sn8.JPG (11538 bytes)nikana2.gif (973 bytes)

Educator Development for ICT Framework

Appendix M - Quality Standards Framework for South African Distance Education Provision

Extract from Distance Education policy document, Chapter 3, A Distance Education Quality Standards Framework for South Africa (1996)

Quality Standards for Distance Education

Policy and Planning 

Elements of the standard

1.   The mission statement of the organization sets out clearly and unambiguously the goals of the organization, the principles according to which is operates, and areas of legitimate operation.

2.    Policy statements and strategic plans arising from the mission statement are appropriate for the national and local context and responsive to changing contexts.

3.    Slogans and mottos reflect the institutional objectives and do not contradict policy and mission statements.

4.    There are policy statements on


5.    There is a published statement of the institution’s commitment to learners.

6.    Implementation/operational/ action plans are realistic and designed to enable targets to be met. Policy statements and methods of implementing them are recorded, readily available, and fully understood by members of staff.

7.    There are monitoring procedures to ensure that all policies are implemented, evaluated, and amended as and when necessary.

8.    Equal opportunities are ensured for all clients, learners, and staff.


Elements of the standard

  1. The organization has information about learners under the following categories:
  1. Research into learners and their needs is a high priority in the organization, and is used to inform all aspects of policy.
  2. Learner information is used to design programmes, courses, materials, learner support, and counselling services that are flexible and learner-centred.
  3. Supplementary materials and learner support are provided according to the needs of learners in relation to language and learning experience.
  4. Tutors have access to information about their learners and contribute to the collection of such information.
  5. Systems exist to maintain the confidentiality of information about learners.
  6. Physical handicap is considered in the design of course materials, assessment arrangements, and communication with tutors.
  7. The organization is aware of and caters for learners with learning difficulties.

Programme Development

Elements of the standard

  1. The programme is developed in terms of a needs analysis based on an audit of existing courses and programmes, market research, liaison (where appropriate) with industry and professions, national and provincial priorities, and the needs of the learners.
  2. The outcomes, content, and assessment methods in the programme are appropriate for the level and purpose.
  3. The various courses of the programme are integrated.
  4. Wherever possible, courses are used in more than one programme.
  5. Access requirements for the programme are as open as possible, and include recognition of prior learning and experience.
  6. Where possible, there are flexible exit points from the programme.
  7. Learners are allowed unlimited time to complete the programme (unless there is a valid reason for limiting the time-frame for completion).
  8. Learners are made aware of credit requirements of the programme and the possibilities for transfer to other programmes in the same or other organizations.
  9. Where appropriate, assessment is linked to accreditation and fulfils the requirements of external quality assurance bodies.
  10. Validation and approval procedures encourage innovation and flexibility.
  11. There are clearly understood processes for the development and regular review of the programme involving relevant stakeholders.
  12. Human resource planning is an integral part of programme development.
  13. For each programme, there is a publicly accessible description of aims and learning outcomes, target group, style of learning and teaching, features of the learning environment and resources, pattern of assessment, and, where, appropriate, accreditation arrangements and articulation with other programmes at the institution and in the workplace or at other institutions.

Course Design

Elements of the standard

  1. The course is designed with national needs as well as the needs of prospective learners and employers in mind.
  2. The number of courses offered by an institution is kept to a minimum to allow for the development of high quality courses in a cost-effective way.
  3. The outcomes of the course are in line with the demands of appropriate bodies, nationally and internationally.
  4. The course is developed with the needs, knowledge, and experience of the target learners in mind, as well as the required learning outcomes.
  5. There is appropriate selection of content and assessment strategies to achieve the outcomes desired.
  6. Methods of learner support are appropriate to the learners and built into the design of the course.
  7. The choice of media and type of technology is integrated into the curriculum design, and is justified in the light of the aims of the course, the required learning outcomes and learner needs and contexts.
  8. A range of instructional methods is employed to help learners achieve the outcomes, catering for different learning styles and contexts, and encouraging self-directed learning.
  9. There is a range of assessment methods that provide for a range of contexts and that provide appropriate and comprehensive feedback to the learner.
  10. The assessment strategy includes effective moderation procedures.
  11. For each course, there is a publicly accessible description of the aims and learning outcomes, target group, style of learning and teaching, features of the learning environment and resources, and pattern of assessment.
  12. Entry level skills, knowledge and experience are made explicit for each course.
  13. The institution makes relevant competence requirements of authors, consultants, and others who are brought into the course design and development process.
  14. The institution gives authors, consultants, and others involved in the course design and development process necessary guidance and training regarding aspects of distance education in order to assure quality in their work.
  15. An appropriate infrastructure exists within the organization to administer the range of elements of the course efficiently.

