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Tian Belawati on Managing Quality Assurance in a Mega University...Final Global Learn 2011 Keynote
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Professor Tian Belawati is the final keynote here at Global Learn. She is at a giant university--the Open University of Indonesia with over 650,000 students. We both keynoted a conference in the Philippines last year but it was from a distance, so this is the first time we have actually met. I have really enjoyed listening to her ideas yesterday at the keynote panel. (Note: As with my previous post on Gilly Salmon's keynote on Tuesday, I am typing this on the fly. Please excuse the typos.)

Tian's talk is "Managing Quality Assurance in a Mega University." Tian Belawati. As indicated in the bio posted at the Global Learn website, she is the Rector at Universitas Terbuka (UT), the Indonesia Open University. Universitas Terbuka.

She is so interesting and filled with data. Tian argues that there is much strength in open and distance universities in opening access to education in Asia and around the world. The opening of access is undeniable. It is not just online supplements but a way to expand access to education. The first open university was in the UK in 1969 and in Asia, the first one was in Pakistan in 1974. Now 12 of the largest universities are in Asia serving more than 8 million students. Amazing and a statistic we rarely hear about in North America. Her list of open universities and their size is impressive (wish I had a copy). She notes that open and distance universities are as much a political symbol as it is an educational tool.

As time goes by, it is no longer just a question of access. Tian tells us that now the focus is quality. It must be on quality or open universities will be looked as second class and lower. In the late 1980s or early 1990s, there was an increasing focus on quality--such as adding tutors or mentors and the communication between them and the students. So how can ICT help? Many open universities are designed to be flexible and open. They want access to the system. But translation of the idea of openness is complex. You do not want to limit the age of the student, the start time, the registration period, etc. No one can be denied unless he or she dies or graduates. The audience laughs. This is the only way to come off the database.

It is difficult. You must flag things. So governments set up reviews and accrediting agencies and organizations to give guidance as to the minimal standards and other quality factors. Tian then asks us, what is quality in face-to-face (FTF) instruction? She then notes that much lies in the professor. It is a fairly simple model. But it is much less simple in open and distance learning. For one, the designer of the content will likely not be the one who mediates the instruction or who assesses the learning. The mediated part is the challenge. The teaching and learning is mediated, both print and online.

We have to consider more factors and management. Need good course writers. Good curriculum materials. Good tutors. You need good across the board. Many parts to the system and each is critical. Need everything done in accordance with principles of learning as well as principles of open and distance learning, flexible learning, etc.

Terbuka (her place) was started in 1984--to be flexible, affordable, accessible, and open. She was there at the start. She says that today they must use technologies that the people have personally or can access in a local center. The mission is to provide services to those who do typically not have a chance to attend other universities. Head office is in Jakarta with 369 academic staff and 567 administrative staff. They manage all operations from there. There are 37 regional offices and 400 academic staff and 498 administrative staff. About 1,800-1,900 staff in total. Of their students, just 1,000 are outside of Indonesia.

Total students are 646,467 as of the fall 2010. About 82 percent of the 646,467 are practicing teachers and 65 percent are females. Wow. They can join in face-to-face (FTF) or online tutorials. Before the students can register, there are many considerations. Must invite experts from other universities for many things--writing test items, developing curriculum. The main operational activities are complex--there are needs analyses, rewriting course materials, rewriting of test items, etc.

So many activities. There are 974 courses written by 1,000 writers. Students can take any one of them at any time. Interesting, that 100 percent of the content must exist in printed form. This is to help those who do not have technology access. There are over 22,000 tutors every semester to help conduct the FTF tutorials. There are 575 online tutors for 552 online courses for over 13,000 students.

How do they prepare the tutors? This is a huge issue. This is instructor training. They also need exam rooms. There are 741 cities for 21,781 exam rooms each semester, simultaneously around the country. Also there are 12 cities in other parts of the world for 369 other students. There are over 40,400 exam supervisors or proctors. Over 2,100,000 course exams processed in a semester. And then there are floods, tsumanis, earthquakes, and bad weather. In fact, boat problems arise. For instance, a ferry once sunk carrying one-half million dollars of course materials. Wow. What did she do then, someone asks...? Tian says, they that they immediately resent them. So they must have prepare and create a lot of structure within their internal quality assurance (QA) system.

