Fostering a culture of continuous improvement

It’s hard to believe that only a few months ago, campuses were bustling, and lecture theatres, labs and classrooms were full.

Everything changed on March 23rd, as the introduction of COVID-19 Level 3 restrictions meant thousands of educators and learners faced a sudden shift to online teaching and learning.

As an established, fully online tertiary education provider, online learning is business as usual for eCampus NZ. This put us in the fortunate position to be able to reach out to organisations across the country to offer our support, tools and resources to aid their swift transition to online delivery.

Life may be slowly returning to normal, but at eCampus NZ we’ll be holding on to the spirit of community and sharing that was felt so strongly across the country throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

eCampus NZ will continue to share our innovations, experience and expertise in online learning with the wider educational community through our new One-on-One with an eCampus Expert interview series.

To kick off our new series, we sat down with eCampus NZ Curriculum and Quality Manager Jackie Rees, and asked her to share her insights into how her team works to ensure that all eCampus NZ learners receive an education of the highest standard.

Q. I know that your number one priority is the continuous improvement of the eCampus NZ learner experience and outcomes. What role does learner feedback play in this?

Jackie Rees: Collecting and responding to learner feedback is of the highest priority to us. Learners are asked to provide feedback early on in their course, and again towards the end.

They’re given the opportunity to provide feedback on a number of areas, including the level and quality of advice and support given, the quality of the learning resources, whether they were given clear information in order to complete assessments, whether their expectations had been met and whether they intend to continue studying with eCampus NZ.

All learner feedback is collated, analysed and, where improvements are identified, actions are developed, implemented, and tracked for positive impact.

We publish a report called You Said, We Did every two months to show our learners that we have listened to their feedback and actioned improvements where we can.

And we really do listen to our learners. For example, we recently used learner feedback to redevelop the role of the student advisor to provide even more proactive support for all learners. We have also recruited additional student advisors to ensure we can offer the support our learners want and need.

Q. How do qualifications delivered by eCampus NZ compare to those delivered on-campus? What are the similarities and differences?

Jackie Rees: eCampus NZ learners can enrol with one of our eight partners: Ara, NorthTec, WITT, Toi Ohomai, Otago Polytechnic, NMIT, EIT or UCOL.

When learners complete their qualification, it is awarded through their enrolling institute, and is equivalent in merit to the qualifications awarded to learners who choose to study on campus.

When we develop a particular programme of study leading to a New Zealand qualification listed on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, we first investigate which of our partner organisations has a NZQA-approved programme used for campus-based delivery.

The programme of study ‘picked up’ from a partner organisation remains the same in its course structure, course aims, learning outcomes and types of assessments. However, we design and develop the course content and assessments with online delivery in mind.

Essentially, online delivery changes how we deliver a qualification, but the learning outcomes remain the same.

Q. What are your team’s current areas of focus?

The Academic Quality team is dedicated to fostering a culture of continuous self-review and improvement.

Our work centres around asking questions such as: What is going well? What is not going well? How do we know? What are we going to do to bring about improvement?

As part of this, we’re currently working on the redevelopment of a number of existing programmes. In addition, we’ve just finished developing the NZ Certificate in Business (Accounting Support Services) (Level 4), and the development of the NZ Diploma in Construction (Level 6) is underway.

All educators know how important it is to provide learners with clear assessment instructions. Our team has also been working to improve assessment instructions and the clarity and accuracy of marking rubrics. The new format of our assessment instructions means they are more concise, and clearly articulate what a learner needs to do to successfully complete an assessment. Again, this ongoing project comes back to a commitment to continuous improvement.

Our day-to-day work also includes coordinating moderation; collating learner feedback; gaining information and feedback from graduates, employers and other stakeholders; and organising future course occurrences.

We are also responsible for carrying out regular intra-assessment moderation with facilitators. We do this to ensure learners are assessed consistently and fairly in accordance with the assessment tasks and marking rubrics, and that they receive quality feedback and feedforward. This is a very collegial and supportive process.

I’m also part of a number of exciting discussions happening about new developments, including which Programme of Study to develop next.

Q. How does your team collaborate with tertiary organisations across Aotearoa to improve the learner experience and outcomes?

We hold a monthly Opportunities for Improvement Group with representatives of each of our partner organisations. The name we’ve given to these meetings gives you a clue as to why we hold them; we’re always looking for ways in which we can improve our practice and learner experience.

We use these meetings as an opportunity to make sure that we’re all on the same page, and to ensure a consistent learner experience for all eCampus NZ learners across each of our enrolling institutes.

Q. How does your team work with Government agencies to ensure that eCampus NZ programmes meet academic and quality requirements?

As I’ve already mentioned, our learners are enrolled through our quality assured partner organisations. We have to ensure we meet all the quality assurance requirements that our partners do. For example, we were invited by NZQA to participate in NZQA Consistency Reviews and report on the qualification outcomes of each of our graduates who have studied wholly online through eCampus NZ. The outcomes of these reviews are publicly available.

We are the point of contact for NZQA Programme Monitoring, providing course and assessment information, and learner assessment samples for external moderation.

Q. Finally, what’s your favourite thing about your role?

That’s an easy question. What I love most about my role is having the opportunity to help people use education to change their lives.

Are you interested in finding out more about how eCampus NZ delivers outcomes for online learners? Stay tuned for the next post in our One-on-One with an eCampus Experts series. You can also follow us on LinkedIn.

The eCampus NZ learning platform is being closed on 29 February 2024, as part of the completion of the amalgamation into Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga. Therefore, access to courseware for ākonga (learners) will be available for three months post course completion or 29 February 2024, whichever happens first. If you have any questions, please contact eCampus NZ : [email protected] or call 0800 328 269.