Course materials

Elements of the standard

  1. If existing course material is used for a particular course, its suitability is evaluated in terms of required learning outcomes and its appropriateness to the target learners.
  2. If existing course material is used for a particular course, there is proper acknowledgement of the source of all quotations and no breach of local or international copyright laws.
  3. The development of course material is based on a project plan which describes, for example, routines, finances and other resources, the delegation of responsibility among those involved, and an adequate time schedule for the work.
  4. The course development plan includes provision for evaluation during the developmental process in the form of critical commenting, developmental testing, or piloting.
  5. There are mechanisms to allow for the periodic revision of the material in the light of feedback from learners and tutors and advances in knowledge and research.
  6. The course is developed with the needs, knowledge, and experience of the target learners in mind, as well as the required learning outcomes.
  7. There are clearly laid out learning objectives, content, and an indication of study time which allows learners to adopt sensible study plans.
  8. The content of the course is sufficient, sequenced, relevant, accurate, relevant to core skills and outcomes, and free of discrimination.
  9. The learning and teaching approaches are appropriate, practical, varied, learner-centred, promote learner responsibility, and cater for individual needs.
  10. The various elements of the course materials and different media are integrated, and the integration is clearly signposted.
  11. The course materials are designed in an accessible way, and the use of language is appropriate for the learners.

 Learner Support

Elements of the standard

  1. Academic support is built into the design of the course materials.
  2. Tutors are selected and trained for their role of facilitating learning.
  3. Sufficient contact sessions are arranged to enable learners to use the course materials effectively for learning (as a learning environment).
  4. Tutors are accessible to learners for individual tutoring.
  5. Tutors are trained to teach on assignments by giving constructive feedback.
  6. The turnaround time on assignments is kept to a minimum and specified to the learners so that they can use feedback to inform their learning on an ongoing basis.
  7. Adequate administrative and professional support is provided to tutors.
  8. Tutor performance is monitored regularly.
  9. Feedback is sought from tutors for the review of courses and programmes.
  10. Administrative staff are trained to be helpful, clear and consultative in the way they relate to and make arrangements for learners.
  11. Learners have access to counselling before and during their course or programme, as well as after its completion.
  12. Satisfactory and cost-effective arrangements are made to meet learners’ needs for physical facilities for study, tutorial, and resource space.
  13. There are functioning systems for follow up and support of learners throughout the duration of their study.
  14. Learners have access to the facilities (for example, libraries) and equipment that are necessary for their successful learning.
  15. Learner structures such as student representative councils and faculty associations are recognized and learners are represented on structures of institutional governance.

 Learner Assessment

Elements of the standard

  1. Assessment is integral to every learning and teaching strategy adopted, and includes formative as well as summative processes.
  2. Where appropriate, assessment is a measurement of the achievement of outcomes.
  3. A range of parties, besides the educator, is involved in assessment of learners: for example, there might be self-assessment, peer assessment, and assessment by employers.
  4. Assessment information (including learning outcomes and targets, as well as assessment procedures and dates) is provided when introducing new courses or modules or topics.
  5. Progression within and between courses and modules is clearly explained and available.
  6. There are systems of profiling and recording so that learners can receive detailed and accurate feedback on their progress/performance.
  7. There is an appeals system.
  8. The processes and results of assessment, where appropriate, fulfil the requirements of accreditation bodies and the National Qualifications Framework.
  9. Where appropriate, the processes and results of assessment are relevant to the needs of employers, community organizations, and government departments.
  10. Employers such as the private sector, government, non-governmental organizations and the community can find out easily what the learners have learned and what they can do on completion of a course or programme.

Human Resource Strategy

Elements of the standard

  1. Teaching tasks are distributed among separate functional responsibilities; for example, course design, instructional design, electronic media use, editing, tutorial support for learners, monitoring of tutors, counselling, examining, and management of the learning system.
  2. The ratio of full-time academic staff employed to learners is large, but that of tutors (not necessarily full-time) to learners is small (It is suggested that the institution move to a ratio of 1 academic staff member per 400 learners on each course, and 1 tutor per 20 to 50 learners on each course).
  3. The institution employs sufficient administrative and technical staff to handle the specialized tasks of printing, registry, and dispatch.
  4. Staff work in teams to design and manage successful learning.
  5. Staff selection and promotion criteria give priority to quality of performance in course development, teaching, and management of learning.
  6. All staff are trained, monitored, and retrained for the specialized roles and tasks they perform.

7. Academic workload is measured in terms of the following:

8.    The responsibility for staff development is shared.
9.    There are systems for the dissemination of newly acquired skills and information.
10.    There is an effective staff appraisal system.

