Special Provisions for Online Programmes offered in partnership with Keypath Education

Download the full PDF version of the Special Provisions for Online Programmes (Keypath Education).

  1. Preamble
    1. This document outlines special provisions which have been agreed in relation to online programmes offered by the University in partnership with Keypath Education. It contains specific provisions which amend, for those programmes only, the regulations, policies and procedures set out in:

      - The Handbook for Approval and Revision of Taught Modules and Programme
      - The Code of Good Practice – Flexible and Distributed Learning (including e-learning)
      - The Handbook for Assessment, Progression and Awarding: Taught Programmes
      - The Quality Review Framework
      - The General Regulations for Students
      - The Disciplinary Procedure – Non-academic Misconduct
      - The University of Exeter Policy and Procedures for Fitness to Practise (FtP)
      - The Health Wellbeing and Support for Study Procedures (HWSSP)
      - The Procedures Relating to Student Academic Appeals
      - The Student Complaints Procedure
    2. The provisions set out in this document have the same status as the provisions set out in the document that they amend.
    3. Some of the provisions in this document are regulations which affect students – for instance in relation to referral and deferral rules. Some of them are policies which relate to staff – for instance, in relation to module development quality assurance.
    4. This document also seeks to set out the rationale for the special provisions. This recognises that the University will learn from its experience of delivering online programmes in partnership with Keypath Education. Understanding the context for a particular rule or policy may make it easier to appropriately amend it in the light of experience. It will also enable the University to more easily incorporate these rules into the main body of its regulatory framework in due course, should it choose to do so.
    5. For the avoidance of doubt, responsibility for the curriculum design, quality and standards of the programmes lies with the University of Exeter. The partnership with Keypath Education does not constitute collaborative provision within the meaning of the QAA’s UK Quality Code.
  2. Programme Approval and Revision
    1. The University has agreed a just-in-time approach for the development of the academic programmes offered in the partnership with Keypath Education. This enables more time to be spent in developing high quality learning materials and assessments.
    2. The University’s experience of developing online programmes is that assessment design is best linked to the design of teaching materials. This means that the specifics of the assessment for a module will not be known until the learning materials have been developed. The natural consequence of this approach is that not all of the normal documents will be available when the programme is initially approved. Specifically:
      1. Only the first module descriptor will necessarily be ready
      2. Specific details of how assessments match to programme learning outcomes will not be known
    3. Accordingly a different approach to programme approval will be needed. This will best build on existing practice.
    4. It is also the case that online learning materials have a greater permanence that face-to-face teaching methods. It is appropriate therefore to introduce greater oversight of their quality prior to delivery: a process more akin to publishing.

      Specific Policies relating to Programme Approval and Revision
    5. The following specific policies will apply to programme approval for online programmes offered in partnership with Keypath Education:
    6. That in broad terms the programme approval process for ODLP mirror that for on-campus programmes, with the College taking responsibility for securing peer and student scrutiny on the basis of standard documentation, and sign-off by the University.
    7. That the programme specification presented for approval before the programme enrols its first students must be augmented by a number of additional pieces of evidence:
      - A list of all modules which will form the programme, indicating when the module is expected to be first offered to students, and when it will be ready for approval
      - A summary description of the content of each module (ie the 100 word summary which is at the start of the module descriptor).
      - A statement of the range of assessments expected to be used across the modules, to help students understand what will be expected of them in the programme. An example of a component of such a statement could be as follows:

      ‘A 15 credit module will typically be assessed by a 3000 word coursework essay (counting for 70% of the module mark); an online multiple-choice assessment (counting for 20% of the module mark) and an assessment of participation in group discussions (counting for 10% of the module mark)’

