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From blended to fully online learning: towards the development of new statutory QA guidelines

We are emerging from a phase where, because of COVID-related restrictions, online was the primary, and in most cases only, medium for programme delivery and assessment. Many providers, and indeed learners also, have expressed an interest in this option being maintained into the future.

However, it is recognised that programmes to be delivered partially or fully online, need to be developed with that mode of delivery in mind rather than merely being translated or transferred from the original face-to-face programme model.

Many providers are and will be developing new blended learning programmes for validation. Such programmes need to be designed, delivered and assessed within an approved quality assurance framework developed by a provider with reference to the existing guidelines - QQI’s Statutory Guidelines for QA of Blended Learning. For those providers seeking validation by QQI, the provider’s quality assurance of blended learning needs to be approved before a programme can be submitted to QQI for validation.

The existing Statutory Guidelines for QA of Blended Learning apply to all providers, including the autonomous designated awarding bodies (DABs) offering their own programmes and awards in a blended format. All DABs take account of these Statutory QA guidelines when developing their internal QA procedures.

In addition to blended programmes, fully online programmes are now an option to be considered by providers and learners. 

Consequently, QQI is working to enhance the current blended learning guidelines to incorporate fully online programmes also. This work will require extensive cooperation with designated awarding bodies and a range of providers as well as research into national and international best practice. The OECD Directorate for Education and Skills is working on a similar project and has expressed an interest in sharing learning of common interest.

As is the case for the QA of blended learning, the enhanced guidelines will be broad in nature and concentrate on the high-level issues relevant to the institutionalprogrammatic and learner context, which a provider must manage in order to establish and maintain quality in a fully online scenario.

They will focus on those aspects of the programmes where, there is no physical face-to-face contact between the provider and the learner and seek to distil out the specific measures the provider must put into place to address that particular context. These issues are primarily institutional in nature and the guidelines will reflect this.

QQI welcomes the cooperation and contribution of designated awarding bodies and other providers in HE and FET in the development of these guidelines. It is intended that they will be published for wider consultation in the first half of 2022. For further det​ails on this project please contact Walter Balfe – wbalfe@qqi.ie