Getting Started

Getting Started

Home Forums Quality Assurance of OER/eLearning Getting Started

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  • Tony


    Welcome to all! Its great to have Ephraim Mhlanga from saide here to kick off the discussion.

    Welcome to the seminar on quality assuring eLearning. I look forward to a rich sharing experience with all of you. I am attaching one short resource for you to read through before the live meeting on 2nd Dec.

    Please share your reflections on the following questions:
    1. What are some of the major quality challenges you face in online teaching and learning?
    2. How do you keep your online learners motivated and how do you maximise their success?

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    I face a number of quality challenges in online teaching and learning. 1. The challenge of finding colleagues who will collaborate in materials development. The ideal OER/eLearning resource should be collaboratively developed. That begins to assure quality. But in my context, it is difficult to find people who will collaborate in developing resources. The reason for this is that the primary institutional mode of instruction is the f2f didactic approach. In this mode, instructors do not need to quality assure the content they give to learners. Each person makes their notes and goes to the class. So, as an elearning practitioner who is trying to do blended learning, collaboration is difficult. 2. It is also difficult to find someone who will evaluate or critique what you have developed, for the same reason. Plus, instructors have a lot on their hands, and this course is assigned to you, not to them. So, why should they spend their precious time critiquing your developed resource? What is in it for them? 3. Regarding the learning design, the problem is worse. There are no skilled persons in design who can make sense of your design and offer comments for improvement. So you must make do with whatever you have designed and hope it works.
    How do I keep my online learners motivated? I find that there are two ways of motivating learners. The first is to always locate and project the things that excite them. For instance, I teach English Language courses which are suitable for debates and discussions. So, I use the online discussion forums a lot. And I try to propose topics which I have found to be hot and interesting. For instance, in a Discourse Analysis course, I proposed a topic: “Are Women More Polite Than Men?” It was based on the views of some scholars including Deborah Tannen, a prominent scholar in the field. The response was explosive. Everyone wanted to have a bite.
    Second, while not making myself a central figure in online discussions, I find that occasional comments that scaffold the learning process keep learners motivated. Learners are happy when they see an instructor’s comment suggesting that they are on the right track in their reasoning. Sometimes, these comments include gentle suggestions of other possible ways of looking at the matter. In this way, all feel that they are gaining something. Finally, I find that the reward system always works. Most learners won’t perform a task just for the sake of doing it. If they know they is some form of reward for it, they will feel motivated. So, where possible, I attach some score to successful completion of a task.
    I am not sure about maximising the success of learners.

    Indeed, traditional instructional cultures often constrain not only the development of high quality teaching and learning OER through collaboration, but also the whole idea of learning from each other through peer support. Academics are generally used to operating in silos except when it comes to publishing where they appreciate the role of peers in enhancing the quality of their papers. I have two suggestion regarding this problem: (a) I think we should take advantage of communication technologies and form inter-institutional communities of practice, possibly along disciplinary lines or some other areas of interest. We can then develop a culture of sharing what we do online, including collaborative development of materials(OER). (b) The second suggestion is to do our best to try and influence change in our institutions- really tough, I believe!!!! This involves influencing institutional policies on how much recognition is given to developing high quality OER, including course design. If faculty effort in this area is given same recognition as publishing in journals, many academics will be motivated to invest their time and interest in developing OER.

    I have no doubt that your approach to motivating online learners can work in most disciplines. Before I give my own views on what else we can do to motivate online learners, let’s hear other people’s suggestions.

    Thanks Ephraim for your input. I like your first suggestion to forge inter-institutional links for collaboration and peer support. I am all for it. But, that is perhaps even more challenging to achieve than finding someone within the same institution to collaborate with. The truth is that academics generally do not like to collaborate. As a result, even when a few try to do so, the relationship is often tortuous, lacking a clear structure. But if I can find some who are willing to collaborate, I’ll gladly jump at the opportunity. And in these days of multidisciplinary knowledge, we needn’t be called by the same designation for us to mutually benefit in a collaborative project.
    Regarding your second suggestion, yes, it is essential to influence institutional change. But this is a very difficult task. As more publicly funded institutions get less and less funding, administrators consider it a nightmare to consider a “new” proposal, no matter how beautiful, that may make demands on the alr day scarce resources.
    And, yes. I look forward to the additional suggestions on how to motivate learners.

