Chapter 17 - Flexible and Distributed Learning (including e-learning): code of good practice

  1. Purpose of this document.

    This document is intended to guide staff involved with the planning, design, operation, monitoring and review of Flexible and Distributed Learning (FDL) programmes in order to ensure that:

    a) the University is compliant with the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Code of Practice in this area and
    b) the academic standards and student experience for all awards delivered wholly or partly through FDL are of comparable standard to those delivered in more traditional methods on campus.

    Information in this document includes the University’s interpretation of the definition of FDL, responsibilities of the Colleges, the level of student support that should be made available and links to other useful documents and the relevant QAA precepts.

    This document should be considered alongside other relevant documentation in the TQA, including:

    Programme and module approval
    Annual Quality Review
    ELE – Code of Good Practice
    Assessment, Progression and Awarding; Taught Programmes
    Credit and Qualifications Framework

    Special provisions for online programmes offered in partnership with Keypath Education are set out in a document of that same name, which has the same force as this Code of Practice. The special provisions should be read in the context of this Code of Practice, and unless the Special provisions for Online Programmes offered in partnership with Keypath Education make clear, the provisions of this Code remain in force. In the event of inclarity or uncertainty, the matter should be referred to the Dean of the Taught Faculty.

  2. Definition of FDL

    Flexible and Distributed Learning as defined by the QAA in the Code of Practice: Collaborative Provision and FDL is 'any educational provision leading to an award, or to specific credit towards an award, of an awarding institution delivered and/or supported and/or assessed through means which generally do not require the student to attend particular classes or events at particular times and particular locations.’
    The University regards FDL as teaching, learning and assessment that:

    - does not require a student’s place of study to be physically located on any of the University’s campuses
    - does not assume that a student’s programme of study is necessarily delivered directly by the University
    - does not assume that a student is necessarily directly supported by staff of the University
    - does not assume that a student is routinely working with other students
    - does not necessarily require assessment of a student’s achievement to take place at the University.

  3. Responsibilities of the Colleges

    Colleges are responsible for ensuring that the following principles are adhered to:

    1. Academic standards and awards
      1. The academic standards of all awards made under FDL arrangements must meet the expectations of the UK academic infrastructure and are equivalent to other awards delivered by the University.
      2. All FDL provision should take due regard of all University guidance and codes of practice relating to learning, teaching and assessment as provided in the TQA manual.
      3. Programme specifications and handbooks should include the scope, coverage and assessment criteria of the programme and refer to subject benchmark statements where appropriate.
      4. Study time and assessment levels and programme content should be comparable with face to face provision and particular attention should be given to accessibility issues.
    2. Programme development
      1. FDL programmes should comply fully with the University’s programme approval processes and timetable as defined in the Programme Approval section of the TQA.
      2. Programmes should be fully costed and accounted for, accurately and fully. Time taken for staff to develop suitable teaching and assessment material and provide adequate student support should be built into the programme costing.
      3. FDL programmes are subject to the normal University Quality Assurance and annual monitoring as for all other University programmes.
    3. Learning Opportunities
      1. The quality of learning opportunities offered through FDL arrangements should be of the highest standard and enable the students to attain the academic standards required for the award.
      2. Opportunities should be provided for students on FDL programmes to participate, and benefit, in a wide range of learning activities.
    4. Staff
      1. Staff engaged in the delivery or support of FDL programmes are appropriately qualified for the role.
      2. Periodic training and revision sessions should be employed and the PDR process used to review the efficiency and effectiveness of staff supporting FDL delivery.
      3. Particular attention should be given to ensure that staff are fully trained and briefed in issues relating to plagiarism and copyright.
    5. Admissions criteria
      1. Admission to FDL programmes should be governed by the same criteria as for other University programmes.
    6. External examiners
      1. External examiners’ procedures apply equally to FDL programmes. This includes appointment, and involvement in the assessment procedures and reporting.
      2. External examiners should be given open access to all course material, including assessment and feedback.
    7. Information for current students and potential applicants
      1. Information made available to FDL students should be comparable to that received by students studying on campus.
      2. Information for students should clearly state what is expected of them and any timetables that must be adhered to, including web-based conferences and tutorials. Course material should be full, unambiguous and readily available.
      3. Where programmes involve elements of FDL, the nature, extent and specific particular demands of these elements should be clearly identified and explained.
      4. Information on the appropriate channels for complaints and appeals should be made clear and all students made aware of the University’s policy on plagiarism and academic misconduct.
      5. Information for current students and potential applicants should be updated annually.
      6. Programme specifications should be clear on the requirements for optional choices and the feedback mechanism. They should also include a clear schedule of the delivery of study materials and assessments.
      7. For prospective applicants it must be made clear the extent of autonomous and supported aspects of learning.
    8. Student support
      1. Students on FDL programmes are entitled to receive the same support as students on any other programmes delivered by the University.
      2. A personal tutor should be appointed at the earliest opportunity.
      3. Prospectus entries and handbooks should clearly indicate sources of support within the discipline, locally, remotely and across the University.
    9. Equality and diversity
      1. FDL arrangements must be scrutinised to ensure that they are designed to be accessible to a diverse student population and that they are not discriminatory in any way.
  4. Expectations of Students
    1. Students can reasonably expect that their FDL programme:

      - has been tested for reliability and security and that contingency plans are in place should any failure occur in the designed mode of delivery
      - has a delivery system fit for purpose and has appropriate availability and life expectancy
      - includes study material that is of an appropriate level to meet the University’s teaching and learning standards for the relevant award
      - is reviewed periodically to ensure continued validity and relevance, and compliance with the University’s internal procedures for programme approval, monitoring and review.
    2. Students can also expect to have:

      - access to a schedule of learner support available to them throughout their timetabled activities
      - clear and up to date information about the support available to them locally and remotely
      - documents setting out their responsibilities and the commitment of the awarding institution to the award
      - access to information on the ways in which their achievement will be judged, and the relevant weightings of component parts of the programme on the final classification.

Last reviewed July 2020

Back to top