Editor’s Note: This is a complex study that adapts a variety of quality practices used in industry to an education al setting.
Model for ‘Total Quality’ of the
Open and Distance Education System
Web is a globally distributed and often highly personalized asynchronous distribution media, for cost-effective delivery of multimedia information and services. Web will have a very strong impact on almost every aspect of how we learn. The best rewards from this technological revolution can be harnessed only when it is perfectly blended with the managerial revolution: ‘Total Quality Management’ and ‘Just in Time’.
This research paper evaluates an application of ‘Total Quality Management (TQM)’ and ‘Just in Time (JIT)’ principles along with web based systems and procedures to an ‘Open and Distance Education System (ODES)’ of India. After providing necessary background information about these relatively new concepts, this paper presents a model for ‘Total Quality’ and ‘ODES’ for India. It reviews application of the TQM model to the development of engineering graduate degree programmes. Each ‘Quality Parameter’ of this TQM model is listed along with a brief review of how programme design tries to confirm it by prevention of errors.
Keywords: open education, distance education, online education, elearning, knowledge granules, total quality management, just in time, quality feedback
Distance learning is one of the most dramatic technology-based recent changes that occur in education. Communication technology enables students to receive instruction despite geographic and time separation, conditions that make traditional classroom learning impossible.
Distance Education is a method of instruction that utilizes different communication technologies to provide information and facilitate or enhance self-learning by students at different places. Distance education enable students and teachers to interact with each other by means of computers, man-made satellites, telephones, radios, broadcast television, or other technologies.
Distance education is also called distance learning. While distance learning can refer to either formal or informal learning experiences, distance education refers specifically to formal instruction conducted at a distance by a teacher who plans, guides, coordinates and evaluates the learning process. As new communications technologies become more efficient and more widely available, increasing numbers of elementary schools, secondary schools, universities, and businesses offer distance education programs.
Nearly every country in the world uses distance education. More than 20 countries in the world have national open universities in which all instruction is provided by distance education. This method of education is especially valuable in developing countries. By reaching a large number of students with relatively few teachers, it provides a cost-effective way to make limited academic resources available in such countries. Many businesses use distance education programs to train employees or to help them update skills or knowledge. Employees may take such programs in the workplace or at home in their spare time .
Distance education initially used the postal system to open educational opportunities to people who wanted to learn but were not able to attend conventional schools. People who most benefited from such correspondence education included those with physical disabilities, women who were not allowed to enroll in men-only educational institutions, people who had jobs during normal school hours, and those who lived in remote regions where schools did not exist.
Invention of radio in the 1920s and television in the 1940s were important milestones in distance education. Educators used these new tools to broadcast educational programs to millions of students, thus extending learning opportunities beyond the walls of conventional teaching institutions.
The development of teleconferencing technologies in the 1980s and 1990s, coupled with already well developed telephone networks, made it possible for teachers to talk with, hear, and see their students in real time—that is, with no delays in the transmissions—even if they were located across the country or around the world.
Distance education increasingly uses combinations of communications technologies to enhance the ability of teachers and students to interact and communicate with each other. Distance education also makes use of the World Wide Web, where teachers and students communicate interactively via text, pictures, audio, and occasionally video. A conferencing method known as ‘one-way video / two-way audio’ uses television pictures that are transmitted to sites where people can reply with an audio link. Television pictures can also be simultaneously transmitted in two directions, so that teachers and students in one place can see and hear teachers and students in other places. This is called video-conferencing .
Each communication medium has certain advantages over the other. The most effective distance education employs several media tso that students can harness benefits and strengths of each one. Geographic and time separation of the student and the teacher is a fundamental characteristic of distance education.
Multimedia instruction with web, video systems, or television may be used to connect the local classroom to students at a distance. Satellite, compressed video, and fiber-optic systems are increasingly used for same-time, different-place education. This approach is called synchronous distance learning. Students can also learn at different times and in different places. This approach is called asynchronous distance learning.
Distance education programs require teams of media producers, teaching specialists, subject matter experts, and instructional designers to design effective teaching strategies and communication media. Other specialists plan and facilitate interaction and communications with students. Such programs are expensive to produce so that distance education courses are usually designed for relatively large audiences and a wide geographic area.
Distance education is much more flexible and student centered in approach. By allowing students to learn in more convenient locations, and often at more convenient times, distance education opens educational opportunity to previously un-reached learners. It also enables students to extend the period of their education from a limited number of schooling years to a lifelong learning process. It changes power and authority relationships between teachers and students and often encourages more equal and open communication than occurs in traditional educational settings. Because distance education enables institutions to reach students all over the world, students gain increased opportunities to experience other cultures as they enrich their educational experience.
Interactive instruction is possible because the technologies give the student access to databases, information sources, instructional expertise, and contact with instructors and other students in real-time and interactive ways. For example, individual students can use their computers to interact and share information with other students or individuals. In interactive virtual classrooms, students can participate and interact with teachers from remote place. An instructor can organize the learning activities of individual students who collaborate with other students, with the teacher, and with multimedia technology available locally or via the Internet. Distance learning encourages collaboration without time and location barriers.