      - A mapping of the individual module intended learning outcomes to the programme intended learning outcomes. This will help to show the overall coherence of the programme, and also identify if elements of the programme ILOs depend on a small number of modules. As a minimum there must be a mapping of modules onto programme ILOs (that is, which modules contribute to the achievement of which programme ILOs).
    8. In addition to the questions set out on the External Assessor Report Form, External Assessors will be asked what additional information, if any, they would have found useful to be able to make their judgements about the initial programme approval; and what information was not necessary.
    9. At least the first module description must be included in the documents to be approved at the initial programme approval.
    10. Each module must be approved before it is offered to students.
    11. Colleges must continue to involve external experts in the approval of ODLP degrees, as for on-campus programmes. Where a College has not had previous experience of offering wholly online programmes the College should either use an external who has both subject knowledge and experience in online delivery; or should use two external assessors, one with experience of the discipline and one with experience of online delivery.
    12. Colleges must involve students in programme approval. The feedback should be given by a student representative for a similar on-campus programme. Where possible, the College should seek views from students in the College who have studied some or all of their degree online, even if this is in a different discipline.
    13. Where a module description is ready for approval after the programme specification has been approved, the process will be as follows:
      - for modules which are consistent with the information in the initial programme approval (that is, ones which match the titles, content and ILOs initially set out, and use assessment combinations described in the programme specification), approval is within the College;
      - for modules which are not consistent with the information in the initial programme approval (that is, their title, content or ILOs have changed, and/or they use assessment method and combinations not anticipated in the programme specification), they will be treated as a Moderate revision, and require University-level approval in addition to approval within the College. In this case the documentation to be supplied to the Programme Approval Team should additionally include a description of how students have been consulted about the changes.
    14. Colleges with programmes approved in this way will report on progress via ASER, and will provide to Taught Faculty Board a summary report when all elements have been approved which can identify lessons learned and good practice to be shared across the University. This should include commentary on learning from the mapping of ILOs. There will also be a light-touch audit process (perhaps one module per programme per year) to give confidence that appropriate judgements are being made about routes for late module approval.

      Explanatory notes to specific policies;
    15. Paragraph 11 ensures a broad comparability of process and by using similar documentation minimises the risk of confusion.
    16. Paragraphs 12 to 15 enable a just-in-time approach to programme development but guard against the possibility of modules not having been through a proper approval process before they are offered to students. They also ensure that initial approval can be meaningful, in the absence of a complete diet of module descriptions. The more complete and appropriate the initial programme specification, the less onerous the process for subsequent module approval: this provides an incentive for Colleges to act in ways consistent with good information to student before they enrol. Asking for feedback on the process from the External Assessor will enable us to improve the overall approach as more programmes are offered via the Keypath partnership.
    17. Paragraphs 16 and 17 adapt existing processes for external peer review and student input into the content of an online degree.
    18. Paragraph 18 enables the subsequent process for module sign-off to avoid becoming overly onerous.
    19. Paragraph 19 provides a mechanism for University-level assurance in what is in some respects a new approach to degree programme quality assurance. Once the risks of the new approach have been better understood, by experience, this requirement could be reviewed.
  3. Programme Development
    1. Online learning has many possibilities for enhancing the quality and consistency of learning support provided for students.  It also represents a considerable shift from more traditional approaches, and it is important therefore to ensure that academic staff involved in the development of online programmes have the skills and knowledge to fully capitalise on the opportunities which it provides.
    2. There are also some forms of activity which do not lend themselves well to online delivery. One such activity is the use of invigilated, timed written examinations – also known as proctored examinations. These are disproportionately expensive to operate securely on a global basis; where this is done students are often required to travel great distances to participate. This works against the spirit of the online programmes offered by the University.

      Specific Policies relating to Programme and Module Development
    3. In developing a programme or module, and unless the programme or module leader has been responsible for developing an online module previously within the University, Colleges must ensure that the programme or module leader is given a briefing by the University’s Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team on the possibilities of online learning before specific content development begins.
    4. Colleges must identify another College academic member of staff who will be involved in the development of modules: by commenting on learning materials as there are developed, and meeting with the module lead to review the process and progress of the module. This will bring an element of peer scrutiny to module content, and also help to spread knowledge of the possibilities of online learning.
    5. In relation to the learning materials for individual modules, a dual sign-off process will be implemented. One of the authorised signatories will be a person acting on the authority of the College ADE. The other will be a person acting on behalf of the Director of Teaching Quality Assurance and Enhancement – in the first instance, normally the Head of e-learning. A module will not be regarded as ready for delivery to students until both of these have agreed that it is ready.
    6. Invigilated, timed written examinations (proctored examinations) will not be used as a normal method of assessment.

