This part of the framework describes the support of trainees and trainers in a Blended Learning Course. This framework uses benchmarking and therefore offers a continuous enhancement option.
The framework is based on the E-xcellence Framework of the EADTU published for the use of e-Learning in Higher Education. The use of E-xcellence quality associates label in this context has been done with the agreement and consent of the EADTU (European Association of Distance Teaching Universities).
In case of any adaption of the benchmarks to suit the context of VET, the original benchmark may be found in the comments below . The original framework is available from E-xcellence Framework EADTU
This framework uses benchmarking and therefore offers a continuous enhancement option. In the following approach, the E-xcellence Benchmarks are given, and in agreement with EADTU, additional comments are given to understand them.
Additional content has been taken from the Grundtvig Multilateral Project “Blended Learning Quality-Concepts Optimized for Adult Education” (with the EU project number 539717-LLP-1-2013-1-IT-GRUNDTVIG-GMP) as a transfer of the project results from Adult Education to Vocational Education and Training. EFQBL, Digilab and Fundación SAFA were active partners in that Grundtvig Project.
Additional feedback from guided interviews with SM trainers or responsible leaders for the Training in SMEs is integrated in this part of the framework.
The adaptation has been done using the existing definitions and descriptions, but altering them and adapting them to the typical environment and use in the context of Vocational Education and Training. Since the support for trainers and trainees is very different to Higher Education some not relevant benchmarks have been dropped. Additionally, the benchmarks for support of teachers and support of students (as available in the original framework) have been combined to the topic “support”.
The text has been adapted in writing and in terminology to the typical VET environment. Some well-fitting statements have been taken without any changes.
The need of support
Support is necessary for trainees and trainers. Support for trainers is an issue of the organization, support for the trainees addresses both trainers and the organization.
Trainees are likely to work with flexible schedules. Static information such as course specifications are always available. Trainees must be provided with all the information in an easy and accessible way. The best solution is to use the Distance Learning platform as a central access point to all materials (training, instruction, support and other related issues).
The provision of additional support (help desk or advisory services) should also be provided at times appropriate to the trainees’ need.
Trainees should be provided with an identified training contact who will provide feedback and support. Trainees may also be supported through online communities, but this should be realized using the learning platform (and not by using the public available social networks).
Support for Trainers
- Staff in academic, media development and administrative roles can adequately support the development and delivery of e-learning components.
This benchmark requires institutions to demonstrate that they provide effective support to their staff in addressing the challenges of e-learning.
A good performance in this area will be achieved by institutions that have secured the commitment of a broad section of their staff, not simply those who are enthused by technological developments.
If an institution is to integrate e-learning into the mainstream of its programmes, all academic and other professional staff must be confident that they can exercise their professional skills in this area.
Competences related to development and delivery of e-learning should be included in job descriptions and considered routinely in performance review.
This Benchmark is only minor significant relevant for SME trainings.
- The institution ensures that appropriate training and support is provided for staff and that this training is enhanced in the light of technological and educational developments.
Staff must be adequately supported in learning the software and technical systems that they are required to use.
Academic and administrative staff must have access to a comprehensive suite of training opportunities that equip them with the capabilities to operate the software and hardware necessary for them to contribute effectively in an e-learning environment.
- Training may be provided by:
- induction programmes on appointment
- training associated with the introduction of new systems
- updating programmeson-line training materials
- helpdesk services.
The institution ensures that appropriate training and support are provided for staff and that this training is enhanced in the light of technological and educational developments.
In this context trainers need an adequate education or training for the software and technical systems that are being used for the training. The training organization is responsible for comprehensive training opportunities tailored to the needs of the trainers (involved in the Blended Leaarning). This equips the trainers with the necessary capabilities to handle techniques and software for performing effective training and handling the learning platform properly.