The practice of distance education has dramatically changed since the early 1990s. Educators are using technology to increase the distant student’s access to the local classroom, to improve access of all students to resources, and to make the experience of the remote student comparable to that of the local student. Recent innovations in hardware, software, and Internet technologies have made web-based distance education systems more available, easier to use, and less costly. But, any new technology is not a panacea. It also has trade-offs [4, 6].
Open and Distance Education Systems (ODES) have six essential attributes:
The teacher and the student are separated from each other by geographic distance.
Two-way communication between student and teacher is possible through a limited number of face-to-face contact sessions, interactive media, and assignments.
ODES systems use different media such as print, audio, video, CDs, multimedia, computers, and the World Wide Web.
ODES systems are learner-centered. Active students participation is ensured through practical activities, project or field work, discussion forums, other interactive communications, and Self-Test Centers.
Self-Learning is emphasized; traditional lectures are increasingly replaced by interactive multimedia.
ODES has accepted an industrial form of education and treats education as an industry.
Industry Model for Education
Distance education systems provide ‘Quality Education’ simultaneously to large numbers of students having a wide variety of interests and background. Naturally, this system has to explore many new effective methods of imparting clear information, using various media and technologies. But, more important than just a better communication, it also has to establish and manage a virtual environment, which nurtures and facilitates ‘learning’ that is, developing understanding about information, by allowing all distance students to actively ‘interact’ with each other, irrespective of their place and time. Only then, the real task of making learning possible can be achieved. Hence, the great challenge before this system is to consistently manage this huge, still personalized human system and environment, for better learning with cost-effectiveness. This challenge demands that this system is viewed as a ‘Service Industry’, which provides ‘Quality Educational Services’ to students at a distance .
Recent paradigm shift, towards object oriented software development, allows easy reuse, maintenance and constant up-gradation of smallest ‘knowledge’ objects, which may be called as ‘Knowledge Granules’. Web based object oriented ‘Knowledge Management System’ will allow easy use of these highly standardized, still personalized ‘Knowledge Granules’, providing unprecedented flexibility and interactivity, without any geographic distance or time barriers. Development of such system will be a reality in foreseeable future of next 15-20 years. Surely, this development will be the most spectacular turning point, for the ‘Open and Distance Education’, which perhaps elevates ‘Total Quality’ of its educational services, even better than the best from the conventional education system.
Due to this, to earn appropriate certifications, students may able to select even content which they want to learn, at place and time convenient to them. This virtual learning environment will allow them to actively interact as and when they want, with other fellow students and even teachers at other institutions. With large number of simultaneous students at any given point of time, this asynchronous learning environment will retain all benefits of synchronous group learning. Precise feedback about their learning will be just click away and thus, will be available any time any where. This virtual environment automatically localizes itself to the cultural and language background of the student. In fact, it will be complete virtual learning environment, providing best learning experience to students, without any geographic distance or time barrier.
With this scenario, it is estimated that ‘Knowledge Creation, Dissemination and Preservation’ may not remain privileged and restricted functions of the universities, but business corporations will also play very strong, fruitful and competitive role for this function as a ‘Knowledge Service Industry’. With globalization of education, education systems of only those nations will survive which acknowledge this future trend and provides necessary statutory proactive support, to nurture the development and growth of this futuristic education system. Surely, this will be the beginning of new era in student centered quality education, where ultimate flexibility about almost all important features, is available to all students.
A comprehensive and systematic way of approaching and analyzing these future trends, on the broadest and most fundamental level, are now required. This can be provided by viewing the educational process as a production process – which uses various resources to convert inputs into outputs. Specific issues can then be discussed systematically in terms of:
Furthermore, once having described the education as production process, it can then be analyze systematically in regards to efficiency, effectiveness and quality, in light of the principles and concepts of ‘Total Quality Management (TQM)’, an integrated, internally consistent philosophy of management and leadership.
Most academicians often misperceived the mere mention of ‘an education as production process’ as the image of academic factories in which servile students are forced through a production line of subjects. This response is mostly due to political and reactive nature of the present university administration system, which is modeled on an assorted array of outdated concepts and philosophies. In an efficiency and quality conscious environment, paradigms and approaches, which were once considered adequate and are maintained because of tradition, inertia, ignorance or convenience, simply cannot be allowed to continue .
Customers of Education System
Universities are complex organizations with variety of customers making demands unparalleled in society. But, then who are customers of the university? Prospective customers of the university include:
Students, as they receive education services from the university
Affiliated colleges or study centers, as they receive various support services from the university
Society at large, as it receives the product of university, that is, student with added knowledge and skills.
The student is at center of education system and thus, is the major focus of the educational process. Although the definition of the customer need not be reduced to single alternative and in fact is the combination of all alternatives, the student clearly should be placed at the forefront of this definition [1, 5].
Products of Education System
Once customer is defined, the next logical question is what is the product of an education system? Answer to this question may be explored with following different views:
Student may be viewed as a customer who buys a product of an education system, that is, an academic programme, in expectation of some type of life benefit.
The student himself is the product of an education system after being transformed by the educational process from a ‘raw’ material into a person with added knowledge and skills. With this view, the buyer is society; directly in terms of the employer and indirectly as a funding agency.
