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Quality enhancement

Quality assurance and quality enhancement in e-learning

Martin Oliver writing on HEA EvidenceNet

The Quality Assurance Agency describes quality assurance as “the means through which an institution ensures and confirms that the conditions are in place for students to achieve the standards set by it or by another awarding body” (QAA 2004), and quality enhancement as “the process of taking deliberate steps at institutional level to improve the quality of learning opportunities…. Quality enhancement is therefore seen as an aspect of institutional quality management that is designed to secure, in the context of the constraints within which individual institutions operate, steady, reliable and demonstrable improvements in the quality of learning opportunities” (QAA 2006).

Cites arguments that quality assurance does not lead to quality enhancement - QA focused too much on accountability.

Assurance vs Enhancement - Raban 2007

While it’s useful in identifying the need for different types of quality enhancement, the Raban paper has a few holes in clarity and structure.

Raban, first defines 5 types of enhancement using three axes

The 5 types of quality enhancement are

  1. reward/surface/improvement; e.g. a teaching fellowship that rewards past performance. Only contribution to future improvement is as acting as role model for colleagues

  2. investment/surface/improvement; e.g. a teaching fellowship that tasks the fellow with specific responsibilities for improving L&T. Staff development and dissemination of good practice fits here.

  3. investment/deep/improvement; Aiming to address underlying conditions. e.g. improve aspects of infrastructure, equipment and resources e.g. replace one LMS with another, perhaps upgrade an LMS

  4. investment/surface/innovation; Individual educators re-examining the fundamental assumptions of existing practice…transformational change

  5. investment/deep/innovation. Transformational change to the management, culture and structure of an institution Does a change in structure really count as deep? Perhaps could be part of culture change.

QW4 and QE5 are identified as “strategically driven innovation”.

The need for change

Raban (2007)

The improvement of teaching and learning and the dissemination of good practice are important; and conventional approaches to quality management can provide the intelligence and stimulus for this kind of enhancement. But these approaches are not conducive to more fundamental action on the deeper institutional factors that impact on teaching and learning; nor are they conducive to the promotion of innovative (and risk-taking) practice and the creation of new curricular and organisational structures. For this we require a ‘modernisation’ of our quality assurance systems that would facilitate risk-taking and anticipate its possible consequences.

Doing this is made more difficult due to the nature of how external QA processes work.


Raban, C. (2007). Assurance versus enhancement: less is more? Journal of Further and Higher Education, 31(1), 77–85.