Training can be provided by:
- Induction programmes on appointment
- Training associated with the introduction of new systems
- Updating programmes
- Online training materials
- Trainings organized by umbrella organisations, or professional bodies
- Helpdesk services or
- Specific InService Trainings tailored to the current needs.
- Educational research and innovation in e-learning are regarded as high status activities, and are promoted by career development incentives.
This benchmark is designed to assess the extent to which e-learning activity is highly regarded within the institution.
Poor performance in this area may indicate that the achievements of staff working on e-learning developments are not widely recognized. Improvement may require the introduction of new reward structures.
Academic staff must become willing and effective users of the pedagogic techniques available to them.
Institutions must foster an environment that encourages and supports the development of pedagogic skills and expertise amongst its staff. Recognition of these in its structures of reward and esteem is an important factor.
Educational research and innovation in Blended Learning (e-learning) are regarded as high-status activities and are promoted by career development incentives (BM 27).
This benchmark is designed to assess the extent to which Blended Learning activity is highly regarded within the institution.
Training staff must become willing and effective users of the training techniques available to them.
Institutions must foster an environment that encourages and supports the development of training skills and expertise amongst its staff. Recognition of these results in its structures of reward and esteem is an important factor.
- There are mechanisms for the dissemination of good practice based on experience and research on e-learning.
The provision of support for staff in the pedagogy of e-learning is essential if e-learning is to be implemented as an integral component of institutional activity.
Professional development seminars and symposia on pedagogic issues need to be organised (and well attended).
Internal and external publication on pedagogic issues related to e-learning must be encouraged. The institution must support the research and development of e-learning pedagogy.
Tutorial and other support staff must be encouraged to take part in pedagogic developments.
There are mechanisms for the dissemination of good practice based on experience and research on Blended Learning (e-learning, BM 28).
The provision of support for staff in the training of Blended Learning is essential, if Blended Learning is implemented as an integral component of institutional activity, or in Continuous Vocational Education and Training (C-VET). Innovation in education and new developments should be seen as a key activity for training staff. The involvement of staff in those tasks should be respected, acknowledged, and rewarded.
Professional development seminars and symposia on training issues (as well as learning theory and modern developments) need to be organized (and well-attended).
Internal and external publication on training issues related to Blended Learning must be encouraged. The institution must support the research and development of Blended Learning pedagogy (and future developments like Flipped Learning).
Tutorial and other support staff must be encouraged to take part in training developments.
- The institution ensures that issues of staff workload, and any other implications of staff participation in e-learning activities, are taken into account when managing courses or programmes.
Good performance against this benchmark will indicate that the institution has addressed the changes in working practice that e-learning demands.
Poor performance may indicate that institutional workload planning has not kept pace with technical developments and that a review process should be implemented.
The introduction of a new system changes well established patterns of working and formalises interactions between groups of staff that previously operated on an accepted custom and practice basis. New formalised procedures may be regarded as an increase in workload and may have a negative impact on attitudes towards the system.
Significant changes in operations (e.g. the introduction of devolved teaching involving tutors/mentors) may create a new tier of activity. The institution should therefore model the workload implications of new modes of operation and develop appropriate staffing plans and workload norms.
This benchmark can be taken without changes
- Adequate support and resources (e.g. technical help desk and administrative support) are available to academic staff, including any affiliated tutors/mentors.
All staff should have access to technical support in the use of the e-learning environment and the hardware and software used in teaching. This may be provided by a helpdesk service. For those working remotely, technical support can be provided online or by telephone.
Effective administrative support should be provided to all staff involved in the development and delivery of e-learning courses and programmes, including tutors/mentors working on a part-time basis.
The introduction of e-learning may create new administrative tasks or shift the administrative burden to different staff (e.g. the administration and management of teaching activities devolved to tutors/mentors). The impact on staff should be assessed and workloads adjusted if necessary.
Staff should be supported in the acquisition of information and media materials necessary for them to fulfill their role in the development and delivery of e- learning.