Although, these two products of an education system are apparently different, product from the first view, that is an academic programme, is nothing but encapsulation of the educational process mentioned in the second view .
‘Total Quality’ is the totality of features, as perceived by the customers, of the product or service. Totality of features includes stated as well as implied needs and expectations of all types of customers. As it is the perception by the customers, in addition to conformance with pre-established quality standards, it may also include additional parameters like cost-effectiveness, conformance to time schedule, after sale service etc. Quality thus cannot be defined by the supplier himself, but should always be defined by the customers. Then only quality ratings carry meaning and retain validity .
Total Quality Management (TQM)
Total quality management (TQM) is not a technique; it is a broad management approach or methodology, dealing with processes and attitudes. TQM places quality as the primary objective for the organization, as opposed to the traditional management objective of maximizing production and subsequently controlling costs. Although, TQM was initially developed for the manufacturing environment, it can be equally applicable to any environment, which involves inputs and outputs, such as knowledge service industry like universities.
Principles of TQM may be summarized as follows:
There is a goal of ‘Continuous Improvement’ against achieving some static level of quality. It is about approaching excellence in an incremental way. Quality is a continuous ongoing process. Quality is responsibility and mission of all. Hence all employees should be continuously trained and motivate to consistently achieve better and better quality. Even ‘Commitment of Top Management’ should be visible and clear to all.
Instead of reactive and person dependent system, TQM is a ‘Proactive Systematic Approach’. This means ‘prevention and immediate detection of errors and problems at root source’ is preferred over of ‘correction for problems after its occurrence’. Responsibility for quality takes place at the source. This feature demands ‘Quality Design’ rather than inspection of quality after poor design.
TQM attempts to expose problems rather than hide or burry them. ‘Just in Time (JIT)’ concept described in next section will elaborate more on this. TQM identifies and addresses causes of problems, not effects.
TQM creates, encourages and nurtures simplicity, instead of bureaucratic approach of adding controls. It attempts to identify and eliminate non-value-added activities thus naturally motivating people to use quality procedures.
The essence of TQM is the simple but extremely powerful belief that it is better and hence cheaper, to do every process right at first time, rather than not to do it right and then correct it afterwards. Doing things right at first time requires no money. Doing things wrong is what only costs money, as time and resources are wasted by allowing defective products to get produced. Thus, longer it takes to identify problem, more will be the cost incurred to correct it.
TQM is systematic way of guaranteeing that all activities within an organization happen as planned. It is the management attitude that concerns with preventing problems at source, rather than allowing problems to occur and then correcting them afterwards .
Just In Time (JIT)
‘Just in Time (JIT)’ is the philosophy which systematically enforces ‘Continuous Improvement’ by continual reduction of non-value-added inventory stocks to lower and then further lower levels. Inventory stocks allow production process to continue even when some problem occurs. In a way, inventory stocks act like a buffers to hide any problem that may occur. But, with JIT, there are no buffers to hide problems and thus, occurrence of problem can shut down the entire production process. Thus, JIT philosophy helps organization to prominently expose problems and thus, bring a clear focus on removal of it at source, by eliminating the cause, rather than effects, of problem.
With JIT, it is believed that the root causes of most problems are due to faulty production process design. Hence, with JIT, nothing is taken for granted, everything is subject to analysis. Each activity is identified as either ‘Value-Added’ or ‘Non-Value-Added’. The reduction of ‘Non-Value-Added’ activities is achieved mainly through increasing manufacturing flexibility and improved quality.
Simplification of the production process is another key concept in JIT. Reusing existing components in design of new products keeps variety of required components at minimum level and thus, enhances cost-effectiveness and simplicity of the production process.
JIT is an extremely powerful tool to identify where improvements should be made. It helps you to identify cause (not the effect) of problem and its elimination. Failures and exceptions are treated as opportunities to improve the system. In fact, JIT initiates failures due to problems to expose them. It is a system of trouble-shooting, within a culture of constant analysis and improvement. It is clear, as an attitude and approach, JIT and TQM are perfectly complimentary to each other, to expose and correct problems at source, so as to avoid wasting resources on production of defective products .
TQM/JIT and ODES
TQM/JIT demands highly focused attention directly on those activities which are responsible for ‘Quality Costs’. Here, ‘Quality Costs’ are defined as any cost incurred, because something is not done right at first time. They are not the cost associated with the ‘Quality Department’ or ‘Quality Function’. Enormous productivity enhancement can be made as a result of exploring and eliminating non-value added or waste activities, which exist because things were not done right at the first time. In fact, quality is highly profitable only due to this.
TQM/JIT demands continuous improvement in definition of quality itself. Thus, attention is focused on ‘Quality Costs’, that is, on those activities which are responsible for problems and hence have potential for improvement, resulting in great cost reduction. Accurate and reliable measurement of ‘Quality Costs’ is the most important requirement for this improvement process. With TQM/JIT, output of any organization can be described as below:
Output = Value-Added Activities + Non-Value-Added Activities
Hence, to maximize the output and efficiency, organization must continuously explore ways to reduce and finally eliminate ‘Non-Value-Added Activities’. It can be done only when every thing is subject to analysis and examination. Most of ‘Non-Value-Added Activities’ are often the result of ‘faulty or inefficient design’, previously taken for granted. System design evaluation from this perspective allows improvements or changes, so as to reduce and finally eliminate ‘Non-Value-Added Activities’. The result is more efficient design which improves productivity and reduces costs.
