What is quality in distance learning? Evaluation of distance teacher training
The method project Evaluation of distance teacher training was initiated as a review of the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education´s 2004 evaluation of the new teacher training programme. The project is also part of a long-term venture within the National Agency with the aim of developing general quality indicators and methods for evaluating higher education provided at a distance and using modern information and communication technology.
Most of the data collection was done using a web survey directed at students on distance teacher training programmes. The evaluation includes an overall analysis of the quality of the teacher training programme which was offered as a distance programme in the spring of 2006. Individual programmes were not assessed.
Among other things, the evaluation shows that distance learning versions of the teacher training programme are often clearly adapted to the labour market. Half of the longer distance programmes evaluated were geared towards mathematics, natural sciences and technology, and five of them led to a teaching qualification directed at pre-primary education. The distance students´ possibilities of choosing the specialisation of their programme themselves seem comparatively limited.
The demands made on distance students appear high in this evaluation — even if the picture varies from institution to institution. The description of the teacher training programme in the National Agency´s previous evaluation — in which it was said to be too permissive in parts, and of a low academic level — has been questioned by both students and representatives of the higher education institutions.
The evaluation suggests that the (subject-) didactic teaching which is part of the teacher training programme primarily occurs during the in-service training parts of the programme (abbreviated VFU in Swedish). As the integration of the in-service training and the theoretical parts of the programme was criticised, and as VFU in practice turned out potentially to consist of everyday work for the distance students rather than tutored training carried out in various education environments, the quality of the skills training offered in several of the distance programmes appears dubious.