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BUKA Blog

European Maturity Model for Blended Education

NOTE: This blog post is based on a presentation made at the online BUKA development meeting for BUKA project teams held on 25 November 2021.
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The Maturity Model for Blended Education was created in collaboration with six European universities and universities of applied sciences. The model is a practical and easily approachable tool for developing education on three levels:  course level, degree program level, and institution level.

The European Maturity Model for Blended Education (Van Valkenburg et al. 2020) was developed in 2017–2020 in an international Erasmus project carrying the same name as the main output of the project: European Maturity Model for BlendedEducation. Project partners and the authors of the maturity modelrepresent well-established European open universities: TU Delft from the Netherlands, KU Leuven from Belgium, Aarhus University from Denmark, Dublin City University from Ireland, University of Edinburgh from Scotland, and Tampere University of Applied Sciences.

Background for the Maturity Model

The research behind the model was carried out using the Delphi method: the research phase included three rounds of Delphisurveys at the participating universities. The model was compiled in its final form by TU Delft.

The model is a practical and easily approachable tool for developing education on three levels:  course level, degree program level, and institution level. The model is not designed for comparing the performance of different universities, but rathersupporting internally development processes of universities.

Maturity and Quality of Blended Education

The model makes a distinction between maturity and quality, although the concepts are related to each other. Maturity is understood in the model as a broad concept, within which quality can be realized in different ways. The Maturity Model does not represent a new or a competing quality framework for higher education institutions, and it takes into consideration that universities usually have their own quality criteria frameworks. Maturity and quality are defined in the model as follows:

Maturity

“The concept of ‘maturity’ relates to the degree of formality and optimization of the design, evidence-based decision making, documentation and continuous quality improvement which characterize the uptake of blended learning practices, or the implementation of blended learning conditions and strategies.” (Van Valkenburg et al. 2020, 5).

Quality vs. Maturity

“Quality approaches can be in place within each of the maturity levels. However, maturity does not equal quality. Moreover, it has been observed that repeated blended learning practice at a particular maturity level does not result in an actual increase in maturity.” (Van Valkenburg et al. 2020, 5).

Application of the Model

The European Maturity Model for Blended Education is dividedinto three parts: Course level, Degree program level, and Institute level. When applying the model, the actors should first consider,on which level they intend to focus their development activities.

Course Level

In the model, the course level includes four main dimensions:1. Course interaction2. Course experience3. Course design process4. Course flexibility

The Course experience and the Course design Process are further subdivided in the model.

Program Level

According to the Model, the maturity of degree programs can beassessed in three dimensions:1. Program flexibility2. Program experience3. Program design process

Two dimensions: the Program design process and the Programexperience are further divided into sub-dimensions.

Institution Level

On the level of the educational institution, the Model includes eight dimensions which do not have sub-dimensions:1. Facilities2. Finances3. Governance4. Quality assurance5. Institutional support6. Institutional strategy7. Sharing and communities8. Professional development

Applicability of the Model

The European Maturity Model for Blended Education was created before the Covid-19 pandemic times. Although it was designed to be applied particularly for blended learning, it fits perfectly also for hybrid learning, as the model itself is presented on a rathergeneral level. 

The model is easily approachable. Probably the easiest way to take the model into use is to assemble a team, and then present theappropriate part of the model on the screen, one dimension or subdimension at a time. It is usually sufficient to discuss only 1 to 3 dimensions during a team session. According to our experience, even reflecting openly just one dimension during a discussion session can bring up several concrete and fruitful ideas for developing the blended and hybrid learning in your educational institution.

References

EADTU (2020). European Association of Distance TeachingUniversities. https://eadtu.eu

Van Valkenburg, W., Dijkstra, W., de los Arcos, B., & Goeman, K. (2020). European Maturity Model for Blended Education. https://lirias.kuleuven.be/retrieve/566442

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BUKA Blog

Dummy Installation of Offline Cellular Network

In September 2021, the Universitas Terbuka (UT) – BUKA Team explored the strength and weaknesses of the available proprietary and open-source softwares to be used as an operating system of the Internet Offline Server. Based on its functionality and affordability, the Linux operating system was selected. Network and IT technicians in Indonesia are also familiar with the Linux operating system, and it is easy to maintain and update programs.