Well known quality expert like ‘Dr J M Juran’ estimates that about 85% of the problems with a product are designed into the product. Hence, one can not expect significant quality improvement in ‘Open and Distance Education System (ODES)’, unless inefficiency and ineffectiveness are removed from the design, delivery and assessment of courses and subjects.
Focus on simplification is the fundamental concept in TQM/JIT. Products and processes are designed around existing families of standardized multi purpose components of minimum variety. Mass education system like ODES can not be achieved, without the development of standardized modules, which have a recognized exchange value at inter university level. Along with the cost reduction, flexibility can be significantly increased with this modular approach.
TQM/JIT continuously pushes the exposure of problems back, towards the starting point of the process, until initiation point is reached which is prevention. Every problem has a cause and every cause is preventable. Obviously, sooner the problem is detected, sooner it can be addressed .
Electronics Engineering Diploma Programmes
Since 1992, ‘Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University (YCMOU)’ has been offering ‘Electronics Engineering Diploma Programmes (EEDP)’. This was the first technical programme offered through the distance mode in India. Naturally, it was quite hard for the people to place faith in their academic quality and thus till 1996, student enrolment was hovering at 100-200 students every year.
An ‘experiment kit’ was developed with a view to allow the student to perform many different electronics experiments at his convenient place and time. Programme implementation effectiveness was substantially improved with the introduction of various managerial innovations. Over a period of time, the curriculum was totally revamped to ensure relevance to today’s industry and student needs. These changes initiated explosive growth in student enrolment from just about 150 students in 1996, to cumulative 9120 students in 2004. These changes also improved the drop-out rate from an initial 40% to the present 25%.
This is the first technical academic programme in India, offered with web based ELearning support, which substantially improves access, flexibility and effectiveness. With this kind of web-based support, it is believed that, this programme will set the standards of academic excellence, along with effective programme implementation systems. Recently, YCMOU also completes systematic and critical evaluation of these programmes.
Graduate Degree Programmes
With rich and long experience of technical programmes in distance mode, YCMOU decides to launch ‘Graduate Degree Programmes’ in electronics and mechanical engineering. Right from the design concept stage, concepts and principles of TQM and JIT explained above were applied in development of these academic programmes, so as to offer better ‘Total Quality’ of learning experience. This research paper aims to provide brief account of these efforts and share some YCMOU experiences about its effect on the ‘Total Quality’ of learning experience.
While designing these academic programmes, following facts were taken into consideration:
Rather than coming to learn, most undergraduate students are coming to be taught. In contrast to this, postgraduate students are much more mature and accept far more responsibility for their own learning .
Rather than degree driven approach, a subject driven system design approach utilizing standardized, multi-purpose smaller subjects/modules, can only provide flexibility, standardization and simplicity in design. Each certificate, diploma and degree is constructed with appropriate combination of these subjects .
Coherent learning experience is best achieved by the development of well designed degree plans with carefully thought out options, which allows for flexibility and some freedom of choice on the part of students . Highly modular structure with ‘Multiple Entry and Exit Points’ provides better flexibility with horizontal and vertical mobility.
Web is a globally distributed, still highly personalized asynchronous distribution medium, for delivering multimedia information and services. Hence, it can offer rich personalized learning experience, as per the student’s preference for place and time. Relatively inexpensive infrastructure is required for the web, which is getting cheaper every year .
Model for ‘Total Quality’
Clear definition of the ‘Total Quality’ in measurable terms is extremely important as no quality improvement is possible without its unambiguous measurement. Hence, quality should be expressed in clearly measurable parameters with appropriate importance. Not all features of quality have equal importance. Weight-age or importance assigned to each quality parameter can vary as per organization mission and goal or even as per the type of customer. Quality is defined not by the organization itself, but rather by the customers. Hence easily accessible quality feedback systems are essential to sustain quality drive, with which, customers of the organization can define quality. It is clear that definition of the quality will be dynamically changing with the changing perceptions of customers, which is in conformance with ‘Continuous Improvement’, an important principle of the TQM/JIT philosophy.
