In 1996 the Centre for Educational Technology and Distance Education in the Department of Education stimulated a process to develop a quality assurance framework for distance education provision. The Centre (then the Directorate: Distance Education, Media and Technological Services) contracted a research team to assist with the development of discussion document entitled A Distance Education Quality Standards Framework for South Africa. After extensive comment from members of the newly formed National Association of Distance Education Providers of South Africa (Nadeosa), a policy statement was prepared, Criteria for Quality Distance Education in South Africa. A Policy Statement (Department of Education, 1998).
In 2002/2003, the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC), responding to a concern from the Minister of Education as well as from numerous stakeholders that quality issues in distance education needed to be addressed, requested the South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE) to develop a set of strategies for the quality assurance of distance education. One of these strategies was a comprehensive set of criteria for quality distance education agreed by the distance education community. The decision was taken to use the 1998 Criteria and revise these in the light of developments in distance education and quality assurance in the intervening years.
The revised document was then workshopped at the annual conference of Nadeosa on 28 August 2003, and distributed for comment to all participants after the conference to enable comment from the organizations which the participants represent. A final document was prepared, incorporating the comments both during and after the conference.
The document was tabled as part of the set of strategies for the quality assurance of distance education at a meeting of international distance education experts in Cambridge UK at the end of September 2003. From this meeting arose a proposal that the revised Criteria for Quality Distance Education in South Africa, together with a document entitled Provider Readiness to Offer Programmes Using Distance Education/Electronic Learning Methods could be looked at by Nadeosa with a view to adoption by and publication for Nadeosa members.
NADEOSA decided to host a workshop on 12 November 2003 to celebrate African Universities Day. The purpose of the workshop was to:
- Discuss the proposed set of strategies for the quality assurance of distance education emerging from the HEQC process;
- Present for further comment the revised Criteria and Provider Readiness documents;
- Discuss and reach a decision about the proposal for Nadeosa to adopt, publish and use the two documents.
The group agreed that the findings should be published together with case studies and some guideline as how to implement the criteria. A conceptual/editorial group was been appointed under the leadership of Tessa Welch of Saide to take the project forward.
The publication was finalized in 2005 and is available for downloading:
- Designing and Delivering Distance Education: Quality Criteria and Case Studies from South Africa. Section One.
- Designing and Delivering Distance Education: Quality Criteria and Case Studies from South Africa. Section Two.
- Designing and Delivering Distance Education: Quality Criteria and Case Studies from South Africa. Section Three Case Studies 1 - 7.
- Designing and Delivering Distance Education: Quality Criteria and Case Studies from South Africa. Section Three Case Studies 8-14.
In 2012 three further case studies were added to the collection:
- The first case study from the University of Swaziland A Case Study of Regional Strategic Alliances Toward Offering a Professional Psychosocial Support Programme illustrates the quality criterion on collaborative relationships.
- The second new case study Good Practice in Community Engagement: A Case Study of Household Food Security in the Eastern Cape illustrates good practice on how ODL providers should form partnerships with other stakeholders in order to address development challenges faced by communities around them.
- The third case study from the University of Pretoria is entitled The Potential of Mobile Phones in Supporting Open and Distance (ODL) Learners. The case study illustrates attempts made by and open and distance learning (ODL) provider to harness appropriate and relevant technology to enhance learner support.