Quality Assurance in Open and Distance Learning: Reflections on Quality Assurance in

Abid Shah Hussainy

Year:    2005
Category:   Education Quality
Source:   EQ 2005 – Pakistan 4th National Conference on Quality Assurance in Education, Lahore
Publisher:   PIQC Institute of Quality

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Author’ Introduction:   

Abid holds a postgraduate degree in Environmental Management and Development from the Australian National University, Australia. He has overall 10 years experience of environmental and social impact assessment in Pakistan. He has specialized four years experience of carrying out environmental impact assessment for oil and gas sector, industries, and water resources management projects in Pakistan. He also carried out environmental and social assessment of World Bank projects, environmental trainings and audits for Honda Atlas, IUCN Pakistan, environmental assessment, and social audit, environmental monitoring, for Premier oil (PKP). Abid also conducted environmental surveys and community consultation in Kirthar National Park for Environmental Protection. He is a faculty member at Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development AKU-IED as teacher educator, teaching and doing research in the area of Environmental Education, Gender and Education, Educational Project Management and Strategic Planning and Development to M.Ed students from Africa, Central Asia, South East Asia and Middle East. He was among with core faculty team for developing course on Gender in Education, Educational Project Management and Strategic Planning at AKU-IED. He was lead researcher along with Dr Adam Nayyer a cultural anthropologist on World Bank study on assessing the impact of drought on community well-being and belief system. He has documented leadership dynamics, music, culture and indigenous knowledge in Kirthar National Park with Dr. Nayyer.


Defining quality for education has always remained problematic and challenging. The challenge of defining quality in educational setting has raised several questions, such as; what do we mean by ‘quality ‘in education? Do we need a definition of quality? What are the means of measuring quality? What could be the program to improve quality? Quality is mostly defined in terms of Learners learning and outcomes of the course. The Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development (AKUIED) began its operations in 1993, with a specific focus on improving the quality of teaching and teacher education, leading to school improvement in Pakistan and the wider region. This case study of AKU-IED is based on faculty reflection of teaching Open learning master’s degree elective course of Environmental Education. This case study will endeavor to address these conceptual questions regarding quality through experience sharing. Open Learning (OL) at AKU-IED is committed to the development of flexible learning resources of high academic quality for Learners learning. It was envisaged by the institution that the “developed materials for distance learning program should be attractive, of high quality and above all should be educationally sound in terms of our learning contexts”. This statement sets the agenda for quality assurance for OL program at AKU-IED.
The paper will draw on Purser Model and project cycle management approach to define quality assurance and its mechanism of assurance in OL course. The learning from this experience is that the OL quality assurance can result in independent learning of learners. The areas ( attributes) to consider for quality of OL program are , institutional quality assurance mechanism ( process and procedures), provision of contextually relevant learner support, facilitation by faculty, mode of delivery, quality of learning material, opportunities for interaction between learners and face to face support by faculty. Furthermore, there is need to develop indicators for each quality attributes in order to define the quality. This paper will also attempt to define some of the quality indicators in order to contribute in the scholarly discussion in quality of OL education in Pakistan and in developing countries.