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Recent studies of the Arab world have turned a spotlight on the poor state of its university education. In 2003, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP, 2003) Arab Human Development Report focused on education in the region. The report concludes, ."Knowledge in Arab countries today appears to be on the retreat.â€¦ Continuing with this historic slide is an untenable course if the Arab people are to have a dignified, purposeful and productive existence in the third millennium.." As for the Egyptian education system, Elmahdy, Said (UNESCO, 2005) emphasized that the diversity of the Egyptian education system is one of the points of its strength, and the overcrowding of the system, is one of its points of weaknesses. The challenges facing the Egyptian higher education system are enormous because of the political decision to absorb all graduates from the secondary school level into the system, and at the same time improve the level of quality in accordance with international standards. Over two million students representing about 30.5 per cent of the age group admitted into the Egyptian higher education system (18-23), Fifteen governmental universities currently absorb over 1.3 million students (five university branches will become separate universities as of next academic year 2005- 2006), six private universities absorb nearly 40 thousand students, Al Azhar Islamic University contains about 350 thousand students with a similar number of students in about 65 higher education institutions, five of which are governmental. The number of 4 institutions in government universities is 278 and this number exceeds 500 institutions that would undergo the accreditation process. Said stated also that although, the Egyptian system is lagging behind nearly 10-15 years. Serious steps to establish the quality assurance and accreditation agency in Egypt went beyond talks and studies, and took place after the Egyptian higher education strategic reform plan was developed, and endorsed nationally by all concerned stakeholders in February 2000. A National Quality Assurance and Accreditation Committee (NQAAC) was formed to look into establishing a national system through which the quality of the Egyptian higher education system can improve, and produce quality graduates that Egypt needs to meet the challenges of the twenty first century. A comprehensive study to establish Egyptian National Quality Assurance and Accreditation Agency (NQAAA) finalized almost a year ago. And have been officially announced by the President of Egypt. In a speech at the joint session of the People's assembly and Shoura Council, President Hosni Mubarak stressed the importance of quality assurance and accreditation in education. President Mubarak highlighted the need to establish a national agency to overlook issues related to quality assurance and accreditation in the Egyptian educational system. He reiterated in most of his successive speeches the importance of such an agency, being one of the key pillars of the national strategy for the education reform in Egypt. The Ministry of Higher Education, being responsible for the overall education system in Egypt as stipulated in the ( 491 ) constitution, took the initiative to develop an overall strategic plan for quality assurance and accreditation to assist Egyptian Higher Education Institutions to improve the quality of their academic programs and that of their graduates. (Al-Ahram, 2004). The national report of Arab Republic of Egypt (2001) illustrated that the education policy in Egypt has witnessed several developments covering all its goals, aspects, and dimensions during the last few years. Hence, the Egyptian education policy has become a continuous, concurrent, and adaptive policy that follows the scientific ways of planning, implementing, and evaluating the education reform projects. Moreover, it follows the legal channels and democratic methods in every stage. It genuinely, attempts to satisfy and meet the real needs of the Egyptian people. Whereas, ."the economic development has placed great stress on Egypt's environment, Population density, combined with long-postponed infrastructure investments." (Eia, 2003) It, also, confronts the universal and local challenges boldly and objectively. ."The Internet, and the expansion of communication networks which goes along with it, would seem to be the technology affecting the world more than any other at this moment. It is thus worth examining in light of theories of change that suggest technology changes society, rather than vice versa.." (Gyford, 2000) ."Globalization is clearly leaving its mark on the world of today. This is not a new process. Yet the dramatic changes in terms of space and time being brought about by the communications and information revolution represent a qualitative break with the past. Globalization clearly opens up opportunities for development.." (ECLAC, 2002). These challenges are represented in the following aspects: - The comprehensive technological and scientific revolution; - Communication revolution; - Environmental problems. - Population explosion. - Economic development and competition. - Globalization. - Violence, addiction, extremism, and terrorism. - Technology control over cultures and civilizations As a result of these challenges as well as other challenges, the political leadership in Egypt has considered education as a national security issue. Hence, the Egyptian education policy is based on main and broad lines that embody this concept. These main lines are depicted as follows: - Specifying the educational policy within a democratic framework. - Equity of educational opportunities for all Egyptian citizens without any kind of discrimination or exceptions. - The continuous development of education curricula, improving school textbooks, and supporting educational activities. - Introducing advanced