Friday, 8 November 2013

The History of Quality in Online and Distance learning in less than 100 words?

Clown fish picture
In his book ‘To Sell is Human’, ( Dan Pink illustrates Pixar’s story line according to Emma Coates and examples it with the plot of ‘Finding Nemo’:
"Once upon a time there was a widowed fish named Marlin who was extremely protective of his only son, Nemo. Every day, Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away. One day in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water. Because of that, he is captured by a diver and ends up as a pet in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney. Because of that, Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way. Until finally Marlin and Nemo find each other, reunite, and learn that love depends on trust."
(Pink, Daniel H (2013-02-07). To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing, and Influencing Others (pp. 171-172). Canongate Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.)

This set me thinking, could I do the same with the story of Quality in Online and Distance Learning?
Once upon a time education was based in institutions, which were seen as seats of learning.  Every day people would accept the quality of the courses they took, presented by people they trusted to get them through exams.  One day the internet gave people the opportunity to comment publicly on the quality of the products they bought.  Because of that clever companies like Amazon took advantage of these comments to encourage buyers’ confidence and improve sales.  Because of that people started looking for reviews of products in all sorts of selling areas before they made a purchase. Until finally education realised that students are the best judges of course quality and began to prove the quality of their courses by showing student reviews alongside adverts for courses.

To be fair this is a few more words than 100 (127 if you wish to count) and the ‘Until finally’ bit might look like wishful thinking but it is happening now on the Unistats website ( which is being linked by universities to their prospectus information against particular courses.

Unistats is constructed to allow searches for universities and colleges, allow comparisons and investigate course stats against subject areas with a combination of provider + course information.  Some forward-looking universities are linking these stats to their courses for the benefit of prospective students.
I do hope this is a sign of the future direction for quality in institution provision, since it will encourage the ongoing enhancement of course quality, especially if poor quality can no longer be hidden.

I also hope that international provision and industry based education generally will follow suit.
We will see…

(Photo from Stock.xchng

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