- Mansoor Al Awar: “Benchmarking Framework is compelling evidence of the success of the proactive efforts led by HBMSU to improve global higher education”
The Consortium for Benchmarking Framework for Online, Open, Smart, and Technology-Enhanced Higher Education and International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) organised a roundtable at UNESCO World Higher Education Conference (WHEC2022).
The policy dialogue was aimed at informing and engaging stakeholders - including policymakers and quality assurance agencies - to further improve the quality of online, open, distance and technology-enhanced education.
The roundtable titled: “Quality in online, open and distance higher education across borders: A multi-sectoral, cross-country policy dialogue” was part of the main program of the UNESCO WHEC2022 and brought together Presidents and CEOs from member institutions of the consortium as well as accreditation agencies and international associations. The WHEC2022 - which aims at reshaping ideas and practices in higher education to ensure sustainable development for the planet and humanity - is the most important event across the world in higher education this year.
The roundtable was hosted by Ms. Torunn Gjelsvik, Secretary General, ICDE and Prof. Moustafa Hassan, Vice Chancellor for International Cooperation, HBMSU while the panelists included HE Dr. Mansoor Al Awar, Chancellor, Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University, UAE (virtual participation), Dr. Deb Adair, President, The International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education, US, Prof. Asha Kanwar, President and CEO, Commonwealth of Learning (COL), George Ubachs, Managing Director, European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU) and Prof. Hussein Baghirov, President, Western Caspian University, Azerbaijan.
The policy dialogue was also aimed at fostering discussion on how higher education institutions can benefit from this freely available and internationally developed benchmarking framework tool to improve the quality of technology-enhanced education. It emphasised on the importance of symmetrical evolution of the field of online higher education and its quality assurance standards to create a sustainable dialogue among all stakeholders and an ecosystem with free information-exchange. Ms. Torunn Gjelsvik, Secretary General of ICDE, highlighted in her opening statement that “It is crucial that the national and regional qualification frameworks and quality assurance and accreditation agencies include and integrate online, open and distance education.”
H.E Dr. Mansoor Al Awar, Chancellor of Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University (HBMSU) - one of the founding members of the Consortium for Benchmarking Framework - shared with the audience how the benchmarking framework for online and open universities can improve online and open education quality and efficiency.
He said: “We are delighted to collaborate with ICDE and other member institutions to facilitate international cooperation and successful exchange of best practices and latest research data. The importance of such conferences, which nourish global conversation by diverse perspectives on higher education, can be gauged by the fact that the UNESCO views the process of collective construction as its greatest value. Through the Consortium for the Benchmarking Framework for Online, Open, Smart, and Technology-enhanced Higher Education, we look forward to leading a journey of change in the higher education system. We aim to transform the system to be dynamic and flexible, evolving with the needs of the digital era.”
His Excellency said that the rapid digital transformation of education, which accelerated more during COVID-19 pandemic, dictates the need for all stakeholders - academic institutions, ministries of education, quality assurance and accreditation agencies - to keep the same fast pace by continuously synchronizing their quality assurance standards with new developments in the evolving field of education. “This requires a sustainable dialogue among all stakeholders, facilitated flow of information and exchange of best practices. This is one of the major challenges to be addressed if we want to stay relevant and manage to ensure robust quality of online higher education without slowing down its progress,” he added.
Dr. Deb Adair, President of INQAAHE stated that “There is a large global gap in understanding the best practices for online programs and online education providers. We cannot ignore the diversity in this field. There are education providers online that have been designed for this purpose. Besides knowledge providers outside academia, there are also growing numbers of traditional universities that are maintaining and growing their online learning activity. We require efforts like these to help us build an international community that can further improve benchmark expertise.”
Dr. Al Awar emphasized the strategic importance of the Benchmarking Framework for Online, Open, Smart, and Technology-enhanced Higher Education in strengthening the prospects for inter-institutional cooperation and improving the effectiveness of standards to ensure quality in online higher education.
This policy dialogue also encouraged participating universities to use comparative analysis to evaluate their performance across critical dimensions relevant to online, open, and technology-enhanced higher education. Prof. Hussein Baghirov, President of the Western Caspian University, shared his views about the Benchmarking Framework initiative that “It provides us with a different philosophy when the diverse experiences of various universities are presented for the careful consideration of all stakeholders. It is a more effective way. It is also more efficient as it allows one to develop an understanding regarding how other universities achieve a certain quality, what they did, and how they did it.”
The panelists discussed the importance of improving the quality of technology-enhanced higher education beyond the traditional higher education accreditation processes. Regional and global perspectives on quality assurance parameters for online, open, and distance education was also discussed. Emphasis was also given to data collection, transparency and privacy protection using a dedicated website for collection, presentation, and comparison.