technology into schools and universities, as well as developing students.' life and communication skills. - Providing professional development for teachers and reforming their financial and social status in the society. - Diversifying resources of education finance and offering sufficient opportunities for the private sector and non-governmental organizations to participate in financing education. - Providing education for all and education for mastery and excellence. - Enhancing students.' sense of loyalty and belongingness.' to face the dangers of globalization. - Benefiting from the current universal experiences within a framework of international co-operation to reform and develop education ( 492 ) Much of the research on educational technology has focused on its implementation in wealthy countries. Yet technology has a special allure in the developing world, where it holds the promise not just of improving schools, and universities but also of hastening modernization. Therefore, this study examines the potentials of introducing advanced technology into schools and universities in Egypt listed above; ."The use of technology in education in Egypt is situated in a broader social and educational reform movement that dates to the early 1990s. In 1992, the Egyptian government, backed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund-backed structural adjustment program, launched an ambitious structural adjustment program.." (Korayem, 1997). However, it is worth analyzing the Egyptian case in more detail to interpret that educational technology has always been about much more than improving learning , it is about transforming learning, overcoming traditional educational approaches and supplanting them with revolutionary new paradigms of Egyptian teaching, learning, in schools and universities.
Higher Education: Key Business
Many higher education leaders believe that increasing competition is a likely scenario. Even without intense competition, higher education is being called upon to be more accountable in terms of student learning and scholarship, and especially the costs of education and research. Universities are competing today for a smaller pot of federal research funds. Many colleges are facing stiff competition from other colleges while new entrants are finding new and innovative ways to meet demand for life-long learning. Higher education appears to be poised to enter a more competitive landscape, joining many other sectors of the economy. This view leads to identifying a set of competitive drivers and a set of corresponding organizational strategic responses.
Improvements in general technologies, education, and political relationships have driven a dramatic increase in competition. New competitors enter traditional markets and traditional competitors enter new markets throughout offering courses through distance learning opportunities to students.
Cost-based competition goes well beyond product or service cost to include cost to market, and the costs of lost opportunities. Organizations that cannot manage their costs to market will experience high opportunity costs and be at a competitive disadvantage. In information-intense industries, application development, acquisition, maintenance, integration and implementation are major components of cost to market.
Technology improvements have led to a dramatic shortening of the product life cycle. Organizations that can rapidly bring new, innovative product or service concepts to market will gain competitive advantage. With rapidly compressing product life cycles, product development is a continuous process in the private sector. In higher education, a variation on product cycle time is the time to develop new courses or revise existing courses. Service and correction cycles are major competitive issues, especially in higher education. How can systems and technology support a quicker, more agile response to changes and opportunities?
In many industries, quality is rapidly becoming a requirement for entry rather than a factor of competitive comparison. In higher education, colleges and universities pride ( 493 ) themselves on the quality of their programs, and understand that quality matters. Nevertheless, there is a rising chorus from constituents of public universities asking for more accountability such as through published performance indicators. Systems and technology must contribute both to the creation of quality and to its analysis and reporting.
Information has rapidly become a major component of an increasingly competitive landscape. Higher education competes by using information to reduce cost, improve quality and access, prove quality and customize products. It can be pointed out that work comes to depend on the ability of organizations to understand, respond to, manage, and create value from information. The transformation of information into value added services requires more members of an organization to know more and do more. This means opening the information base of the organization to members at every level, assuring that each has the knowledge, skills, and authority to engage with the information productively. Systems and technology need to be designed to facilitate access to information and to make information easily reusable.
Today.'s consumers expect much more of organizations in the services that organizations deliver. Consumers are expecting service anytime and anyplace. Adult learners certainly bring these expectations to institutions: the traditional age population will soon expect the same if they don.'t already. Another expectation is tailoring of services and products. Successful companies are using technology to customize services and products. As consumers, we now have many more choices from which to select a set of services that best meets our needs. This expectation of tailored services is likely to carry over into the academic and administrative spheres of higher education.
