It’s worth noting that Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), the statutory agency with responsibility for the external quality assurance of further and higher education and training in Ireland, also plays a role in regulating online courses. At the beginning of the pandemic, QQI was involved in supporting education and training providers that had no choice but to move online at short notice.
QQI has produced a set of guidelines for the design of blended learning courses, in which it advises that a blended learning programme should include a combination of: online learning resources developed for online delivery; access to learning technologies such as a virtual learning environment; tools to support virtual learning and off-campus learning; online activities to support assessment; face-to-face tuition; and assessment submitted, marked and returned to learners with feedback through electronic or other media
Students who are in doubt about an online or blended course should ask the college or course provider if they meet all these criteria, and whether the course is QQI accredited.
QQI also suggests that institutions have a strategic plan for blended learning; if they do not, it’s possible they may be winging it. This is not always or necessarily a bad thing, as newer courses are sometimes designed, to an extent, on the fly, but it is one to watch out for.
The inner workings and finer details of QQI, which is heavily focused on regulation, policy and education, can be difficult to wade through, but the organisation itself has a well-developed set of policies and practices that it requires further and higher education institutions to follow. For more information see: qqi.ie