Adequate support and resources (e.g. technical help desk and administrative support) are available to training staff, including any affiliated tutors/mentors (BM 30).
Training staff should have access to technical support in the use of the technical systems (especially for the learning platform as a central tool for the Blended Learning based training).
The introduction of Blended Learning may create new administrative tasks or shift the administrative burden to different staff (e.g. the administration and management of teaching activities devolved to tutors/mentors) or enlarge the workload for the trainers (for example by trainer-trainees online interactions). The impact on training (and administrative) staff should be assessed and workloads adjusted if necessary.
Support for trainees
- Students are provided with clear and up-to-date information about their courses including learning and assessment methods.
This benchmark is designed to assess the extent to which an institution offers support to students before they commit to undertaking their e-learning studies, as well as during their studies.Good performance against this benchmark will indicate that the institution has directed its attention to informed student recruitment and effective preparation for study by e-learning.
Students must be informed through course information of the pedagogical skills they will be expected to use during their study. Preparatory materials for the acquisition of required learning skills must be available to students in advance.
The institution should monitor the needs of their students in order to inform their planning of support services for e-learners. Different student groups may display differing experience of relevant technologies and learning methods.
E-learning students are likely to use online access to investigate programme availability; a curriculum map and advisory notes should be prepared by the curriculum design team and be available to potential students from programme launch.
Data information about the courses
Trainees are provided with clear and up-to-date information about their courses including training and assessment methods.
This benchmark is designed to assess the extent to which an institution offers support to trainees before they commit to undertaking their Blended Learning training, as well as during their training.
Trainees must be informed of the training skills they will be expected to use during their study. Preparatory materials for the acquisition of required learning skills must be available to students in advance. In Blended Learning courses the first Onsite Training is used to clear all relevant issues to use the Learning platform (organisational, technically, and from the viewpoint of digital competences).
The institution should monitor the needs of their trainees in order to inform their planning of support services for Blended Learning. In typical SME-organices training courses the homogenity from the vocational experience is given, nevertheless, different trainee groups may display differing experience of relevant technologies and learning or training methods.
Trainees involved in Blended Learning are likely to use online access to investigate programme availability; a training map and advisory notes should be prepared by the training design team and should be available to potential trainees from programme launch and provided in several different forms (paper, e-paper, information from the training platform).
- Students are provided with guidelines stating their rights, roles and responsibilities and those of their institution. Guidelines of specific relevance to e-learning include provision of hardware, information on accessibility and expected participation in collaborative activities.
Good performance in this area indicates that the institution has fully addressed its responsibility to provide adequate information to students on e-learning programmes. The information may be derived from that provided for face-to-face students but should be presented in an integrated form. Students following e-learning programmes should have easy access all information relevant to their mode of study.
Students need to be advised on what the institution will provide to support their learning (e.g. support for any special requirements), and also what expectations are placed on students themselves (e.g. that they can access appropriate computer hardware; that they will take an active role in collaborative learning tasks etc.)
Trainees are provided with guidelines stating their rights, roles and responsibilities and those of their institution. Guidelines of specific relevance to Blended Learning include provision of hardware, information on accessibility and expected participation in collaborative activities.
Good performance in this area indicates that the institution has fully addressed its responsibility to provide adequate information to trainees on Blended Learning programmes. Trainees following Blended Learning programmes should have easy access to all information relevant to their mode of training.
Trainees need to be informed of what the institution will provide to support their learning (e.g. support for any special requirements), and also what expectations are placed on trainees themselves. Specific measures and means for the use of multiple devices (and the adequate provision of those) are set. The same way guidelines for specific training tasks in which trainees will take part should be communicated in time (for example an active role in collaborative learning tasks etc.).
A special focus is laid on the promoting of active training (as a modern and promising training method) and sustained training methods.
- Online social networking opportunities are provided in order to build and support student communities. This may be achieved using the institution’s VLE or through external social networking sites, as appropriate.