Many universities have identified gaps between the market forces generated by general market drivers and their ability to address those forces. Depending on the magnitude of these gaps, universities are responding with a variety of transformation strategies. Four common ones are:
Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI)
CQI is about continuously improving processes. When an organization feels it has the right goals and the right processes, it may adopt a CQI program to continually improve the quality-, cost-, time-, information-, and touch-based factors of those processes.
Business Process Re-engineering
BPR involves analysis of the institution.'s goals and a complete redesign of business processes that support those goals. Unlike CQI, BPR is targeted at radical improvement rather than incremental change. When an organization feels it has the right goals but the wrong processes, it may initiate BPR to define and implement new processes.
Strategic Partnerships and Alliances
The new environment includes forces that drive more organizational affiliation and integration, and more segregation of business functions. Included in these strategies are consolidation of service units, outsourcing of non-core functions, and strategic alliances between organizations to create new services.
Technology Investment in Distributed and
The distributed computing revolution has had and will continue to have a profound impact on the way systems and technology are organized and delivered. The distributed ( 494 ) computing revolution was originally driven by the availability and accessibility of inexpensive technology that could be selected, acquired, and deployed by business units acting independently of centralized IS authorities. Today's reality is that distributed computing is at the forefront of enterprisewide client/server deployment.
General Conceptions of Education
In higher education environment, the quality of education has been taken for granted for many decades; the educational institutions were far away from the market forces, whereas the academics were the sole controllers. Nowadays, Institutions of higher education (HE) have started to examine the applicability of utilizing quality focused initiatives towards improving educational quality. There is a longstanding debate about quality in education; therefore, we must explore the concept of quality in education. Based on management and industry quality literature review, we can argue that the concept of quality is considered a complex one, covering different concepts and elements; ."There are widely different conceptualizations of quality in education (Harvey, 1994).However, these can be grouped into five discrete but interrelated ways of thinking about quality(Harvey and Knight,1996).Quality can be viewed as exceptional, as perfection (or consistency), as fitness for purpose, as value for money and as transformative.."(Sahney et al., 2004) the term quality has different meanings and has been variously defined as excellence. (Peters and Waterman, 1982) whilst, Cheng (1995a) defined education quality as follows: ."Education quality is the character of the set of elements in the input, process, and output of the education system that provides services that completely satisfy both internal and external strategic constituencies by meeting their explicit and implicit expectations.." Obviously, the assessment of the quality of education must meet the same general and specific requirements that we demand from education itself if it is to earn the characteristic of quality. Consequently, understanding and conceptualizing quality in education from different perspectives and facilitating development of management strategies for achieving it. The total quality management in educational institutions has been strongly emphasized recently (Bradley, 1993; Greenwood and Gaunt, 1994; Murgatroyd and Morgan, 1993). According to the concepts of total quality management, quality in education can be totally ensured if an educational institution can involve and empower all its members in functioning, carrying out continuous improvement in different aspects of internal process, and satisfy the requirements, needs, and expectations of its external and internal stakeholders. (Cheng and Tam, 1997) illustrated seven models of education quality: ."goal and specification model; resourceinput model; process model; satisfaction model; legitimacy model; absence of problems model; organizational learning." Cheng.'s and Tam.'s seven models are intercalated and their relationship reflects the different emphasis on different aspects of an education institution pursuing quality and aiming to understand, conceptualize different conceptions of quality in education institutions, as well as to develop a comprehensive approach in managing education quality which is considered important in long-term planning for achieving total education quality. It can be argued that higher education institutions competitiveness and survivability ( 495 ) in the market is directly interrelated with the quality of the educational services offered as perceived by their potential stakeholders. Universities are currently facing the challenges of reorienting their approaches to be more customer-focused and conducting their activities in a more business-like manner. ."It is not possible to deal with quality as unitary concept, and the best that can be achieved is to define clearly the criteria that each stakeholder uses when judging quality and to take into account the competing views when assessment of quality is undertaken.." (Sahney, Banwet and Karunes, 2004).
