continuous relationship, guaranteeing the constant relationship between academic peers, specialized mentoring, among others. (Carme Anguera Iglesias, UOC, Spain)

Higher education in emergencies - Learning pathways | Panel discussion

Higher education in contexts of conflict and crises straddles the humanitarian-development nexus. This presentation focuses on the design, development and implementation of higher education programs through digital learning. We argue that traditional notions of higher education in terms of utility and quality require rethinking when being operationalised in fragile contexts. Through concrete examples of virtual mobility and credit transfers, we discuss how challenges can be overcome and forcibly displaced learners can benefit when a life-long learning approach is being embraced. By Barbara Moser-Mercer, University of Geneve, inZone, Switzerland

Panel discussion with several presenters of the Virtual Mobility webinar week (Video: 38:10)