The first package of the Internet offline infrastructure includes a mini pc, cellular network antenna, omnidirectional antenna, point-to-point bridge already set in place.

The dummy installation server parameters in developing the offline Internet system used the following specifications:

  • Operating System – Ubuntu 20.04 or Debian 11
  • 64bit mini-computer
  • 8G RAM Memory
  • 512 GB SSD

The mini-personal computer is quite easy to install as it requires only 10 cm square dimension with DC power supply. For the BUKA pilot project, some of the main applications supporting e-learning services are also installed, such as 
Apache web server, MariaDB database server, and PHP; Moodle for e-learning; and Kiwix for offline Wikipedia.


Meanwhile, the supporting intranet network operations use the following applications: 

  • Bind dns servers
  • Server SSH
  • DHCP Server
  • SAMBA File Sharing server

Details of the installation and configuration of various server applications on the Offline Internet systems are now available in UT’s Learning Management System. The first on-site installation will take place on the last week of March 2022. The process of server installation and team discussion during the pilot installation can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3u3rdUM87Bg. Setting the configuration of the cellular network and the point-to-point bridge is documented in the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsl2nfoHV30.

The UT-BUKA team will also publish a book entitled Internet Offline System Design: UT-Akses for Student in Remote Areas.

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BUKA Blog

Equity and access to higher education through open and distance/online learning

In this blog post I am focusing on the key theme of the BUKA project, the promotion of equity and access to higher education through open and distance/online learning. In 2010 I began working on open education, online, undergraduate programmes with an open access entry policy and flexible progression routes in Dublin City University (DCU). It did not take long for me to be completely won over to principles of open education and widening participation in higher education as I worked with learners who would not have been able to pursue their educational goals without a flexible, online, open access option. Any number of reasons can cause an individual to not be in a position to take up full-time or even part-time on-campus study, for example: lifeload issues such as those relating to employment or caring responsibilities; geographical location; or disabilities. I firmly believe in removing the barriers that block entry to, and successful participation in, higher education. This open education work aligns with DCU’s institutional strategy of changing lives and societies, specifically in the area of widening participation, as well as (Irish) national and European Union objectives for increasing participation in higher education, especially in adult learners. Although, it has to be said these objectives often do not match up with the resourcing of open education, for example in Ireland my online learners are defined as part-time even if taking a full-time equivalent credit load, and are blocked from receiving the public funding and financial supports they would be entitled to if they studied full-time on-campus.

Image by analogicus on Pixabay

One of the best aspects for me of participating in the BUKA project was to be able to join a community of colleagues in Finland, Malaysia, The Philippines, and Indonesia who are as invested as I am in providing, and improving provision of, equitable access to higher education through high quality distance/online learning. The ambitious projects being pursued by the project partners involve many innovative approaches to: building staff capacity in inclusive learning design approaches; using learning analytics to improve student success; addressing gender gaps in higher education participation; and developing technological infrastructure solutions to the issue of geographically remote, disadvantaged learners’ access to higher education. These are only some examples of project goals and I have learned so much from watching the projects develop and from being able to place my own local practice in a more global context.

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BUKA Blog

Supporting teachers in Innovative Flexible Learning through BUKA REACH Peer Facilitators Training Program

Despite the new challenges, the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) is determined to continue working as a team to pursue quality, equity, and flexibility in education. Teachers are challenged not only to protect their health but also to adapt new teaching methods in the pursuit of quality learning. We know it’s not going to be easy for teachers, but we need to find a reason to be optimistic and to keep moving forward. 

