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Appropriate education performance indicators for Open Distance Learning (ODL) organisations

Not everything that can be counted counts, not everything that counts can be counted (Einstein)
Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d'Albert E...Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d'Albert Einstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Open Distance Learning (ODL) is different, as is how the unique student base of ODLs impacts Education Performance Indicators (EPIs). The conception of EPIs was introduced in 2010, and the primary intent was to measure and improve the performance of the tertiary education systems. They also determine government funding.
Caroline Seelig suggests that the Open Polytechnic is 'different'. It has a nationwide mandate for delivery (dispersed, consistent provision), and offers single-mode, flexible, specialist, distance delivery (no students on campus). It has a completely different business model, with different cost structures. the curriculum development requires upfront portfolio and courseware development costs, and low ongoing delivery costs. It is neither metropolitan nor regional, which means there is limited community support and advocacy. The student body is quite distinct, with the majority of the 41,000 student as part-timers,, older (76% over 25, and 33% 40+ years), and are in the workforce (70%).
Vanessa gonerilla gonerilla English: NZ Red Ad...Vanessa gonerilla gonerilla English: NZ Red Admiral Butterfly in Wellington, New Zealand Māori: Kahukura (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Some common false perceptions include:
  • ODL is a cheaper mode of delivery: not necessarily, but is cost effective
  • All other providers can easily create dual mode delivery systems that are as effective
  • There is no role for ODL in Youth Guarantee of NEET initiatives
  • The OP student cohort could easily switch to network of face-to-face providers
  • Part time learners in the work force should achieve the same results, at the same pace, as full time face-to-face learners
  • It should be simple to benchmark all ITPs against each other
The government values the part-time learner, but the qualification credit is adjusted according to part-time provision. BUT a student that studies full-time for 6 months gets the same adjustment as a student who studies part-time for 12 months. The ODL model impacts EPIs by providing a 'safety net' role as a national provider for courses other Tertiary Education Organisations (TEOs) can't provide (but who gets the final qualification credit?).
Are EPIs a target to aspire to or just another funding game? And where could EPIs go?
There is huge diversity within in NZ around provision, but what is happening is that the Tertiary Education Commission are using the same ruler to measure these fundamentally different providers. The students are very different too, and, in secondary school deciles are applied to schools, but in tertiary the opposite is true. In tertiary those students from lower socio-economic backgrounds often have less robust support systems in place; therefore those tertiary institutions working with these students should be recognised. There are indications that the focus is on students who are not in employment and then looking at their pay rates and employment filed at 2 and 5 year milestones after graduation.
This provides an interesting insight into the way EPIs can skew the way governments...and students...measure an institution's success.
It is also a call for considering the student holistically, rather than as a statistic performing to a benchmark - it's not just about the Equivalent Full Time (EFT) funding that goes in and the EPIs that come out. There are many associated benefits to ODL, including, for example, freeing up families to provide homecare for children rather than putting the children into childcare while they study, thus providing way more culturally responsive, flexible learning opportunities.

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