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Estonia has been described as one the most digitally advanced countries in the world. Soon after the restoration of independence in 1991, Tiger Leap Program was launched to support educational institutions in acquiring the necessary equipment and to provide IT training for teachers.These activities have been carried out successfully for many years by Estonian IT Foundation for Education HITSA (todayHARNO) – a government agency created through cooperation between the state, universities and IT companies. Among other activities HARNO administrates and develops centralin formation systems, learning environments and learning resources.
Years of hard work has paid off: Estonia ranks 1st in Europe and 5th in the world in the PISA 2018 results. We are no. 1 in Europe for digital learning (CEPS) and the fastest growing innovator in the EU Innovation Scoreboard 2021.
Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) is the second largest and only technological university in Estonia. This year our e-courses received
over 50 percent of thenational e-course quality labels and the e-course of the year award issued by theEstonian Quality Agency for Higher and Vocational Education (EKKA).
E-Learning reform at TalTech began in 2017 with the creation of a document called the E-Learning Standard. In parallel we launched our first project to support the implementation of this standard – the E-Support Evaluation Programme. The aim of the project was to bring all compulsory courses of the university to the basic quality level by 2020. During 3 years 1200 courses were reviewed and evaluated by our instructional designers. The project ended with 91 percent of compulsory courses confirmed to the basic level.In the early months of the project, we were heavily criticized by professors, but during the pandemic and shift to distance learning, everyone finally saw the positive influence of the project. We started distance learning with well prepared lecturers and already existing e-courses.
When it comes to the choice of an LMS, thenroughly 99 percent of courses are located in our university’s Moodle environment TalTech Moodle that we transferred to in 2019 from the central HARNO Moodle provided by the government. Harno Moodle currently hosts 38 universities and vocational schools, 265 general education schools and 42 other institutions. The services provided to us by HARNO were excellent, we simply outgrew from the central platform. Moving to our own platform gave us the opportunity to better manage developments related to the platform, brand our Moodle and to start integration projects with other systems of our university with the help of our university’s IT team.
After successful completion of the E-Support Evaluation program
me, we initiated a new 5 year program as part of the university’s development plan 2025. The aim of this project is to work for the next five years with the lecturers who are highly motivated to develop their courses to the advanced level of e-courses according to our E-Learning Standard. We want to work with the lecturer personally, taking into account the wishes and ideas that have accumulated over the years, as well as contribute more to the visual design of the courses. 25 courses per semester are chosen to work in depth with.Each faculty of our university has their own instructional designer and each will work with 5-6 courses simultaneously. At the same time, the goal for these courses is the quality label of the Estonian Higher and Vocational Education Quality Agency. The pilot semester that we carried out in spring was highly succesful and we are now moving into the second round of the project.
To support the Learning Design Program, we have set up a studio so that lecturers can record lectures on their own. The pandemic has encouraged the lecture format to be directed towards video lectures, so that there is more time for discussion in the classroom.
MOOC programme is mainly aimed to support TalTech’s collaboration with the EuroTeq university network. The network brings together six leading universities of science and technology across Europe: Technical University of Munich, Technical University of Denmark, Technical University of Eindhoven, Ecole Polytechnique, Czech Technical University in Prague and Tallinn University of Technology. The main aim of this collaboration is to build theEuroTeQ Campus, which gives students the possibility to take courses from any of the above universities, however EuroTeq Campus will not be restricted to only the students enrolled at the partner institutions.
This autumn EuroTeq Course Catalogue was published. In order to develop the course catalogue, there is a need for more and more high quality online courses over the upcoming years. At the moment we have taken 4-5 fully online courses per year as our goal. First course of the programme is called „Introduction to programming“ and it will be finished by January 2022.
The platform used for MOOCs is Moodle. In recent years, we have tried different alternative MOOC platforms that did not pay off financially. Creating courses is expensive and paying in addition for a MOOC platform license is not reasonable. We have found it to be a better option to use a platform already familiar to our lecturers and to market the courses ourselves through our extensive partner network.
Looking into the future, our quality assurance projects are largely in place for the next five years, but another exciting topic that does not fit in the scope of this article is the different e-environments and software we use to support these projects. We arelooking forward to the launch of MoodleNet and the Moodle 4.0 UX developments and considering extending our BigBlueButton procurement for next year. Yet it is also worth keeping an eye on the MS Teams developments and collaboration plans with OpenLMS.
It can be challenging from time to time to divide ourselves between offering technological support and doing course development, but we continue to do it with joy as long is we know it is beneficial to our lectures and students as we wish to continue to improve the quality of online education at our university and in the world.