eQuality Award

Supporting a New Philosophy of Quality in Europe

Berlin, November 2006 - At Online Educa Berlin, the European Foundation for Quality in eLearning (EFQUEL) will introduce the EFQUEL eQuality Award, which recognises excellence in eLearning processes. CHECKpoint eLearning talked to Dr. Ulf-Daniel Ehlers, Coordinator European Research, University of Duisburg-Essen, about the objectives, the criteria, and the impacts of the award.

What is the Award about?

Dr. Ulf-Daniel Ehlers:
There are currently many different systems of quality assurance in the field of learning and learning technologies. However, while a lot of focus has been placed on the quality of using technologies in the formal learning process, very little attention has been given to the ability of technologies to support the quality of all forms of learning, formal and informal, independently of the role of technologies in the delivery process. A learning process might be 100% face to face, using chalk blackboards, while technology is still being used to track the information relevant to the quality assurance.

This is what we mean by eQuality - a support of quality of all forms of learning - face to face or at a distance, formal and informal, synchronous or asynchronous, using digital or physical technologies, in any kind of combination - looking not just at how technologies can support existing quality schemes, but also transform them to align with the needs of a knowledge economy and society.

The objective of the EFQUEL eQuality Award is to provide a framework for the use of digital technologies in the management of quality assurance processes, making the quality process an organic part of organisational learning activities. It aims at providing recognition to the providers of eQuality solutions and systems as well as to organisations implementing eQuality systems.

Which criteria has the foundation established?

Dr. Ulf-Daniel Ehlers:
EFQUEL has developed what is called the EFQUEL eQuality Maturity Cycle. It is about how the concept of eQuality is integrated into the vision and strategic planning of an organisation, about managing and implementing eQuality, and about how individual and organisational learning can be linked through the concept of eQuality. The EFQUEL eQuality Maturity Cycle can be downloaded.

The cycle has been designed to help organisations position themselves against a set of emerging practices. The framework is inclusive, helping every organisation to find in its current practice some existing elements that match the eQuality Maturity Cycle. It is important for us to state that the comprehensiveness of the concept should not discourage organisations from applying for the award.

As I said earlier, eQuality is an emerging technology and practice; therefore there will be very few organisations that will be able to rate themselves as "Embedded / advanced" or "established" on all criteria. If you can find a few places where your organisation is in "early stages / awareness" or "Developing / commitment", and you plan to increase your commitment to using ICT to support quality of all learning experiences, then you should apply.

Who can join and how?

Dr. Ulf-Daniel Ehlers:
Here are examples of organisations that qualify for the award:

  • A training organisation has implemented a space where it collects the feedback from clients on its portal. The use of online forms has improved the quality of the training provision;
  • A school has implemented ePortfolios to document the progress of its pupils;
  • An SME has implemented a tracking system for the annual appraisal and the planning of competency development;
  • A school district has implemented an online review system to measure the alignment of the different schools against the local and regional policies and improve their accountability;
  • A publisher of learning resources has implemented a portal to collect experience with use of the resources to facilitate the exchange of (good) practices across the users of the learning material and collect their feedback.

What impact can the award have?

Dr. Ulf-Daniel Ehlers:
Application for the eQuality Award is an opportunity for your organisation to reflect on its current practice in using technology to support the quality of its learning. It is also the opportunity to join a growing number of organisations from all sectors that are implementing ICT to support the improvement of the management of the quality assurance process. With the support of the experts and the community of the Foundation, applying to the award will be an opportunity to get feedback on your plans for the future.

The award is the first service of a planned portfolio that will be provided by the Foundation. Which further services are being considered?

Dr. Ulf-Daniel Ehlers:
With the Award, the Foundation is taking first steps in the direction of supporting a new philosophy of quality on a European level. We are currently planning to take further steps in the direction of developing and promoting a European Quality Mark together with European networks and organisations. We see it as a federation of quality marks that already exist.

As a Foundation, we would like to be inclusive and bring together the best functional concepts and combine them under the supportive roof of the Foundation. Currently we are seeking cooperation with established partners in the field of quality awards and certificates.

The pre-conference workshop at ONLINE EDUCA, that the Foundation is organising in cooperation with the Triangle project and the European Knowledge Media Association (EKMA) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 is an attempt to learn from EKMA's knowledge in delivering awards in the field of academic software and combine it with the Foundation's eQuality concepts. Everybody is invited to join! There will also be a special session on Friday, December 1 from 16.30 - 18.00 to introduce the award and discuss further services.

The eQuality Award - recognising innovation by organisations in using digital technologies to support quality in eLearning processes - will be granted for the first time on January 30, 2007 in Paris, during the iLearning Forum .