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Lessons from Covid-19 for quality assurance in higher education


A new report edited by CDE Fellow Alan Tait reviews the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic 2020-2021 on Quality Assurance in Higher Education resulting from the accelerated inclusion of online elements in Higher Education institutions in all parts of the world.

The report ‘Global Quality Perspectives on Open, Flexible and Distance Learning 2021’, published by the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) notes that the emergency response of remote teaching has raised questions of quality in learning, teaching and student support. In particular the remote learning developed in crisis mode during Covid-19 lockdown unwittingly carried forward many assumptions and practices of campus teaching, in particular the lecture, which are less effective in online environments. They also were often not able to adequately include student-to-student interaction or the support services for students which were expected.

On the other hand, online learning has over the recent period developed specific practices that are based on rethinking learning and teaching in the light of the possibilities offered by digital technologies, that now can valuably feed back into the emerging blended solutions in the post Covid-19 crisis world of campus-based Higher Education.This is creating an agenda for change and professional development for all education sectors. The report goes on to detail how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the breakdown of sectoral boundaries in terms of Quality Assurance between campus-based and online learning institutions in 7 world regions: Africa, Middle East,Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. 

Summing up future prospects for online learning at the end of 2021, the report’s authors envisage rapid growth, further embedding online teaching and learning in mainstream higher education, but also significant challenges: 

  • preparing the majority of faculty to become effective online instructors,
  • improving and broadening services for online students,
  • increasing the numbers of support staff to meet both faculty and student needs for online teaching and learning, 
  • addressing access issues and preparation deficits particularly among disadvantaged and minority student populations,
  • implementing and expanding quality assurance standards and processes to improve the effectiveness of online learning and instil public trust.