      Explanatory notes to specific policies
    7. Paragraphs 27 to 29 provide for elements of quality assurance and enhancement to the content of learning materials, in ways which are consistent with the University’s underlying values and behaviours. This is a new and separate process to academic quality assurance for the module; it is more akin to editorial sign-off in respect of a book. The College sign-off confirms the academic and pedagogic appropriateness of the content; the TQAE sign-off confirms the appropriateness and quality of the instructional design.
    8. Paragraph 30 gives a clear steer to programme and module leads that they should use other forms of assessment.
  4. Referral, deferral, condonement
    1. The online programmes offered through the partnership with Keypath Education differ from on-campus programmes in that the modules are taken sequentially rather than simultaneously. This potentially impacts upon the approaches taken to referral and deferral.
    2. With a programme where modules are studied simultaneously, a student will catch up on referred and deferred assessments at the end of the stage. There will not be a large gap of time between the module learning and the assessment or re-assessment. This help to maximise the students’ chances of success.
    3. In the case of a programme with sequential modules, the end of stage may be many months after the initial learning. This gap between learning and assessment is unlikely to be helpful to students who need to take referred or deferred assessments.
    4. Programmes are also delivered in what are called carousels – that is, modules which are delivered is rotation. Modules within a carousel do not need to be taken in any particular order; none must be a pre-requisite for any other module in the carousel. (They may be pre-requisite for modules offered later in the programme.)
    5. Whilst a carousel is not a stage of the programme within the meaning of the University’s assessment regulations, the end of a carousel is a natural point for a student to pause their studies for whatever reason.  When the student restarts, they are not constrained by the time at which they restart – as they will be re-joining the programme between carousels, they will be able to take whichever is the next module to start.
    6. These considerations suggest that an optimal arrangement would be for students to take any referred and deferred assessments at the end of a carousel.
    7. The sequential nature of delivery means that students are focusing on one topic at any one time. Additionally, some programmes will offer very short modules. This suggests that students who are taking referred or deferred assessments should not do so whilst simultaneously studying a new module.

      Specific Regulations relating to referral, deferral and condonement
    8. Students must complete, at the end of a carousel, any deferred assessments.
    9. Students must complete, at the end of a carousel, any referred assessments.
    10. Condonement is considered by the relevant Assessment, Progression and Award Committee (APAC) either at the final award APAC or when a student has failed a module, having been referred.
    11. A student who has failed more than the permitted maximum number of condoned modules will not be permitted to continue studying for the award. If they have met the requirements for any exit award permitted within the programme, this shall be awarded.
    12. A student may not take deferred or referred assessments whilst they are also studying for a different module.

      Explanatory notes to specific policies
    13. Paragraph 42 restricts consideration of condonement to those points where it is meaningful. It requires an APAC to be aware of the number of irredeemably failed modules (ie those in which a student has failed a referred assessment), in order that a student does not continue to register and pay fees when it is impossible for them to achieve the final award.
    14. It is not arithmetically possible, at a point before the final award APAC, for a student to have failed the maximum number of condonable modules, and not be able to pass the remaining modules with a high enough mark to bring their overall average up to at least the pass mark for the programme.
  5. Assessment, Progression and Award Committees
    1. The online programmes offered in partnership with Keypath Education are designed to allow new students to enrol at multiple points in the year, starting their study with the next module to run in the first carousel.
    2. Colleges will need to hold APACs to reflect this multiplicity of entry points, to ensure that students are not waiting unduly for confirmation of results and degree awards. The rules for referral and deferral also need APACs to confirm marks on a regular basis.
    3. Ideally a College would hold an APAC after each module, to enable prompt decision-making. This would mean, in the case of the UEBS programmes, six APACs per year.  At least initially, these may be for small numbers of students: it makes sense therefore to put in place rules which reflect this whilst also conforming to the underlying quality assurance principles.

      Specific Regulations relating to Assessment, Progression and Award Committees
    4. Colleges should hold an APAC after each module has completed.
    5. External Examiners must continue to attend each APAC. The dispensation whereby attendance via telephone or Skype is permitted shall be extended, in the case of Keypath programmes, to enable an external examiner to provide written comments instead, provided that on at least one occasion in that academic year they are physically present at an APAC.
    6. The quorum for a programme/discipline APAC will be one third of the appointed internal members, rounded-up, and must include the module lead for any module, marks for which are being considered at the APAC.

      Explanatory notes to specific policies
    7. Paragraph 51 recognises the practical difficulties of co-ordinating multiple diaries six times a year. The effect is to remove the requirement, in the case of these programmes, for sign-off by the Dean of the Taught Faculty on every occasion. The requirement for physical presence at least once in every academic year enables continued robust discussion of quality and standards issues. In practice Colleges are expected to plan to enable all externals to be present simultaneously to facilitate more reflective discussion.
    8. Paragraph 52 recognises the difficulties which may be encountered in assembling significant numbers of staff for an APAC considering a very small number of students.
  6. Student Cases
    1. The university’s procedures for handling individual student cases typically include meetings of panels or committees, at later stages, to consider appropriate actions. The student in question often has a right of attendance at such meetings.
    2. The nature of online learning means that students cannot be expected physically to exercise that right. An appropriate adjustment, which follows current practice for on-campus students, is to facilitate where possible participation by telephone or video-conference in such meetings.