A community of learning has been organized to support teachers in adapting to the “new normal” of teaching and learning. After one semester of the Innovative Flexible Learning (InFleX) modality, teachers are sharing experiences and seeking to improve their teaching practice for another implementation cycle. A peer facilitators training program has been designed to facilitate the discussion of learning experiences and the adoption of essential skills for teaching in the new normal. Facilitators use coaching methods to assist their peers in the implementation of the InFLeX modality. In planning training topics and activities, the REACH (Relevant, Engaged, Active, Connected, and Holistic) design is used.

Relevant topics and skills to be learned 

InFLeX promotes a balance between synchronous and asynchronous sessions in online/remote classrooms. However, implementing this in real online/remote environments is challenging. It is important to model online/remote classrooms with well-planned asynchronous learning activities. Thus, the training program for peer facilitators has a good mix of synchronous and asynchronous sessions. Asynchronous activities include sharing good practices regarding students’ engagement and assessing learners in a remote teaching environment. In the synchronous sessions, the participants discuss with experts important pedagogical issues such as Keeping Students Engaged and Motivated, Maintaining Integrity of Assessment, and Student Support & Community of Learning.

Engaged teachers in a community of practice

One semester of InFleX implementation has shown that student engagement is crucial but difficult to address in a remote learning environment. In the asynchronous discussion, teachers shared their experiences and reflected on how to improve their remote teaching practices. But while the discussion was very rich, we found that some teachers were not contributing to the discussion board. To address this problem, peer facilitators were assigned to each group of teachers to open a conversation about the challenges they encountered in accomplishing the training task. The positive relationship between the peer facilitators and teachers improved teachers’ involvement in the training activities. 

Active participation

Authentic e-learning is used in designing the activities to encourage active participation. For example, teachers review and reflect on the course syllabus using a checklist. They also talk with their colleagues about how to improve it before the second semester implementation. During this process, peer mentoring plays a vital role in the improvement of the course materials, with the mentor supporting the teacher in pedagogy and technology use instead of advising a specific action. We believe that teachers should own their innovation. 

Connected teachers

Since teachers are working from home, technology tools (i.e. Facebook chats and MSU-IIT’s online learning tools) are maximized to support communication and collaboration in order to keep teachers connected. It is evident that peer mentoring promotes a mutual relationship where the focus is on developing the mentee’s growth. Moreover, peer facilitation with small groups of teachers engenders success in accomplishing the assigned tasks. 

Holistic and continuous professional development 

As a community, we need to make some necessary transformations in our teaching methods to build a healthier and more resilient environment. We are one in exploring new pedagogical approaches for remote teaching and learning. There are no right or wrong approaches at this time, and it is essential to listen to each other’s experience and collectively identify what is best for our students. 

Holistic planning, implementation, and evaluation of the BUKA peer facilitators training program is an ongoing process. Teachers will continue to learn and develop their teaching skills as we strive to maintain excellence in teaching and learning using the new modes of delivery. 

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BUKA Blog

BUKA promoting equity and access in open and distance learning – more important than ever!

BUKA Project Kickoff Meeting at Penang, Malaysia
BUKA Project Kickoff Meeting at Penang, Malaysia

When the BUKA project was launched in February 2020, the team had no idea what was lurking behind the corner. The kick-off meeting was held in Penang, Malaysia, and the partners from Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Ireland, and Finland were able to meet face to face, get to know each other, make plans, and spend time together. Just a few weeks after the meeting, the nature of the project changed unexpectedly as the Covid-19 pandemic started spreading all over the world.

All of a sudden, the focus of the project – equity and access in open and distance learning – became even more important than it was before. Although online learning was seen as an important area of development in all partner countries already before the pandemic, now the core questions of the project have become a high priority in universities worldwide. How can we provide engaging learning opportunities for students with diverse backgrounds in an online learning environment? How do we ensure that the learning design of our distance learning courses best supports student learning? How can we create online learning resources and materials that are accessible and pedagogically meaningful? How do we help staff members to develop the skills they need for designing and teaching online courses? 

The project team has not been discouraged by the unusual times. Although travel has been impossible, the team has developed effective ways of connecting and working online. At the moment, the partners are busy designing local pilot projects that help tackle the open and distance learning challenges. The BUKA project is now even timelier than we could have imagined!