Quality Assurance of e-Learning in Italy
The general objective of the BEQUEL project is to develop quality assurance in e-learning provision and practices of VET educators in the involved countries, through promotion of self-evaluation, quality benchmarking and networking between VET providers. To achieve such objectives, the project partners started by examining the existing approaches and pedagogies for quality in e-learning in each of the countries involved in the project.
This article, written by CIOFS-FP Association, the Italian partner of the BEQUEL project, describes the regulatory references and the standards applied for its own e-learning services. It is not exhaustive of all the references / standards adopted at other levels of the Italian education system (e.g. higher education).
Along the years, the focus on e-learning, following European initiatives, has given rise to a large literature of articles, studies, researches and projects aimed at investigating the quality of e-learning provision, comparing the stakeholders' view-points, measuring the pedagogical impact of e-learning and its technologies to eventually exploit the policies conducted in various European contexts at National level.
Formally, the best known Italian regulatory interventions for VET provision that have somehow defined parameters, guidelines, methodologies and standards for distance training and / or e-learning initiatives in VET - to which the CIOFS-FP refers to are:
- Ministerial Directive from 06 August 2004 - about "Training projects in e-Learning mode in public administrations" by the Minister for Innovation and Technologies and the Minister of Public Service, which includes as annex guidelines for training projects in e-learning in public administrations drafted by CNIPA (National Center for Informatics in Public Administration) including guiding principles for the quality of e-learning projects.
- Guidelines 19/140/CR8/C9 from 25 July 2019 and Agreement 20/51/CR8/C9 from 31 March 2020 by the State, Regions, Autonomous Provinces Conference establishing operational indications for VET e-learning, applicable during the emergency phase of Covid-19.
- Guidelines for Integrated Digital Teaching by MIUR (Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research).
- Reference Practice UNI/PdR 89:2020 - Guidelines for remote and blended learning management system in schools of all levels by UNI Italian Standardization Body.
This last document aims at providing schools and VET agencies with an organisational model of reference to keep under control all teaching activities and to guarantee to school users compliance with both the relevant legislative requirements and the achievement of qualitative models defined for distance learning in the training offer of the individual school/VET provider.
During the pandemic period, all relevant authorities, (the Ministry of education, the Ministry of Labour, national and local authorities) advised universities, schools and accredited VET providers to offer e-learning opportunities and provided some operational indications on distance learning. They also signed agreements with the national TV (RAI) and many firms and associations to put at disposal of VET agencies and schools free use of e-learning platforms. They provided instructions on the design of teaching and training activities, on special support for vulnerable groups (learners with disabilities, youth-at-risk, laid-off workers and migrants) and on evaluation/assessment of distance learning activities.
To assure the quality of e-learning training services, the majority of VET providers have revised the existing Quality Management System tools in light of the new didactic and pedagogical reality, focusing, above all, on collecting feedback from learners, trainers and families and reviewing training processes and products accordingly. Nonetheless, all of them focused on monitoring parameters such as log-in data, effectiveness of learners' connection, tracking attendance, intermediate tests and interactivity with trainers and learning simulation, rather than the whole quality process of any training provision.
Great efforts were made to cope with urgency and to guarantee continuity of training provision and, at the same time, to train the trainers on the use of the best ICT technology. It is now necessary to use the lessons learned and reflect on the didactic and pedagogical issues, as well as the technological ones, but also to design and guarantee a common quality framework of the whole process of e-learning provision, and to allow benchmarking of e-learning practices of EU VET education providers.