Thus, Quality parameters should be logically grouped together at different levels with appropriate importance. Proposed hierarchical tree of quality parameters for the ‘Total Quality’ of ‘Open and Distance Education System’ is as follows:
Academic Quality (50%)
i. Academic Human Resource Quality (30%)
1. Well Qualified and Experienced (20%)
2. Self-Motivated and Properly Trained (20%)
3. With good Knowledge (30%)
4. With good Communication Skills (30%)
ii. Teaching Learning Process Quality (20%)
1. Regular, Enjoyable and Flexible (20%)
2. With Peer Group Interaction (20%)
3. Effective, Efficient, Quick and Interactive (20%)
4. Proper and Judicious Media Mix (20%)
5. Use of Modern Interactive Multimedia Learning Tools (20%)
iii. Learning Material Quality (20%)
1. Clear and simple Language (20%)
2. Distance education Pedagogy (20%)
3. Logical Presentation (30%)
4. Generating Curiosity, Hence Engaging (20%)
5. Well Illustrated (10%)
iv. Curriculum and Syllabus Quality (15%)
1. Clear, Accurate, Up to date and Optimum (15%)
2. Realistic Programme Calendar Design (15%)
3. Communication, Self-Learning, Managerial and IT Skills (15%)
4. Real Life Context, Relevance and Equivalence (25%)
5. Modular and Flexible with Multiple Entry and Exit Points (30%)
v. Academic Infrastructure Quality (15%)
1. Library and Learning Resource Centre (40%)
2. Laboratories (60%)
Student Services Quality (20%)
i. Services Quality (60 %)
1. Programme Information Quality (10%)
2. Pre and Post Admission Counseling
3. Learning Material Distribution Quality
4. Counseling Session Quality (20%)
5. Learning Feedback Quality (20%)
6. Evaluation Quality (20%)
ii. Infrastructure Quality (40%)
1. Basic Infrastructure Quality (30%)
2. Computing Infrastructure Quality(30%)
3. Communication Infrastructure Quality
4. Audio Video Infrastructure Quality
Management Quality (15%)
i. Clear Quality Policy visible to all (10%)
ii. Continuous Ongoing Quality Training
for All (20%)
iii. Accessible quality feedback systems
for customers (20%)
iv. Proactive Systematic Approach (15%)
v. Simple and Preventive System (15%)
vi. Accountability with Error Correction (20%)
Time Quality (10%)
i. Right at First Time (20%)
ii. Right at Every Time (20%)
iii. Speed of Response to Query/Feedback
iv. Time Efficiency of systems and processes
Cost Quality (5%)
i. More Value for customers (40%)
ii. Less Cost for customers and organization
TQM Model and Degree Programmes
This section briefly review the application of TQM model discussed in earlier section, to the development of engineering graduate degree programmes. In a table below, first column list the ‘Quality Parameter’ as per this TQM model and second column briefly review how programme design tries to confirm with it by prevention of errors.
|TQM Model Quality Parameter|
Corresponding Programme Design Features
1. Total Quality (100 %)
a. Academic Quality (50 %)
i. Academic Human Resource Quality (30 %)
(1) Well Qualified and Experienced (20%)
1. University approves appointment of any academic staff at each study center or for development of virtual classroom modules, in accordance with well defined qualification and experience norms.
(2) Self-Motivated and Properly Trained (20%)
1. Working as an academic staff for the university, at each study center or for development of virtual classroom modules or ‘Online Counseling’, is voluntary extra activity, which is normally not possible without self-motivation.
2. University provides honorarium, comparable with the best in India, for attracting motivated best experts.
3. University regularly provides training to academic staff at each study center.
(3) With good Knowledge (30%)
(4) With good Communication Skills (30%)
1. University appoints only excellent teachers, well known for their good knowledge and communication abilities, for the development of virtual classroom modules and ‘Online Counseling’.
2. University allows students to change study center during each course admission, if they were not satisfied with the quality of academic services from the study center. Due to this open competition, in order to retain enrolled students, each study center have to employ services of only excellent teachers, well known for their good knowledge and communication abilities.
3. University provides honorarium, comparable with the best in India, for attracting best of available talent.
ii. Teaching Learning Process Quality (20 %)
(1) Regular, Enjoyable and Flexible (20%)
1. Detail time schedule for regular face to face teaching at each study center is clearly communicated to all.
2. University promotes activity based exploratory style of teaching-learning process, which offers enjoyable learning.
3. In case student is not able to attend regular face to face teaching at the allotted study center, ‘Virtual Classroom Modules’ and ‘Online Counseling’ on web, offers him extra flexibility, for ensuring regular teaching-learning process.
4. Compare to conventional education system in India, about 30% contact hours are provided for these programmes, which are far more than the established ‘Open University’ norms for other academic programmes.
(2) With Peer Group Interaction (20%)
1. Small batch size of 30 students ensures effective peer group interaction during regular face to face teaching at each study center.
2. ‘Online Counseling’ on web also offers excellent peer group interaction opportunity, without any geographic place and time separation problems.
(3) Effective, Efficient, Quick and Interactive (20%)
1. Distance education pedagogy is used in the development of virtual classroom modules. During textbook selection process for adoption, it is also an important factor for consideration. Conformance to distance education pedagogy with multimedia approach ensures effective, efficient, quick and interactive learning experience.
2. University offers continuous evaluation for the subject, immediately after counseling for it, in the last week of the same month. This immediate monthly continuous evaluation pattern dramatically improves effectiveness of teaching-learning process.
(4) Proper and Judicious Media Mix (20%)
1. Although, almost all possible media can be use in ‘Virtual Classroom Modules’, only proper and judicious media mix is used, which is appropriate with the content type and its requirement.
(5) Use of Modern Interactive Multimedia Learning Tools (20%)
1. For effective teaching-learning process, these programmes use minimum variety of modern interactive multimedia learning web-tools like:
‘Virtual Classroom Modules’ on web and CD
‘Online Discussion Forum’ on web
‘Online Self-Test Center’ on web
iii. Learning Material Quality (20 %)
(1) Clear and simple Language (20%)
1. Only clear and simple language, appropriate with target group of students, is used in all virtual classroom modules. During textbook selection process for adoption, it is an important factor for consideration.