The traditions of higher education place a high value of student participation in a community of scholarship. This benchmark is intended to evaluate how these traditions of participation are translated to the e-learning environment.
Creation of online communities of students is important as it reduces the isolation that may be experienced by many online learners. Tools for online contact enable students to share learning-related concerns and problems with their peers, going someway to replicate the mutual support mechanisms available to campus based students.
Online communities may be formed by students (or staff) in external social networking environments such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Consideration needs to be given to handling any problems that may arise (such as collusion, disagreements among students, privacy issues, blurring of boundaries between social and academic life).
Institutions must identify those “community centred” activities that are essential to the achievement of course objectives and those activities that are essentially social in nature. In development of policies regarding participation in an online community the institution should make comparisons between the requirements on e-learners and those on campus based students in equivalent activity.( For example, is attendance at lectures and tutorials mandatory and monitored?)
The institution should provide guidelines on appropriate behavior in respect of informal collaboration during study, and should apply an etiquette code to online exchanges. Students should be strongly encouraged to apply these etiquette codes in any public social networking spaces which they use in relation to their studies.
Social Networking Opportunities to build Communities
Online social networking opportunities are provided in order to build and support student communities. This may be achieved using the institution’s VLE.
The creation of online communities of trainees is important as it reduces the isolation that may be experienced by many online learners (especially when the training switches from poor face-to-face training to Blended Learning). Tools for online contact enable trainees to share training-related concerns and problems with their peers and are available from the training platform.
The use of social network environments additional to the learning platform should be avoided (due to GRDP reasons, the secrecy of company-relevant content, knowledge and specific restrictions and the precondition to use a centralized platform).
34. Students have access to support services including technical help desk, administrative support and course choice advice.
Good performance against this benchmark indicates that the institution has designed and implemented a comprehensive suite of learner support services that address technical support, learning and broad counseling requirements.
An institution may perform well against some of the factors identified and less well against others; actions for improvement may therefore be needed on a topic by topic basis.
The staff resources on which students may draw, the roles undertaken by different staff and the levels of support available should be made clear to students at the start of their course or programme.
Where there is a transition from either face-to-face or distance learning to e-learning, the staff roles should be redefined to ensure that they adequately address the requirements for support of e-learners.
There should be mechanisms for students to give formal feedback on their experience of the course or programme, and to receive staff responses.
Trainee Support Services
This benchmark can be taken without changes, but it is necessary to check the different situation between universities (as the origin of the framework) and in SMEs or umbrella organisations.
Students have access to learning resources including online library access, study skills development and a study advisor.
Many aspects of student support are provided via access to resource materials and services.
The library service is one aspect of resource provision that is widely available to campus based students: extension of the service to online students is essential for effective delivery of many HE programmes. Digital (online) library facilities provide a good solution for e-learners, as well as being useful for campus based students and staff.
Support for the development of e-learning skills can be an important contributor to student success. Potential students be advised on the services will be available to help them develop the necessary skills. Responsibility for this may be managed at institutional level by a library or information services division.
Study advisors should be available to help with course choice. Modular programmes may be difficult for students to understand, particularly at the outset of their studies. The institution should therefore make every effort to help students to construct a programme that addresses their needs.
Learning Resources and Libraries
Trainees have access to training resources (or repositories) including online library access, training skills development and a training advisor.
Many aspects of trainee support are provided via access to resource materials and services.
The library service is one aspect of resource provision that is widely available to employees (in SMEs). Digital (online) repositories provide a good solution for Blended Learning as well as being useful for the future use of employees.
Support for the development of Blended Learning skills can be an important contributor to the trainees’ success. Potential trainees must be advised on the services, so they will be able to help them to develop the necessary skills.
For public trainings training advisors should be available to help with course choice. Modular programmes may be difficult for trainees to understand, particularly at the outset of their planning. The training institution should therefore make every effort to help trainees to construct a programme that addresses their needs.