    Hi Jerome

    AgShare a project I was working on before I left Saide and now being lead by Ephraim is an example of an intervention involving inter-institutional links (Saide, Michigan State Univ, RUFORUM and 3 African universities) that has Agriculture, veterinary Science and Computer Science academics (members of the RUFORUM network – developing OERs for use in inter-institutional postgraduate programmes. Some of these and other OERs are situated on the OER Africa website ( This interesting project has involved both staff and post-graduate students in developing of some very interesting, relevant and good quality OERs coming out of their research projects in the form of case studies, modules, teaching materials, audio-visual clips etc. As Ephraim will confirm – not an easy process and one requiring a level of incentivization but academics are beginning to see the value in it and to come up with innovative ways to further develop and improve their teaching and learning materials. Ruforum is also involved in another collaborative project –

    Working collaboratively is very possible,however it helps to have a common collaborative platform that serves to help drive, support and guide the necessary processes.




    Morning all
    1. What are some of the major quality challenges you face in online teaching and learning?
    a) Challenges of over-stimulation – so many platforms and groups which often splinter and discourage me from completing my main challenges – so keeping on-task
    b) Not being in an actual formal classroom anymore (I am semi-retired and am teaching adults one-on-one) – so often I have to simulate a learning challenge or ask others to give me their challenge – and its difficult to follow up if I have designed materials because teachers are always busy.
    c) I do enjoy challenges and often learning how to use new methods (e.g. creating online videos) takes time and distracts from the time allowed and in meeting the deadlines.
    d) Finding online and other colleagues who have similar problems so that they can test my ideas and materials.

    2. How do you keep your online learners motivated and how do you maximise their success?
    a) Creating real scenarios e.g. ones that could be used or which they might have experienced
    b) I enjoy the use of WhatsApp groups, FB groups and other cell phone eLearning as it seems to encourage learning among those who dont have easy online access
    c) Games, use of video and questionnaires assist me in establishing where the learners are in the learning materials so that they can be adjusted and tweaked.
    d) I like the idea of providing some kind of reward and am presently working towards an online digital badge which has really motivated me. Mozilla backpacks are worth investigating.
    e) If they are younger learners, then I will make good use of graphics, You Tube, recordings and other materials to encourage different learner profiles.
    f) When I taught at a Junior school, I would offer incentives like a special afternoon club with advanced tuition and opportunities to go on visits or have guests providing workshops. These pockets of excellence influenced the quality of the class.



    Hi Tony, Ephraim,Jerome and Alice
    Many thanks for getting us all started and for raising many critical issues on e-learning. Thanks too for sharing the guide as well as links to OER and an example of a collaborative OER project. I fully agree with the submission that the underlying challenge to e-learning and OER initiatives is lack of collaboration which results in weaknesses in the way we design for effective learning. Also that unless students are motivated and actively engaged during course delivery, they are not likely to be retained. Thanks Tony, we have also benefited from your guide/course on Facilitating online. Such a course guide helps us address many weaknesses inherent in our e-learning courses, some of which are: mismatch between teaching styles or strategies and student learning styles; espoused teaching and learning theory may not be reflected in the preferred pedagogic practices; learning outcomes may not be aligned to appropriate teaching and assessment strategies etc.

    Thanks Thula, Alice, and Carolynn. The matter of a collaborative platform and some incentives highlighted by Alice are key. But it’s hard to find such platforms. It is even harder to come up with incentives. More crucially, OERs and eLearning needn’t be large projects, such as the example cited by Alice. Creating single courses or even course modules of high quality should be possible, and it should also be possible, even in such small projects, to be able to collaborate and to get peer review and build in quality assurance mechanisms. That is where the real challenge lies. What is the way out?



    Good day to you all.

    Thank you for your insights and challenges around eLearning quality and motivating students. Online communities like the e/merge Africa site are a good place to start to build partnerships with like-minded academics who are struggling to get support from their colleagues and institutions. How can we leverage a community like e/merge Africa to begin to build quality standards for eLearning?

    Hi Nompilo, you struck at the heart of the matter. Alice suggested that we need a platform for collaboration, and here is e/merge Africa. This is a cool platform on which we can collaborate. I have said it here many times that I am willing to provide any support that I can to anyone who is looking for an additional pair of eyes to look at their design, or the resource they have created.
    In addition, it might help to create a space on this site where anyone with a need or a call can mention it and then the community can take it from there. What I am advocating is an extension of the Peer Assist program in a slightly twicked way without abandoning the generic Peer Assist process.

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