2. University allows use of local language for explanation, during face-to-face teaching at each study center.
(2) Distance education Pedagogy (20%)
1. Distance education pedagogy is used in the development of virtual classroom modules. During textbook selection process for adoption, it is an important factor for consideration.
(3) Logical Presentation (30%)
1. Logical presentation is ensured with well designed templates for the development of virtual classroom modules. During textbook selection process for adoption, it is an important factor for consideration.
(4) Generating Curiosity, Hence Engaging (20%)
1. Learning material should able to generate curiosity. Then only students are motivated to learn and explore new knowledge. This is ensured with well designed templates for the development of virtual classroom modules. During textbook selection process for adoption, it is an important factor for consideration.
(5) Well Illustrated (10%)
1. It is said that an image can communicate better than thousand words. Many well illustrated images, appropriate with the contents, are used in the Virtual Classroom Modules. During textbook selection process for adoption, it is an important factor for consideration.
iv. Curriculum and Syllabus Quality (15 %)
(1) Clear, Accurate, Up to date and Optimum (15%)
1. Clear and precise detail syllabus is specified in a well structured format.
2. Specified syllabus is totally based on one or more adopted textbooks.
3. Syllabus contents are selected by experts from industries and academic institutions, considering present and future trends in research and industry.
4. Students are expected to learn 1 credit point syllabus contents with about 30-35 hours of study. Depending upon information density and difficulty level of the adopted textbook, contents from only about 60 ± 15 pages (120 ± 30 pages for IT related course due to much lower information density) of textbook is specified for 1 credit point.
(2) Realistic Programme Calendar Design (15%)
1. Realistic time schedule for each important activity in total teaching-learning process is clearly specified.
2. In case, due to unforeseen circumstances, some activities can not be completed as scheduled, time schedule for clearing its backlog is also clearly specified.
(3) Communication, Self-Learning, Managerial and IT Skills (15%)
1. Common courses across academic programmes, provides academic inputs regarding
Communication Skills: Single subject of 4 credit points
Self-Learning Skills: Single subject of 4 credit points
Managerial Skills: Three subjects, each of 4 credit points
IT Skills: Six subjects, each of 4 credit points
(4) Real Life Context, Relevance and Equivalence (25%)
1. Rather than producing students with designer level expert knowledge, these programmes aims to produce ‘Power User’ or ‘Application Expert’ of today’s technology, who can think logically and creatively about the real problems encountered in a technical job, by applying basic concepts, principles and skills.
2. Majority of technical jobs on offer do not require designer level expert knowledge. Hence, emphasis on mathematics is reduced. Syllabus contents are selected with a clear focus on present requirements of majority of other technical jobs. Syllabus of these programmes prefers subjects, which offers better employment opportunities.
3. Syllabus contents are selected by experts from industries and academic institutions, considering present and future trends in research and industry.
4. Syllabus of these programmes is designed for
(5) Modular and Flexible with Multiple Entry and Exit Points (30%)
1. Admission is given to each subject, rather than to these academic programmes. Round the year, online monthly admission and continuous evaluation pattern is used for each subject in these academic programmes.
2. Contact hours for any subject starts from first day of the month and ends in twenty working days in a single month, followed by immediate online continuous evaluation during last week of the same month.
3. Although recommended sequence of subjects for admission and pre-requisite knowledge required for each subject are clearly specified and communicated, students are allowed to take admission in any sequence to maximum any 5 subjects.
4. Many appropriate subjects are common across these academic programmes. Relative position at the semester is same for each common subject, which enables university to use same common ‘Question Bank’ and ‘End Exam’ for these subjects across these academic programmes.
5. The total syllabus for each semester of these academic programmes is always equally divided among 5 subjects, each of 4 credit points, with first 4 subjects are of theory type and the last one is of practical or project-work type. Contact hours for each subject are as follows:
6. Multiple entry points are provided with exemptions to appropriate subjects to students with variety of educational background like 10th or 12th standard, Engineering Diploma or Graduate Degree in Science.
7. Multiple exit points are provided with appropriate certificate, diploma or degree, after successful completion of all the subjects, specified for the respective certificate, diploma or degree.
v. Academic Infrastructure Quality (15 %)
(1) Library and Learning Resource Centre (40%)
1. University ensures access to adopted textbooks and reference books for all students, by clearly specifying required copies of each adopted textbook and reference book, which each study center is required to purchase before recognition, for book-bank and library.
2. Virtual Classroom Modules (VCMs) requires much larger disk space and Internet bandwidth. Thus, for better cost-effectiveness and ease of offline use, university provides them also on CD, to each study center.
(2) Laboratories (60%)
1. Each study center is required to provide all laboratory infrastructure required to perform each specified lab activity for each practical type of subject.
b. Student Services Quality (20 %)
i. Services Quality (60 %)
(1) Programme Information Quality (10%)
(2) Pre and Post Admission Counseling Quality (10%)
1. Detail programme information is organized in following 4 (Four) documents, which are available for free download in PDF format on web:
§ Prospectus: Essential information for Students
§ Syllabus: Academic Information for students
§ Study Center Manual: Implementation details
for study centers
§ Programme Rules: Programme rules and
procedures for all
2. Well structured website provides anywhere, anytime, fast, easy and cost-effective access to clear programme information for everyone.
