voorkaftThe second and updated version of the E-xcellence Manual was launched at the 25th Anniversary Conference in Pafos/Cyprus. If you're interested in a hard-copy, please contact the secretariat@eadtu.eu. A PDF-version is available at the dedicated E-xcellence label site.
E-learning has become mainstream provision in European higher education and is essential in supporting lifelong learning and internationalisation. By becoming integral part of higher education, e-learning should also be integral part of the QA systems, internal and external, with related innovative and appropriate criteria.
In a recent report (E-learning Quality (ELQ) – Aspects and criteria for evaluation of e-learning in higher education. Report 2008:11R) the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (NAHE) has surveyed the work on quality assurance of e-learning in higher education on a European level in nine selected countries. One conclusion is that quality in e-learning is a non issue for many, especially for the quality assurance agencies. In the NAHE report, it is suggested that the same criteria for quality should be applicable to e-learning as it is to traditional campus-based education. The accreditation, audit and assurance process of e-learning should therefore be integrated in the national framework and not be evaluated separately. To this end, there is a need for methodological development within quality assurance agencies. At the same time, there is a need for increased cooperation between national agencies as e-learning enhances the development of borderless education. (From ENQA seminar Sigtuna 10/09).
Although initiatives on QA in e-learning are running for some years now it is still restricted to some interested universities. The QA agencies put QA in e-learning only recently on their agenda and are searching for the expertise for setting the specific criteria and indicators. The expertise and responsibility for QA in e-learning is however in first instance within the universities. The universities have taken that responsibility by sharing expertise in developing the E-xcellence instrument. Further integration of the benchmarks in the institutional QA systems of the universities as well as the QA-agencies is necessary to mainstream QA in e-learning European wide within the existing channels. The E-xcellence instrument was from the start developed as a building block to the existing systems, not interfering with the current models, but fitted for integration.
e-xcellence_manualE-xcellence Manual
The newest version of the E-xcellence Manual has been launched on 28th September 2012. If you are interested to receive a hard-copy, please contact the secretariat@eadtu.eu. You will be the first to receive the newest version!
A PDF-version can be downloaded on the E-xcellence label site here

The European Association of Distance Teaching Universities - EADTU is Europe’s leading association for Lifelong Open and Flexible (LOF) learning in distance Higher Education (HE). (www.eadtu.nl). As well as e-learning, the model of LOF learning embraces the characteristics of open learning, distance learning, online learning, open accessibility, multimedia support, virtual mobility, learning communities, dual mode (earn & learn) approaches, and the like.
The focus of this manual is Quality Assurance for e-learning in Higher Education. It is the main product of the E-xcellence and the E-xcellence+ project, undertaken under the auspices of EADTU and involving a pool of experts from altogether 20 European institutions with a stake in e-learning developments.
In a first stage (2005-2007), the E-xcellence instrument has been developed. In the second stage (2008-2009), E-xcellence was updated with the involvement of some 50 universities and 10 assessment and accreditation agencies in intensive local seminars (national level). Also, the instrument was finetuned to blended learning situations (in cooperation with ESMU).
Quality Assurance in HE has received much attention at the institutional, national and European level through validation centres, universities (and their umbrella organisations), quality agencies, national ministries of education and the like. These have established systems to cover the full organisational and content-related quality assurance of HE institutions and their programmes. However, few of these systems have so far developed a focus on the parameters of quality assurance governing e- learning. This has therefore been the objective of the E-xcellence project.
It has not been the intention of the project to interfere in any way with existing systems of quality assurance, and this manual is not a comprehensive guide to QA procedures even in the context of "pure" e-learning provision. It is assumed that institutions and regulatory bodies will have a defined set of processes which provide for the development, monitoring, evaluation and enhancement of HE provision. This manual offers a supplementary tool which may be used with these QA processes to allow the consideration of e-learning developments as a specific feature. An important aspect of the E-xcellence project is that it offers a European-wide standard, independent of particular institutional or national systems, and with guidance to educational improvement.