The Role of Technology in Education
Quality education is a universal goal. It is common to hear arguments that instructional technology will be the key to educational quality as we enter the new millennium (Fiske and Hammond, 1997). Investment in educational technology is urged upon policymakers as the path to educational quality (Mergendollar, 1996). In fact, enthusiasts for educational technology argue that quality has and will continue to increase rapidly, creating a "new educational culture" (Connick, 1997). According to Morrisett (1996), society can be credited for creating technology, but technology is simultaneously creating society. These observations would also suggest that technologies are beginning to exercise a benevolent cruelty over humankind. People have become "compulsive information consumers," who favor the passive reception of information as a form of entertainment over the more challenging act of thinking. These powerful influences also exert direction over learning and learning environments. Morrisett added that institutions of higher education have adapted to these conditions but, as a result, they have also compromised the habits of the mind (study, analysis, reflection, contemplation, and deliberation) that are associated with logic. Alfred Borks a leading educational technology guru set forth several aspects of his vision of "the future of education :"( Educom, 1999) Education will become highly interactive, engaging the student every 20 seconds or so for a response, much in contrast to presentday passive lecture methods. 1. Education will become highly individualized, with world-accessible records of learning attempts by particular students, to enable computer presentation of education tailored for each student's past learning experiences and styles. 2. Education will become highly flexible in interaction, enabling naturallanguage tutoring using the Socratic method of tutorial question and student response. 3. Education will become highly accessible, opening opportunities for the disadvantaged in this country as well as for the millions in developing nations. 4. Education will become highly computer-mediated, replacing (not supplementing, which would be an added cost) the lecture method in courses for 15 or more students. 5. Distance education will begin to displace campus-based education because the high costs of an interactive computer-mediated course can be justified only through their use by a large number of students than only distance education can provide. Whatever problems exist are seen as ones which can be handled through better administrative and technological planning that is, technology believers perceive no intrinsic obstacles to total quality assurance using information technology in higher ( 496 ) education (Roth and Sanders, 1996). In reviewing the world's largest experiment in online distance education, the Open Learning experiment in the U.K, Mayes and Banks (1998) concluded that three factors combine to maintain quality and integrity of Open Learning courses: (1) common, structured course materials; (2) open assessment using a competency based methodology; and (3) an extensive support and monitoring network. Numerous other efforts exist regarding quality assurance in distance education (Tait, 1997).
Online Education and Educational Quality
Williams, Paprock, Covington, (1999), have found that distance learning environments have continued to evolve with advancing technology, moving toward virtual classrooms where instruction from a host site is delivered to distance sites using a combination of live, two-way interactive audio, video, or both and synchronous/asynchronous computer-based interactions that take advantage of local area networks (LANs) wide area networks (WANs), the Internet, and the World Wide Web (WWW or the Web). These are the different factors that have increased the pedagogical effectiveness of course content at a distance. According to the research made at the University of Idaho (Gauzily, Avenging, Boor, 2001d, April), it has been found there is every reason to believe that the integration of technology into education will continue to increase with technological advances. Motivation and class satisfaction are important aspects. The technology delivery method features included eight-way synchronous interactions, individual control screen viewing options, group control over content delivery speed, e-mail and electronic support features, group facilitators, as well as the ability to meet the instructor personally, during office hours. Jackson has stated in the Journal of Distance Administration (2000c), that today.'s education world is information and communication intensive, and Information Technology (IT). Therefore, professionals need to be empowered with the knowledge, skills, and abilities that technology offers. An Institution must provide instructors with administrative and technical support to deliver, and develop courses. The University of Idaho, College of Engineering, (2001c), has stated that the instructional development process should be done only after considering the needs of the learner, the requirements of the content and the constraints facing both teacher and students (see fig 1). ( 497 ) Fig.1 The Instructional Development Process With changing patterns of education delivery from face-to-face to online, course content, nature of learner, and organizational structures. The concept of quality has become an inherent component of the educational process for its success. Globally various bodies have been established to develop guidelines for quality products and services; and their maintenance. The globalization of education, migration of students from one community to other, one country to another, provides adequate causes for concerns to the educationists and administrators. Total Quality Management (TQM) in Education is a timely tool, which must be clearly understood, adopted and implemented as soon as possible. Various concepts, issues, processes, models and implementation strategies for TQM in educational settings can be discussed. Hence, an inspection of leading quality-in-online-education guidelines reveals three central themes. 1. Quality is defined in terms of "appropriate" and "complete" online education, with appropriateness and completeness to be adjudged by faculty. Faculty agreement, of course, is apt to refer to faculty with interests in promotion of online education, with tacit consent of peers in a typical academic culture which strongly encourages faculty course development autonomy and an administration more interested in