3. Discussion forum allows anywhere, anytime, fast, easy and cost-effective interaction among students, study centers and university, regarding clarification of any doubts. After forum subscription, it offers auto email notification about any new interaction, without any junk or virus mail type of problems of email.
4. Well classified past interaction is available for reference to all, which can be easily searched with few keywords, so that answers to most common problems are already available; hence the need for interaction itself is greatly reduced.
5. Intelligent web applications provide step by step clear instructions with intelligent programmatic controls, which prevent student and study centers from committing common errors.
(3) Learning Material Distribution Quality (20%)
1. Study centers are required to purchase in advance, required copies of each specified textbook and reference book for book-bank and library. University provides multimedia learning material to all on web and CD. Hence all learning material is always available to all students, immediately after admission, without any delay.
2. University ensures access to multimedia learning resource like (1) Virtual Classroom Modules, (2) Online Counseling and (3) Self-Test Center, by specifying minimum number of Internet and multimedia ready computers, with free Internet access at each allotted study center, to all students for 6 (six) hours for each subject.
3. Multimedia learning material distribution through asynchronous media like web ensures anywhere, anytime, fast, easy and cost-effective access to all.
(4) Counseling Session Quality (20%)
1. University ensures minimum consistent quality of counseling sessions at each study centers, by using Virtual Classroom Modules (VCMs) from master trainer, followed by interaction with peer students and real teachers during face to face teaching at each study center.
2. ‘Online Counseling’ on web also offers excellent academic support from expert teacher and peer group interaction opportunity, without any geographic place and time separation problems.
(5) Learning Feedback Quality (20%)
1. During only formative evaluation, as an immediate, precise and accurate feedback about learning, all questions with wrong response from the student are displayed back on the screen along with the result of the test. As correct answers are still never disclosed, it promotes exploratory style of learning.
2. Unlimited number of attempts for ‘Online Self-Tests’ provides immediate, precise and accurate feedback about learning, as and when student want it.
(6) Evaluation Quality (20%)
1. University uses both types, that is, formative and summative evaluation for all theory type of course. University does not provide any internal or external choice, for any question in any end exam question paper. As per the blue print for it, all questions are always compulsory and evenly distributed on whole syllabus.
2. University develops well structured, detailed and exhaustive question bank for each course. Only about 30% simpler questions from the question bank are used for both, that is, formative and summative evaluation. Remaining 70% harder questions are always used only for summative evaluation.
3. Least used 50% questions from question bank are only used for formative as well as summative evaluation, which ensures use of only fresh questions.
4. Difficulty level and assigned response time duration for students are dynamically updated based on the past real usage history for each question item.
5. Adaptive algorithm challenge high achievers and motivates low achievers by generation of
8. University ensures longer usability of the question bank as correct answers are never disclosed to any one.
11. University offers continuous evaluation for the subject, immediately after counseling for it, in the last week of the same month. This immediate monthly continuous evaluation pattern dramatically improves effectiveness of teaching-learning process.
12. Just before printing, using question bank, computer generates end exam question papers as per the blue print for each subject. Hence, better accuracy and confidentiality is maintained.
ii. Infrastructure Quality (40 %)
(1) Basic Infrastructure Quality (30%)
1. University ensures availability of required basic infrastructure for all students, by clearly specifying it, which each study center is required to provide before recognition.
(2) Computing Infrastructure Quality (30%)
1. University ensures availability of required computing infrastructure for all students, by clearly specifying it, which each study center is required to provide before recognition.
(3) Communication Infrastructure Quality (30%)
1. University ensures availability of required communication infrastructure for all students, by clearly specifying it, which each study center is required to provide before recognition.
(4) Audio Video Infrastructure Quality (10%)
1. University ensures availability of required audio-video infrastructure for all students, by clearly specifying it, which each study center is required to provide before recognition.
c. Management Quality (15 %)
i Clear Quality Policy visible to all (10%)
1. Quality policy is clearly communicated on website.
2. Model for ‘Total Quality’ of the open and distance education system is clearly communicated on website.
3. Quality systems and procedures are clearly communicated on website.
4. University ensures clear visibility for all by publishing information on website.
ii Continuous Ongoing Quality Training for All (20%)
1. Common course across academic programmes, about ‘Total Quality Management (TQM)’ provides relevant training regarding quality to all students.
2. Majority of quality systems and procedures are web based. Hence, in order to enable better and effective usage, common course across academic programmes, about ‘Computer Fundamentals’ provides relevant activity based training regarding usage of web tools to all students.
3. Once in each year, teachers at each study center are regularly trained with single face to face training programme organized at the university.
4. University ensures anytime anywhere online continuous training to all, as all above training material is also made available on website for free use.
iii Accessible quality feedback systems for customers (20%)
1. With web based ‘Total Quality’ feedback system (which uses hierarchical tree of quality parameters with appropriate importance and 5-point rating system), students and experts can easily provide accurate and precise feedback about quality of each object. After the receipt of feedback, this system immediately provides current average quality ratings along with his rating for the same.
