April 2017


The first year of work on the TeSLA project. The experience of AQU Catalunya

Roger Roca - Project manager of Internationalisation and Knowledge Generation Department

TeslaEl The TeSLA project is currently in its second year of development and all of the objectives and deadlines set at the outset of the project for 2016 were fulfilled and complied with. In its role as leader of WP4 (Work Package 4), AQU Catalunya has been working together with ENQA and EQANIE to establish and define the different aspects and parameters for quality assurance within the framework of the project. The work is set out in the three following reports submitted to the European Commission under the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020:

  • D4.1 - Analysis of the ESG from the online teaching and learning perspective
  • D4.2 - Definition of the quality indicators to continue the development of the pilots
  • D4.3 - Pilots quality indicators

Logo TeslaThe main objective of the first report (D4.1), lead by ENQA, is to present an analysis of the Standards and guidelines for quality assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) within the context of e-Learning. It is important to note that the aim of the report is not to establish specific standards for online, distance or blended courses, but to set out the special characteristics of these courses within the framework of the European standards.

Using the D4.1 report as reference, the two other reports (D4.2 and D4.3) focus on defining a series of quality indicators for the development of the three pilot studies to be carried out during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years in the seven participating universities: the Open University of Catalonia (UOC, Spain), the Open University (OU, UK), the Open University of the Netherlands (OUNL, Netherlands), Anadolu University (AU, Turkey), the University of Jyväskylä (JYU, Finland), Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski (SU, Bulgaria) and the Technical University of Sofia (TUS, Bulgaria).

The D4.2 report, led by EQANIE, includes a first version of quality indicators for the technological framework of the TeSLA project. The D4.3 report, which covers all other aspects related to quality assurance (QA policies, learning, teaching, review and assessment, teaching staff, students, etc.), was led by AQU Catalunya and completes the first series of indicators proposed in the D4.2 report.

Following on from the reports, the efforts of the three organisations participating in the WP4 (ENQA, EQANIE and AQU Catalunya) have focused on the search for and selection of international experts to form part of the external review panels in the project's three pilot studies. In addition to enhancing the evaluation procedures and results through their knowledge and experience, the participation of these external experts in evaluating the pilot studies will also enable WP4 to comply with the guidelines set out in section 2 of the ESG, in particular point 2.4: External quality assurance should be carried out by groups of external experts that include (a) student member(s).

For this reason, WP4 launched a call for applications in November 2016 to select external experts with different profiles: academics, QA professionals, students and professionals with a technological profile. At the close of the call for applications, a total number of 206 CVs had been received. Following the review of all the applications and supporting documentation, a rigorous screening was carried out to define the review panels that will evaluate and assess the TeSLA pilot studies. It is worthy of mention that the independence of the experts in this selection process was ensured by means of a conflict of interest disclosure mechanism. The experts who were finally selected have been divided into eleven review teams each made up of 4 members, each with one of the various aforementioned profiles, and two of the four members also taking on the roles of chairperson and secretary.

One of the teams, which will act as the Head Panel, will participate in all the project's pilot studies and corroborate reports and be involved in the meta-analysis of the project. The other ten teams (or regular panels) will be responsible for reviewing the seven institutions in the second and third pilot schemes using the methodology developed by WP4, together with the evidence submitted by the institutions and other WPs involved in the project, as well as online interviews and site visits to the institutions. During the course of the pilot studies, the experts are expected to put forward proposals for the improvement and enhancement of subsequent pilot studies and the QA methodology.

In ensure compliance with the guidelines set out in standard 2.4 (ESG), on 30 and 31 January and 10 March 2017 a series of training sessions were held at AQU headquarters for the experts selected for the Head Panel and regular panels that will take part of the review of the second pilot study. The aim of the sessions was to provide the experts with training tailored to the requirements of the review and evaluation work of the panels. The training began with a general presentation of the project and its present state by the project coordinators (UOC). Various different members of the WP4 then presented the review methodology and the work plan for the experts. Another key aspect of the training was the presentation of the technical aspects and tools for student authentication and authorship technologies, including face recognition, voice recognition, keystroke dynamics and plagiarism checkers by those in charge of the technological development of the project (UOC).

Following completion of the first pilot study and with a second pilot study now running, the main objective of WP4 is to hold the first in-person meeting of the members of the Head Panel to analyse and discuss ways of improving the review methodology.


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