Starting in 2001, they made a commitment for a very strong QA system. They have 10 people on the committee. They found a AAOU draft of a QA framework and used it. It look much planning and thinking. So then they came up with a best practices statement. Need to take into account many things: policy and planning--there are 7 statements of best practices, human resources recruitment and development--9 statements of best practices; the learners--10 statements; learning supports, media for learning, assessment of student learning--15 students; course design and development; etc. Given all of these concerns, they have many manuals. For instance, manuals for academic administration, student services, promotion and partnerships, course and examination materials, development and distribution, general, etc. These are all manuals--there are more than 71 manuals for different things. Auditors must look for certain things.

QA is enforced in various ways. They have a certified audit (my interest is peeked now, since I am a former auditor and CPA). The Ministry of Education monitors this process. There are also external assessors--the International Council for Open and Distance Learning (ICDE) as well as the International Standardization Organization (ISO). They have had positive reviews but Tian realizes that they must keep focusing on quality issues. They cannot be content. There are many management aspects. There are many aspects to and processes within the system. And most of them are not electronic.

She stops now and takes questions. She has started with the Open University of Indonesia in 1984.

A question comes up about technology. She says that the Internet cafes are not the same in Indonesia as in Melbourne. They do use a suite of tools. But need the supplementary materials. This includes mobile learning tools. She warns her curriculum and course development staff and tutors not not be too heavy in the Websites or any technology resource or tool.

A question comes up about interesting stories (this is my question)--She talks about a 93 year old graduate. She also mentions a mother who graduated at the same time with her daughter and her primary school teacher. There are many many more. Students from different regions of the country--and one month after graduating get a new job that changes the lifes of many people. Many once in a lifetime experiences are shared with Tian over the years. Someone in the audience adds his own story. He mentions how students struggle to get an Internet signal. Interestingly, he is one of their tutors.

I also asked a question about her quality assurance components and the manuals which are in place. Theo Bastiaens from the Open University of the Netherlands mentioned a quality assurance in e-learning model that is often used--this instrument is based on the E-xcellence manual containing the benchmark statements, with the criteria and indicators. It is free online.

A question comes up about the types of course offerings. They do not have engineering or medical courses.

And then a question comes up about quality at the individual level. She discusses quality standards. There are contracts and evaluations. It is part of the QA system.

She started as an editor for course materials back in 1984. Was doing work in agriculture economics. After that, she headed a research institute. Research on the field of distance education.

We start discussing skills and competencies in today's world. People must be flexible and adaptive. People must be able to do many things.

I ask her what didn't she note during her keynote that are hot buttons. Tian notes that the QA system is being transformed now. They do not want people to feel it is all imposed from the top. She wants the stakeholders involved--the academic departments, for instance. Many instruments developed for evaluating quality. Give triggers so do not get lost. Topics like plagiarism arise. Exam supervisors and empathy with students arises so they must rotate exam supervisors.

In the end, Tian Belawati gave us another fascinating keynote and a good way to end the week. It was great to meet her and I hope you can too.
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 2:47 PM  
  • At 5:41 PM, Blogger Shoba Bandi-Rao said…

    I agree. Quality is the ultimate goal whether inclass or online.

    Thanks for posting the detailed info, Curtis.

  • At 5:41 PM, Blogger Shoba Bandi-Rao said…

    I agree. Quality is the ultimate goal whether inclass or online.

    Thanks for posting the detailed info, Curtis.

  • At 5:50 PM, Blogger SM said…

    Thanks Curt for blogging during the two sessions. Yes, we are indeed very privilege to have Tian to give us so much time yesterday and today in this Global Learn conference. I really enjoyed both the formal and informal sessions this morning. Cheers Siew Mee

  • At 7:24 PM, Blogger KDD said…

    Thanks Curt.

  • At 7:57 PM, Blogger Tian Belawati said…

    Thanks Curt, very interesting to read your note about my speech. I hope it shows case the uniqueness of a mega university to the audience. I enjoyed meeting you all.

  • At 8:12 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    My pleasure. You were simply fantastic. Many of my students are reaidng this post and finding out about you. They all say "wow."

    You have much responsibility there...and given it is a mega-university, you have done much not just for the people of Indonesia, but for the world...this is certain. And there is more to come.

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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