2. University ensures accessibility to all, by using only web based ‘Total Quality’ feedback system.
iv Proactive Systematic Approach (15%)
v Simple and Preventive System (15%)
1. University constantly explores new but appropriate managerial and technical innovations to develop proactive systematic systems and procedures, which are still simple and having clear focus on prevention of problems rather than on correction after its occurrence. These innovations also have clear focus on effectiveness, efficiency, maximization of value-added activities while reducing non-value-added activities.
2. As most problems are built in design itself, nothing was taken for granted from earlier design pattern while designing these new academic programmes. University tries to push the exposure of problems back, towards the starting point of the process, until initiation point is reached which is prevention. Every problem has a cause and every cause is preventable. Obviously, sooner the problem is detected, sooner it can be addressed saving substantial quality costs.
3. University has used highly modular programme design, which uses existing families of standardized multi purpose subjects, with many common subjects across academic programmes.
4. University has used minimum variety of web based systems and tools, so as to maximize simplicity, efficiency and effectiveness and reduce the time required for training to minimum.
vi Accountability with Error Correction (20%)
1. University clearly specifies responsibility for each important function with designation either at university or at study center, which substantially improves accountability.
2. University also clearly specifies responsibility, procedure and time schedule for any error correction.
d. Time Quality (10 %)
i Right at First Time (20%)
ii Right at Every Time (20%)
iii Speed of Response to Query / Feedback received (30%)
iv Time efficiency of systems and processes (30%)
1. Web site provides single point reference for clear programme information for students, study centers and university, with excellent speed of response for any interaction, communication or any information update.
2. University has used minimum variety of web based systems and tools with intelligent controls to prevent any error, so as to maximize simplicity, efficiency and effectiveness and reduce the time required for training to minimum.
3. Every system and procedure is designed for simplicity, hence naturally ensuring right at first time and then every time.
4. Elimination of many non-value-added activities, highly modular programme design with innovative synchronization of many events with realistic time frame substantially improves time efficiency.
e. Cost Quality (5 %)
i More Value for customers (40%)
ii Less Cost for customers and organization (60%)
1. Relevant, employment oriented and up-to-date modular curriculum with multiple entry and exit point provides much more value to students, employers and society.
2. Carefully chosen latest IT subjects, offers enhanced world wide employment opportunities. These subjects also prepare students to earn additional certifications, which are recognized by the IT industries world wide.
3. Highly modular programme design, which uses existing families of standardized multi purpose subjects, with many common subjects at same relative position at respective semester across academic programmes, substantially reduces cost.
4. Minimum variety of web based systems and tools with intelligent controls to prevent any error, also substantially reduces quality costs.
5. Elimination of many non-value-added activities improves cost-effectiveness.
Web is a globally distributed, still highly personalized asynchronous distribution media, for cost-effective delivery of multimedia information and services. Web will have a very strong impact on almost every aspect of how we learn. But best rewards from this technological revolution can be harnessed only when it is perfectly blended with managerial revolution, that is, ‘Total Quality Management’ and ‘Just in Time’.
‘Total Quality’ is the totality of features, as perceived by the customers, of the product or service. Totality of features includes stated as well as implied needs and expectations of all types of customers. No quality improvement is possible without its unambiguous measurement. Hence, ‘Total Quality’ of the learning experience in ‘Open and Distance Education System’ cannot be accessed unless it is expressed in measurable clear terms which include complete spectrum of student support and educational services. A model for ‘Total Quality’ of an open and distance education system is suggested, which allows this clear measurement of ‘Total Quality’ and improvement in it, if needed. It also provides clear guidelines for how to use and integrate various components of web technology to improve ‘Total Quality’ of the learning experience in ‘Open and Distance Education System’.
Application of the proposed model for ‘Total Quality’ and ‘Web Technology’ can simultaneously optimize quality, access and cost. Thus, a better learning experience can be provided even in open and distance education system, which can be comparable with the best.
Gaikwad Madhav, Vadnere Rajendra and Killedar Manoj (1994). ‘Quality Assurance in Open Education System’. Proceedings of the International Conference on 'Open University System and Development' organized by 'Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University', at Nashik, India
Killedar Manoj (2001). ‘Distance Education through Internet Based ELearning’. Indian Journal of Open Learning, Vol 10(1), p 68 - 79, India
Killedar Manoj (2002). ‘Online Self-Tests: A Powerful Tool for Self-Study’. Indian Journal of Open Learning, Vol 11(1), p 135 - 146, India
Noriko Hara and Rob Kling (1999). ‘Students Frustrations with a Web-Based Distance Education Course’. First Monday, volume 4, number 12 (December 1999), URL: http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue4_12/hara/index.html
Scott Eriksen (1995). ‘TQM and the transformation from an elite to a mass system of higher education in the UK’. Quality Assurance in Education, Vol 3(1), p 14 - 29, England
Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2003
The official website of the School of Science and Technology, Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University at http://www.ycmou-st.com/
About the Author
Mr. Manoj Killedar is Director, School of Science and Technology, Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University, Nashik – 422 222, MS, India. His present research interests are applications of ‘Web based ELearning’ and ‘Total Quality Management’ to ‘Open and Distance Education System’ of India.