Key topics

Blended and online education

A consensus is emerging that blended education, a term that embraces various combinations of classroom presence and online study, will become the most common approach to teaching and learning in higher education. Technology is now widely accepted as a normal part of university education, by both students and teachers, and is seen by many as the solution to problems such as scaling up with limited funding.

In the Digital Pro Project, EADTU exchanges between researchers and innovators on synchronous hybridblended and online distance learning

Diversity & Inclusion in open and online education

Open Universities and many other education institutes have the dedicated task to organise education for disadvantaged groups of students, by offering them easily accessible learning paths made fit for a great diversity of students. 

EADTU runs a Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion.

Online Education in the (post-)COVID era

The COVID-19 crisis has made universities switch to digital education and re-organize the campus. Expertise is now needed on digital education and on the professional development of staff in order to strengthen strengthen the capacity of universities to provide high quality, inclusive education. Contributions will address digital teaching and learning, educational technologies and ecosystems and student readiness for digital education, enabling universities to enhance first emergency pedagogies during the crisis:

- synchronous hybrid learning: based on settings that have in common that both on-site or ‘here’ students and remote or ‘there’ students are simultaneously included (synchronous) hybrid learning

- blended learning: based on a course design with a deliberate combination of online and offline learning activities

- online and distance learning: based on a course design with a continuous physical separation between teacher and learner, synchronously and asynchronously.

Read more in the Digitel Pro Project.

Micro-credentials for continuous education (Short Learning Programmes & MOOCs)

Young adult learners are looking for small units of study that meet their goals and develop higher education-level skills. They want to be awarded with qualifications recognising the depth and level of learning based on a trusted assessment.

(International) micro-credentials are already awarded to MOOC-based programs worldwide (Micro-Masters, nano-degrees, ), organised by universities and MOOC platforms. Also, short learning programs for continuous education / continuous professional development deliver a variety of awards (certificates, diplomas, .), many times irrespective of the level and size of the program. As a consequence, it is almost impossible for academics and employers to estimate the value of these awards and learners can’t valorise them appropriately.

Read more in Projects (Microbol) and the European Mooc Consortium website. 

European university networks, internationalisation and virtual mobility

Jointly with the growth of blended and online education, innovative modes for mobility are created as a complement to physical mobility enhancing the learning experience and opening new opportunities for intensive collaboration between universities.

Read more on our Virtual Mobility website.

Quality Assurance in Blended and Online Education

Quality assurance approaches in higher education are well-established, but it is important to develop quality assurance and enhancement methods which apply to new modes of teaching and learning. The teaching, support and assessment - whether online or face-to-face - needs to be of a high standard, so that students are challenged and engaged. Quality assurance frameworks can help to make this happen.

Artificial Intelligence in teaching and learning

EADTU member organisations are exploring latest developments in the support of teaching and learning. In this respect, recent publications like machine learning, the use of artificial intelligence and learning bots are of interest to be further considered.

Artificial intelligence concepts in education can be used for adapting learning materials and exercises to the needs of each student, e.g. to bridge knowledge gaps or to enrich courses materials. It can individualize learning adjusting activities to the learning rate of students. It can differentiate learning according to personal interests or to specific scientific or professional competences.

Contributions exploring the state of the art research and innovation as well as institutional strategies on artificial intelligence will be considered.

Staff Support services in online and distance education

The Staff Support services focusses on the implementation and support of (new) educational concepts, approaches, structures and instruments within the student services & IT of our universities. The issues covered relate to all actions and regulations of supporting the Student Life Cycle.

Short Learning Programmes

Short Learning Programmes (SLPs) or short degree programmes are a group of courses (units, modules or other learning building blocks) with a common subject focussing on specific needs in society. In a modular design approach, they can be part of larger degrees. Different typologies and names exist throughout Europe. They are an essential contribution to continuing education professional development provisions, meeting shorter study time horizons of working learners and awarding them with a formally recognized qualification. SLPs therefore also play an important role in the discussion on introducing microcredential qualifications.

Read more in our E-SLP Project.

Open education and MOOCs, European MOOC Consortium

Open education is a collective term for institutional practices and initiatives that broaden access to learning outside of traditional education systems.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are open education offerings that have a global outreach to many students, because the are designed for large numbers of participants; the are accessible for anyone anywhere by the internet; they are open to everyone without entry qualifications; they offer a full/complete course experience online for free, optionally with a paid assessment.

The European MOOC Consortium is strengthening the credibility of massive open online courses (MOOCs) as a learning approach in higher education by taking a leading role in developing the discourse relating to MOOCs and other innovative developments in online learning in Europe.

E-assessment

Online assessments were practiced for formative evaluation as well as for examinations as an emergency solution during the COVID crisis. Assessment is an cacdemic responsibility which must respond to several criteria, which require educational experience and expertise. The assessment must be reliable, which means that it is really measuring performance avoiding "noise" and grades can be granted. It should also be valid, measuring learning outcomes or competences it is promising to measure in terms of content and level. In online examinations, it is also important that all conditions are fulfilled for ID verification, eg by proctoring or online techniques. Not fulfilling such conditions has already led to cheating and the rejection of examination results of large groups of studentsby examination boards. Formative assessment can deliver extensive data for learning analytics in order to improve both teaching and learning.

Qualification of microcredentials, short learning programmes and MOOCs

Continuing education and professional development become a core area of provision in the European higher education. In this area, microcredentials, short learning programmes and assessed MOOCs-pathways are new academic education formats which can be credited after assessment. They can be awarded with a qualification, notably after study periods varying from 5 to 30 ECTS, which are recognized by academia and by employers or professional organizations (eg psychology, medicine/health care, accountancy). To harmonize these qualifications, a qualification framework is needed, linked to ECTS, the European Qualification Framework and other criteria.

The Common Microcredential Framework delivers such framework for programmes with a bandwidth from 4 top 6 ECTS. These programmes offer opportunities for building degree programmes out of stackable modules and for organizing mobility by mobility windows. However, a comprehensive continuing education framework should entail a set of qualifications covering different programme sizes and levels by which universities can develop a continuing education policy.

Changing the European Educational Landscape

The COVID crisis has caused a disruption in the European educational landscape, leading to a changing pedagogical landscape at a never imagined pace. This regards notably new pedagogies based on technology-enhanced learning design, a shared responsibility for blended and online courses by course teams supported by education services, organizational changes supporting teaching staff and programme boards, new format of assessment and examinations (sometimes after legal interventions) and the re-allocation of budgets.

In another context, also very far-reaching, universities are now engaged in European university alliances (EUI) in which they collaborate for developing joint programmers, share courses and course packages and in which staff and student mobility are organized. This requires new collaborative education and mobility formats, accessible by all students in a (joint) programme. Universities in the alliances were already aware that this was impossible without blended and online course delivery and mobility. By the COVID crisis, they wer urged to accelerate these developments, sometimes improvising or capitalizing on each other experience and expertise.

This changing pedagogical landscape has made universities aware of the need for professional development of staff at the institutional level, but also in the context of the collaboration within the alliances. Course teams need support from education services and CPD on new teaching and leaning formats. Alliances need to develop collaboration and mobility schemes, supported by the same services, notably teaching and learning, internationalization and legal services; and the student and course administration. In many universities, all lectures halls are now equipped with screens and voice recording, and new educational and technological ecosystems will be developed. These new ecosystems must allow intensive digital education, small group interaction, and last but not least flexible access by all students and external learners in continuing education and professional development settings.

This leads to strengthening the European pedagogical landscape, offering excellence and inclusion by cross-border synergies.