1.1 Purpose of the manual
The primary purpose of the manual is to provide a set of benchmarks, quality criteria and notes for guidance against which e-learning programmes and their support systems may be judged. The manual should therefore be seen primarily as a reference tool for the assessment or review of e-learning programmes and the systems which support them.
However, the manual should also prove to be useful to staff in institutions concerned with the design, development, teaching, assessment and support of e-learning programmes. In providing a set of benchmarks, quality criteria and notes of guidance it is hoped that course developers, teachers and other stakeholders will see the manual as a useful development and/or improvement tool for incorporation in their own institutional systems of monitoring, evaluation and enhancement.
1.2. Context
It is intended that the manual will be relevant to a wide range of e-learning contexts, including blended as well as pure provision. Where e-learning is offered alongside other forms of learning as part of an integrated or blended learning programme it is important that the evaluation of these components takes place alongside those delivered by other means so that the relative merits of different teaching/learning approaches and the role of e-learning in overall provision can be determined. A set of performance indicators, both qualitative and quantitative, chosen to reflect the effectiveness of the programme as a whole, need to be employed.
One of the characteristics of an e-learning environment is the sheer amount of monitoring information which may be made available relative to more traditional methods of learning. Most e-learning platforms provide for an extensive level of monitoring and feedback, and student learning behaviour is usually more easily tracked and recorded in an e-learning context than in a traditional classroom. Also, external reviewers are able to gain access to the full range of course materials and to sample the delivery of the programme directly. This has obvious advantages for evaluation but also certain potential disadvantages associated with the sheer volume of data and opinion available. It is hoped that by focussing on specific benchmarks and criteria, institutions will be able to develop performance indicators which are fit for purpose in their own context.
1.3. Feedback
EADTU is committed to supporting the continuous improvement of e-learning programmes and intends to produce a web-based supplement to the quality manual giving examples of good practice identified by contributing organisations. EADTU therefore welcomes feedback from any organisation which may be able to contribute to the good practice guide.
1.4. Organisation
The manual is organised into six sections covering strategic management, Curriculum design, Course design, Course delivery, Staff support and Student support. Each section follows a similar format setting out benchmarks, critical factors, performance indicators, and assessor’s notes.
The benchmarks provide a set of general quality statements covering a wide range of contexts in which programme designers and others work. It is intended that the benchmarks will be relevant to virtually all e-learning situations. These benchmarks might usefully form the basis for institutions' quality self assessment where the full range of criteria and performance indicators are not judged relevant to the institutional context (e.g. in situations where e-learning developments are confined to a minority of courses or to specialist areas of the institution's work).
The critical factors and performance indicators which follow then focus on particular topics relevant to the benchmark statements. Not all the critical factors will be relevant in all situations and several will be seen to cut across more than one benchmark statement. Thus there is not a one-to-one relationship between the benchmarks and the critical factors since they are pitched at different levels of analysis. Performance indicators relating to the critical factors have been developed at both general and excellence levels.
The Assessors notes provide a more detailed account of the issues and the approaches which might be taken to meet requirements in each situation.
2 Strategic Management Benchmarks

1. The e-learning strategy should be embedded within the teaching and learning strategy of the institution.
2. The institution should have e-learning policies and a strategy for development of e-learning that are widely understood and integrated into the overall strategies for institutional development and quality improvement. Policies should clearly state the user groups and include all levels of implementation, infrastructure and staff development.
3. Investigating and monitoring emergent technologies and developments in the field of e-learning and anticipation for integration in the learning environment.
4. The resourcing of developments in e-learning activities should take into account special requirements over and above the normal requirements for curricula. These will include items such as equipment purchase, software implementation, recruitment of staff, training and research needs, and technology developments.
5. The institution should have an e-learning system integrated with the management information system (registration, administrative system and VLE) which is reliable, secure and effective for the operation of the e-learning systems adopted.
6.When e-learning involves collaborative provision, the roles and responsibilities of each partner (internal and external) should be clearly defined through operational agreements and these responsibilities should be communicated to all participants.
Downloaded the Manual on the E-xcellence label site here.