The Instructional Development Process
- Determine needs - Analyze audience - Establish goals
- Create content outline - Review existing materials - Organize & develop materials & delivery methods
- Develop & implement revision plan
- Review goals & objectives - Develop evaluation strategy - Collect & analyze data ( 498 ) "getting into the online education game" than in creating quality standards impediments to launching online offerings. Using the same textbook as the traditional course is often sufficient to meet this criterion 2. Students must have access to support services (library, computer, faculty access, peer interaction). In fact, most make available to online students only a fraction of the library resources, computer resources, faculty access, peer interaction, and other advantages of on-campus students. However, as long as the most important resources are available online in some form, this standard is ordinarily deemed to have been met 3. Quality is defined in terms of "evaluation" of specific, measurable "learning outcomes" or "competencybased objectives." This is met by the instructor formulating a set of syllabus statements at the end of the course, the student will be able to type, and make examination questions relate to these statements. As in traditional courses, content of the objectives is the prerogative of the faculty member having objectives, not their content, is what quality standards assess
Effective Quality Assurance Model of Online
The increasing usage of Web-based learning has harvested in a speed beyond a proper control for its effectiveness and justification. Many institutions have invested heavily primarily for keeping their image of high technology in the eye of the public. The authors will highlight the commonly agreed factors or elements that contribute and ensure quality in the Web-based learning environment. By understanding the key factors, Management at Distance education institutions can evaluate and enhance their quality assurance mechanism so that they can improve the quality of their services to the students. Several different agencies developed principles, guidelines, or benchmarks to ensure quality distance education. These organizations included the American Council on Education, the National Education Association, and the Global Alliance for Transnational Education (GATE), the Southern Regional Electronic Campus, and the Commission on Higher Education for the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications. The quality assurance benchmarks promoted by these organizations are designed to apply to a wide variety of institutional contexts and consist of fairly broad statements. However, virtually all of the strategies include such factors as course development, faculty training, student services, learning resources, infrastructure and assessment of outcomes. The Institute for Higher Education Policy has carried out a comprehensive study in year 2000 in an attempt to validate those benchmarks that have been published by various agencies, with specific attention to Web-based distance learning. The outcome is a list of 24 benchmarks that are essential to ensure quality in Web-based distance learning. The benchmarks can be grouped into the following seven categories:
This category includes those activities by the institution that helps to ensure an environment conducive to maintain and develop quality Web-based learning.
This category includes those activities for the development of courseware that is produced either by faculty members on campus, subject experts within the organizations or commercial enterprises. ( 499 )
Teaching / Learning Process
This category includes those activities related to pedagogy or the art of teaching.
This category includes those policies and procedures that support and relate to the teaching / learning process.
This category includes those services normally found on a university including admissions and financial aids.
This category includes those activities that assist faculty in teaching online.
Evaluation and Assessment
This category includes those policies and procedures that address how the institution evaluates Web-based distance learning. Based on the results of the study conducted by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, it is clear that there are seven major areas to look at: Institutional Support, Course Development, Teaching/Learning Process, Course Structure, Student Support, Faculty Support and Evaluation and Assessment in ensuring the quality of Web-based learning. Since there are a lot of questions not yet clearly answered in previous studies of ensuring quality assurance for Web-based learning in Egypt. The study done by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, looks like a useful approach for studying this issue in the local setting, and will provide guidelines to explore the contributing factors in successful quality assurance model for Web-based learning. Throughout this paper, the authors reveal that the benchmarks for quality assurance of Webbased learning were considered important and in general the participated institutions strove to incorporate them into their policies, practices and procedures. In this sense, the quality benchmarks identified in the literature can be considered valid in the higher education sector in Egypt. "There are as least two key stakeholders in any educational setting, namely the academic staff and the students." (Davey Yeung, 2001) Therefore, in order to have an effective quality assurance model for Web-based learning, it will need to conduct study on student.'s perception on this issue and incorporate the results with the perception of academic staff to form a more complete picture of the whole quality assurance model.