      Specific Regulations relating to Student Cases
    3. In respect of the following procedures and regulations, the university will make its best efforts to enable online students to participate in any relevant meetings by telephone or video conference, as an alternative to physical attendance:
      - The Disciplinary Procedure – Non-academic Misconduct
      - The University of Exeter Policy and Procedures for Fitness to Practise (FtP)
      - The Health Wellbeing and Support for Study Procedures (HWSSP)
      - The Procedures Relating to Student Academic Appeals
      - The Student Complaints Procedure
    4. If it is not possible to arrange within a reasonable timescale, or at a reasonable time in the UK working day, a meeting at which the student may participate by telephone or video conference, the University may proceed to hold the meeting in the student’s absence. In such cases the student will be invited to submit written comments which must be considered by the committee at the appropriate point(s) in proceedings.
    5. The proceedings of any such committee or panel will not be invalidated simply by virtue of the student not attending/

      Explanatory notes to specific policies
    6. The above principle should be extended to any other meeting or panel which is involved in a student case, and to which a student who was on campus would be invited to attend.
  7. Quality Review Framework
    1. The University’s Annual Student Experience Review (ASER) process facilitates holistic reflection across a College on the programmes it offers and provides an opportunity to agree prioritised actions to enhance provision based on evidence arising from student performance and satisfaction.
    2. Online programmes will be considered within ASER as normal.

      Specific Regulations relating to Student Cases
    3. Colleges must seek to identify a student representative for each programme, who will serve on the Staff-Student Liaison Committee and participate in ASER discussions. This should be augmented by facilitated online discussions for each module which will provide additional, or alternative, evidence to feed into the ASER process.
    4. The data to be considered within discipline-level ASER discussions should include such learning analytics as may be available in relation to online programmes.
    5. The checklist of issues to be considered in ASER (Annex A of the Quality Review Framework) should include the following additional prompt:

      Online programmes
      Any issues which arise in relation to online programmes, including progress in approving programmes which are in development.

    6. The ASER action plan for a College should include actions which relate to online programmes. Where a programme is in the process of approval (ie, where the programme is approved but not all modules have yet been approved) the ASER action plan should include the expected timings for the outstanding modules to be considered and approved.

      Explanatory notes to specific policies
    7. If experience of operating online programmes shows that the above systems do not capture necessary actions, the University could consider a thematic review of lessons learned from online programmes, to encourage good practice across the University.
  8. Attendance
    1. The University require students to be ‘in attendance’ via Ordinance 6 and General Regulation 2. This aims at ensuring student engagement, and gives the university a means to address students who are not engaging as part of the academic community. However, the terminology is inappropriate for online programmes.
    2. The terms of Ordinance 6 are broad enough to encompass, in the short term at least, online learning – for instance, students can meet the subsidiary requirements “to be present at classes and other assigned academic activities including examinations, to submit work when required, and otherwise to fulfil the academic requirements of their programmes as stipulated by the academic unit concerned.”
    3. Regulations 2.1 is less capable of interpretation: “All students must be in attendance as appropriate to their programme of study by the first day of term and must remain in attendance until the last day of term.”

      Specific Regulations relating to attendance
    4. Paragraph 2.1 of the General Regulations should be amended (additions underlined) to read:
    5. All students must be in attendance as appropriate to their programme of study by the first day of term and must remain in attendance until the last day of term. Students following online programmes must engage with their studies throughout the programme.

      Explanatory notes to specific policies
    6. Amending Ordinances requires more process than changing regulations. In due course the University may wish to amend Ordinance 6 to make more explicit the requirement for engagement by a student.
  9. Registration
    1. General Regulation 4.4 provides that:

      Any alteration in the particulars given on the Registration Form, and especially in respect of home and term-time addresses, must be notified without delay to SID or, in the case of students on programmes based at the Cornwall Campus, to the info@Penryn and for students based at the Truro Campus Registry.
    2. This needs clarification for online students.

      Specific Regulations relating to Registration
    3. General Regulation 4.4 should be amended by the addition of the following sentence, after the existing sentence:
      Students following online programmes should notify exeterstudentsupport@online.exeter.ac.uk.

17 August 2017

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