Kiron’s role as an intermediary between refugee students and higher education institutions (HEIs) demands an academic working culture based on transparency and open communication. One of the four pillars in our Quality Handbook (see more detail here) is “Constant Development.” This article gives insight into how Kiron achieves “Constant Development” through our collaboration with external stakeholders and experts.

The importance of “Constant Development”

For Kiron, quality is the degree to which a product (e.g. Kiron’s curricula and its study tracks) fulfill requirements that are implicitly or explicitly defined by external stakeholders (e.g. our students or higher education institutions).  Quality needs to be assessed on an ongoing basis (see the ASQ-webpage on Quality Management) through review cycles and feedback. Kiron’s “plan-do-check-act” principle allows for the constant development and improvement of our product.

Student feedback is collected through various channels, such as course evaluations, which provide insight into our student’s perception of Kiron’s MOOCs. Student feedback also allows Kiron to review the workload of courses and access the need for additional support structures. SUCCESS, a project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, collected student feedback on certain aspects of Kiron and gave insight into the student experience.

Kiron currently partners with fifty-five higher education institutions internationally. Feedback from higher education institutions allows Kiron to assess and improve core curricula and Quality Assurance tools. In addition to our academic partners, Kiron also consults with experts in different areas such as digitization, recognition and online learning to implement research-based best practices.  Additionally, through funding from  the Bertelsmann Foundation, Kiron collaborated with external partners on two projects and received important feedback that allowed us to iterate and improve our services

“Displaying MOOC Quality” – Workshop with Nuffic, NVAO and Gabi Witthaus

Kiron organized a workshop with Nuffic (the Dutch organization for internationalization in higher education and member of the ENIC-NARIC network), NVAO (the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders) and Gabi Witthaus, an educational expert in online-learning who collaborates with Kiron on different topics, which took place in Den Haag beginning of December.

NVAO did a survey on MOOC Quality in 2014 and Nuffic recently published a policy paper on recognition of eclectic learning as part of their PARADIGMS project. Gabi Witthaus is lead author of the JRC report on Validation of Non-formal MOOC-based Learning and did interviews with Kiron students to understand our student’s experiences in MOOC learning.

Through this workshop, Kiron sought to better understand the needs of different stakeholders, such as credential evaluators, and align our work with the results of the PARADIGMS project. Kiron will share our information on MOOCs with these stakeholders in the future. While developing our MOOklets – a Quality Assurance tool aiming for more transparency about MOOCs in our curricula (see the Quality Handbook or Rampelt & Suter 2017) – Kiron researched more than 200 MOOCs (we discuss this research on the Alt-C blog). This data can already be used by credential evaluators, however, Kiron wants to display this information in a more user-friendly and targeted way.

The feedback provided by Nuffic is very promising for Kiron. Nuffic representatives said they “would be willing to accept MOOCs that have been approved by KIRON experts without having more formal evidence of quality assurance, especially if the partner institutions of KIRON also accept these MOOCS and provide exemptions from their bachelor programmes.” While this feedback  does not necessarily reflect the views of the whole ENIC-NARIC network, it validates Kiron’s approach and quality assurance principles. Furthermore, Nuffic compiled clear recommendations on how to display MOOklet Quality Criteria in a user-friendly way, providing an impetus to refine our already existing documents.

Documentation-Check by ACQUIN: Doing a Certification Test-Run

Another important source of feedback on our documentation and Quality Tools was a critical check and report by ACQUIN. Kiron developed a self-report for the study track Business and Economics, based on the criteria for certification procedures for further education programs that analyzes programs and certifies their comparability to study programs based on the levels 6 to 8 of the German Qualification Frameworks (DQR). Such a certification will be an important development for the Kiron Study Tracks and our work in Academic Partnerships. The certification will also be an important milestone of the project INTEGRAL+, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research. While Kiron aims to implement certification procedures in the future, this critical feedback by ACQUIN provides recommendations on how to better align our documentation, increasing consistency and highlighting information that should be explained in more detailed.

The AQUIN report found that Kiron’s Learning Outcome Comparison Matrices, quality tools that clarify the contribution of MOOCs to Module Learning Outcomes, are exemplary. Furthermore, the report praises Kiron’s Blended Learning Model and its support structures as being very well thought through. However, there are also recommendations such as for reducing redundancies and for giving better examples for the examination of Kiron modules.

Next steps: fulfilling the “Act” in “Planned-Do-Check-Act”

Based upon the feedback received, Kiron will critically review the Quality Assurance Tools. While current feedback shows our approach to be successful, the recommendations of external experts allow us further improve our approach. Furthermore, Kiron plans to expand its Quality Handbook to improve the transparency of its standards, structures and processes for external partners.