Research Design and Method
A survey questionnaire was developed to measure academic staff.'s perception of quality assurance in Web-based learning. The measurement of the items was drawn from a previous study carried out by the Institute for Higher Education Policy on the same issue. The questionnaire was structured using a 5- point Likert Scale. An example of the item is as follows: A. In your opinion, are the following benchmarks important to ensure quality? B. In your opinion, are the following benchmarks present in the University? ( 500 )
Not Important Somewhat unimportant Not Sure Important A Very Important
1 2 3 4 5
B Strongly Disagree Disagree Not Sure Agree Strongly Agree
1 2 3 4 5 The Likert Scale questionnaire listed the 24 quality benchmarks and requested each respondent to rank each benchmark on two criteria. First, to what extent is the benchmark important to ensure quality for Web-based learning (ranked from 1 = not important to 5 = very important); Second, to what extent is the benchmark present in the institution (ranked from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree) Those respondents who did not have sufficient knowledge or experience relating to the benchmark could check the "Not Sure" category. At the extremes, this process could result in the following four hypothetical scenarios: 1. A benchmark could be very important and present completely 2. A benchmark could be not important and still present completely 3. A benchmark could be very important and but absent completely 4. A benchmark could be not important and also absent completely The actual results are provided in the next section of this paper. The full list of survey questions is provided in Appendix A. Participants are identified and selected only if they have involvement with Web-based learning or teaching. They are sampled from universities, distance learning institutions and academic research circles. There is no prerequisite in years of experience as long as they can understand the research intention and the general features of Web-based learning. A total of 50 questionnaires were sent out to the identified and selected participants working in local tertiary institutions. A total of 34 questionnaires were collected of which all of them were used for the study and further analysis.
In undertaking this research study, the researcher encountered only two limitations to the study. The first was the small sample size of 34 academic staff, and the second that not many respondents were willing to response the open-ended question at the end of the questionnaire. That may be due to the fact that all of the possible quality benchmarks were already listed in the questionnaire already.
Findings and Analysis
The 34 respondents came from the Productivity & Quality Institute in Alexandria, Egypt. The questionnaire survey was done in November to December 2006. The following sections provide a summary of the quantitative analysis of this survey. It should be noted that all of the respondents are included in the data presented in this study. The following discussion represents a consensus of a majority of the institution in the study. It is, therefore, not appropriate to assume that the attribute outlined in the discussion always represent each and every member in the academic staff. No effort was made to apply any statistical tests to ascertain the degree of importance of a benchmark and its presence at the institutions, and the difference between the two. Instead, the researcher only used some simple descriptive statistics to guide the whole analysis of this study. The section is organized around the seven categories of benchmarks: Institutional Support, Course Development, Teaching/Learning Process, Course Structure, Student Support, Faculty Support, and ( 501 ) Evaluation and Assessment. The responses from the open-end question are listed in Appendix B.
All of the questions in this category were considered important to ensure quality for Web-based learning. The first question addressing a documented technology plan received exceptionally high ratings both with regard to importance (98%) and presence (80%) at the institutions. There was a marked difference in the third question between the importance regarding a centralized support system and the actual presence of it at the institutions. The second question addressing the reliability of the technology delivery system received quite high rating with regard to importance (95%) and presence (70%) at the institutions.
All three questions relating to course development received a mixed answer from the respondents. The fourth question addressing the guideline for minimum standards received even rating with regard to importance (50%) and presence (75%) at the institutions. The fifth question addressing the instructional materials received quite high rating with regard to importance (90%) but scored only (55.5%) on presence at the institutions. The sixth question addressing the course design received quite high rating with regard to importance (95%) but again only scored (55.5%) on presence at the institutions. This reflected that local academics agreed that instructional materials and course design were important but there were still room for improvement to strengthen the quality assurance mechanism so that to increase the presence of those benchmarks in the local settings.