Management and administration

Elements of the standard

  1. There are clear lines of accountability within the organization, between the organization and the Council/Senate/Governing Body/Board, and between the Council/Senate/ Governing Body/Board and the community.
  2. Staff and students are represented on governance structures.
  3. There are effective systems for communication with current learners, with key outside bodies, with potential learners, and with all staff and tutors involved in courses.
  4. The appropriate mechanisms prevent staff from using their position of power within the institution to generate extra revenue for personal benefit or double payment for the same work.
  5. Customer enquiries, applications, and complaints are dealt with quickly and clearly.
  6. The enrolment practices include provision of accurate, helpful information to prospective learners, as well as efficient handling of money and registration information.
  7. The production and delivery of course materials is fast, accurate, and reliable.
  8. There are clear procedures to receive, record, process, and turn around assignments.
  9. The turnaround time on assignments is kept to a minimum (10 to 25 days).
  10. Learners’ questions are answered quickly (within one to five days), clearly, and supportively.
  11. Learner records are detailed, up to date, and accessible to the tutor.
  12. Tutor records are detailed for each tutor and available to tutor-monitors.
  13. The examination system, where it is necessary, is reliable and valid.
  14. Records of course results can be analysed to give completion rates for each group of learners.
  15. Premises and catering, facilities, equipment, and materials are appropriate to the education and training services provided.
  16. Equipment and facilities are well managed and maintained.
  17. Staff (and, where appropriate, learners) are trained in the use of the equipment, facilities, and communication and information systems.
  18. Financial procedures (for example, handling of course fees, orders, accounts, receipt of external funds, and part-time and full-time salaries) are known and adhered to.
  19. There are budgeting procedures in place to deal with the allocation of resources and monitoring of expenditure.
  20. The budgeting procedures are flexible enough to promote and enable constructive experimentation in design and delivery methods.
  21. Clear decision-making structures exist for seeking and receiving funds and the allocation and control of resources.
  22. Appropriate financial aid is arranged for learners.
  23. There is a system for reviewing the quality procedures used and ensuring that all changes are effectively communicated.

Collaboration between organizations

Elements of the standard

  1. Wherever possible, arrangements are made between organizations for:
  1. The membership of relevant associations and forums is encouraged.
  2. In the organization of consortia for course development or delivery, structured contractual relationships are formed to protect the interests of all parties including the learners.

Quality assurance

Elements of the standard

  1. The management ensures that, in its day-to-day work, the organization’s activities meet the quality standards set nationally as well as the organization’s own policy for the different elements (as listed in point 4 under policy and planning above).
  2. There is an organizational culture that encourages efforts to improve the quality of the education.
  3. There is a clear cycle of planning, development, documentation, reporting, action, and review of policy and procedures within the organization.
  4. Staff development is seen as fundamental to quality service provision.
  5. There are clear routines and systems for quality assurance and staff are familiar with those that relate to their work.
  6. Staff, learners, and other clients are involved in quality review.
  7. Internal quality assurance processes are articulated with external processes.

Information and Marketing

Elements of the standard

  1. There are sufficient systems and techniques in place for the accurate identification of market needs.
  2. The publicity provided for each programme is accurate and sufficiently detailed to enable applicants to make an informed choice. (The following is a suggested list of such information: target group(s), entry requirements, goals/objectives, content, learning material, teaching and learning activities, scope of programme, assessment/accreditation procedures, price, payment conditions, right to return course materials, time limits for completion, and terms regarding interruption/postponement).
  3. Employers and other who enter into collective agreements regarding education or training have received sufficient and correct information about the content and outcomes, entry qualifications, implementation and goals of the programme.
  4. The organization’s advertisements are truthful, objective and informative.
  5. Information about programmes reaches as many of those who can be expected to have a need or use for these programmes as possible, given limitations imposed by resources and available information channels.


Note: This standard is intended to summarize the main results shown by a successful education provider. The quality standards for each of the elements of distance education will assist or, in some cases, are vital for the attainment of these results. In the end, however, an educational provider will be judged by the degree of success in the achievement of valid learning and teaching goals, the satisfaction of its clients, the self-improving ethos in the organization, cost-effectiveness, and the type of impact on society.

Elements of the standard

  1. The mission and policy of the organization are in accordance with the principles and policy in the relevant national education and training acts and the economic and educational needs of the country.
  2. The organization fulfils its mission.
  3. The goals, entry level skills knowledge and experience, learning outcomes and content of the courses, course materials and programmes are valid, relevant and up to date.
  4. The programmes, courses, course materials, counselling, and support systems are informed by and meet the needs of the target learners.
  5. The administrative systems are informed by and meet the needs of learners and of staff involved in programme/course/support design and delivery.
  6. Assessment is reliable and appropriate to learning goals and outcomes.
  7. Assessment results and/or evaluation/monitoring mechanisms show that learners achieve the goals that are established for individual programmes and courses.
  8. The organization has quality systems in place to ensure continuous self-improvement.
  9. Staff are all involved in a coordinated way in continuous improvement of the programmes, courses, course materials, administration, and support services.
  10. Sufficiently large numbers of learners complete the individual programmes and courses successfully to justify the cost in time, personpower, and money for the design of the programmes, courses and learner support system.
  11. The organization has financial results that afford the learners a reasonable prospect of completing their studies, and sufficient profits to ensure the future development of products and services.

Return to Contents Page
Last updated: 2 June 2000