Teaching / Learning Process
The majority of questions regarding the teaching / learning process were considered important but were endorsed modestly in the local environment. The two seventh and eighth questions that address the process of interactivity all of which received high scores for importance (95.5% and 94 %) and (65.8% and 75.5%) for presence at the institutions. It has become increasing evident that interactivity is the condition for quality in Web-based distance education. Indeed, many would say that it is crucial for any type of learning. As Otto Peters, author of Learning and Teaching in Distance Education wrote: "If we take distance education seriously and understand it to be something more than the mere distribution and reading of study materials, we must provide sufficient opportunities for dialogues. If, in addition, we understand academic studies as a process in which the aim is education through knowledge, we cannot do without a considerable proportion of dialogical learning and teaching in distance education." (Peters, 1999, pg. 39) The notion of interactivity is highlighted here is not only because it is central to the quality of Web-based distance education, but also because it leads to the realization that Web-based distance education is evolving its own pedagogy. The ninth question addressing the method of effective research scored (84.4%) on importance and only (45%) on presence at the institutions.
In general, the course structure received modest rating in terms of importance and presence. The thirteenth question addressing the time requirement received (78%) on importance and (55%) on presence at the institutions. Given the fact that the dynamic and innovative nature of the Web-based learning environment, particularly the capacity for students to pace themselves in a variety of ways, hard and fast rules on how much work should be accomplished in a specific time period or the precise response time for a faculty member is totally inappropriate. The tenth question addressing ( 502 ) student advising scored (80.4%) on importance and (42.5%) on presence at the institutions. Also, the eleventh question addressing supplemental course information received (75%) on importance and (68%) on presence at the institutions. All these reflect that the institutions need to put up more effort in term of student advising. The low ratings for the twelfth question regarding library resources scored (65.5%) on importance and (48%) on presence at the institutions are worth nothing. This may due to the fact that the technology and infrastructure of virtual library is still not very well developed like in the Western countries.
The all four questions relating to student support received mixed answers from the respondents. The fourteenth question addressing information for student received high ratings (88%) on both importance and presence at the institutions. The fifteenth question addressing training for student scored low rating (50%) on importance and (25%) on presence at the institutions. The sixteenth question addressing technical assistance also got low rating (62%) on importance and (38%) on presence at the institutions. The seventeenth question addressing complaint system received (84%) on importance and (28%) on presence at the institutions. It appears that for at least three benchmarks concerning training for students, technical assistance and complaint system, the institutions feel they have some long way to go.
All four questions relating to faculty support received modest rating on importance and low rating on presence at the institutions. The eighteenth question addressing technical assistance received (68%) on importance and (65%) on presence at the institutions. The nineteenth question addressing transitional assistance scored modest rating (38%) on importance and very low rating (14%) on presence at the institutions. The twentieth addressing training for instructor received (72%) on importance and low rating (35%) on presence at the institutions. The twenty first question addressing written resources scored (66%) on importance and very low rating (25%) on presence at the institutions. Many institutions participated in the study have systematic processes for assisting faculty members to make the transition from traditional teaching to Web-based teaching environment. Therefore, the low level of presence of assistance can only be attributed to the fact of limited resource put in the area.
Evaluation and Assessment
All three questions relating to evaluation and assessment received high rating on importance and modest to low rating on presence at the institutions; The twenty second question addressing evaluation process scored (77%) on importance and modest rating (40%) on presence at the institutions. The twenty third question addressing program effectiveness received (67%) on importance and low rating (23%) on presence at the institutions. The twenty fourth question addressing learning outcomes scored high rating (89%) on importance and only (55%) on presence at the institutions. By large, all participated individuals in this survey emphasized that systems should be in place to address evaluation and assessment. In the Western countries, the institutions collected huge amount of data in the areas of financial efficiency, student achievement, faculty satisfaction, student satisfaction, student retention and student demand in order to evaluate their programs effectiveness. Therefore, it was surprised to see that program effectiveness scored such a low rating in the local environment. ( 503 )
The Web is a major technological advancement reshaping not only our society but also that of universities worldwide. In the light of this, universities have to capitalize on the Web for both teaching and learning, and one progressive development of this is the use of Web-based learning in distance education settings. In conclusion, the authors wish to reiterate that each quality assurance system needs to be careful in analyzing the situation of the specific institution. It needs to be very flexible in its approach, and the combination of process and technology needs to be carefully considered, as unintended consequences in one area can originate from a bad choice in another. It may be worth noting that a firm adherence to an explicit view of what constitutes good Web-based learning, and an explicit view of issues of change and culture will furthermore influence the specific approach taken in assuring the quality Webbased learning. ( 504 )