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Students’ perception on quality assurance system of distance education at Universitas Terbuka*)

Students' perception on quality assurance system of distance education at Universitas Terbuka*)


Endang Nugraheni, Ida Malati Sajati, Sri Yuniati PKH, Suci M. Isman, Aminudin Zuhairi (presenter)
Universitas Terbuka, Indonesia
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Sub theme: Quality and ODL: the way forward



This paper addresses the Universitas Terbuka (UT) students’ perception on quality assurance (QA) system of distance education, using an online survey method involving 306 students. The UT students’ perception on QA system is analyzed in terms of profile of respondents, perception on important values of QA, students’ satisfaction on the quality of the distance education programs and courses. The profile of the respondents shows that most of them are within the age of 25 to 30 years old. They study at UT mostly by means of reading printed materials and interactive online studies at home and at no particular place in the evenings. Students’ difficulties in distance related to conflicts with work responsibilities, lack of time and self motivation. Students said that they needed both academic and social psychological support. Students’ perception on important values in QA was expressed in terms of the availability and clear guidelines for QA system in the institution. In terms of institutional credibility, students stated that external accreditation and qualified staff are key factors to institutional quality. In terms of learning process, students valued highly the importance of well structured courses and interactivity in the learning process. Students also stated that media technology supports, faculty support, and fair assessment are important in the quality of teaching learning at a distance. In terms of learning experience, they perceived that protection of student rights, course content, and technology infrastructure were well facilitated by the institution.


Key words: open and distance learning, quality assurance, student perception



As a credible open and distance education provider, high quality delivery should be ensured to all stakeholders. As a matter of fact quality is a relative and evolving concept. Perception about quality between provider and learner is not always similar. Nonetheless quality should be assessed, and in order to be able to assess quality, some criteria of measurement should be developed. Criteria of measurement are part of quality assurance (QA). Most of QA criteria available are developed in response to the perspective of providers, and only a few take learners’ perspective into considerations. It is crucial to balance the perspectives of both and there is a need to give greater considerations to the learners’ views since the success of open and distance learning (ODL) very much depends on the motivation and other aspects of learners (Latchem & Jung, 2010).


In order to provide useful references to devise a balanced and improved QA framework for DE/e-learning in Asia, a research has been done to have a better understanding of learners’ views on quality in distance and e- learning in Asia. As understood, Asia is a huge continent with a large number of populations with diverse cultures, economic capacities and technological infrastructures, and there has been an increasing trend of students participating in ODL. Further, Asia is the home of many large open and mega-universities to meet the growing demand for quality higher education. This research attempts to identify Asian learners’ perspectives on the quality of distance education and e-learning. Findings of this research are expected to provide feedback to the improvement of the existing QA frameworks for DE/e-learning in Asia.


The questions addressed in this research have been derived from the IDRC-supported research project, and focus on addressing the specific context of DE/e-learning in Indonesia. The research questions are formulated as the following.


  1. Which dimensions are more important than others in assuring the quality of DE/e-learning from the perspective of Indonesian learners?
  2. Within each dimension, which criteria are more important than others in assuring the quality of DE/e-learning from the perspective of Indonesian learners?
  3. Are Indonesian learners satisfied with the quality of their DE/e-learning?


Key areas addressed in this research include technology infrastructure, internal QA system, institutional credibility, course development, interactive task, teaching and learning, information and publicity, student support, faculty support, evaluation and assessment, and students’ satisfaction.



Data was collected using online survey method to Asian distance learners. The Indonesian data on distance learners were analyzed separately for the purpose of this paper. This paper addresses the Universitas Terbuka (UT) students’ perception on quality assurance system of distance education. Respondents answered were 308, and 306 were analyzed. Analysis was done by means of descriptive statistic.


Result and Discussion


Profile of respondents
Profiles of respondents’ showed that male were larger (71.6%) than female (28.4%). Most of the respondents were within the productive age whereas 33.2% were between 25 to 30 years old and 30.5% were between 31 to 40 years old. Detail of range of age is described in Figure 1. In line with the mission of UT to increase accessibility for higher education to wider public, the result is justified in that the range of students’ age is diverse (less than 20 years old up to 60 years old).


Figure 1. Range of age of the respondents


Similar to students in other open universities, UT students face some learning difficulties which hinder their study progress. Students’ difficulties at UT are related to conflicts with work responsibilities, lack of time and self motivation, as described in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Difficulties faced by UT’s students


Learning behavior is important to ensure the success of study and can be used as predictor to learning behavior. This learning behavior is described in Figures 3 to 5. UT students learn mostly by means of printed materials (52.1%) and interactive online studies (21.3%) such as in online tutorial program (Figure 3). The most convenient time of study is during the evening on weekdays (Figure 4). While for the favored place of study is at home (68.7%) as described in Figure 5.


Figure 3. Most frequently used learning method of UT’s students


Figure 4. Study time of UT’s students


Figure 5. Place of study


Students support is also important to ensure the success of study. UT students stated that they needed both academic and social psychological supports as described in Figure 6. Students perceived that the most important support came from academic staffs (45.5%) and also from the family member (30.3%) as described in Figure 7.


Figure 6. Type of support needed for UT’s students

Figure 7. The most important support for UT’s students


Students’ value in DE institution
Students’ perception on important values in DE institution was expressed in terms of their assessment in the infrastructure, internal QA system, institutional credibility, course development, interactive task, teaching and learning, information and publicity, student support, faculty support, evaluation and assessment.


Most of students viewed that DE infrastructure is important to support the learning process at a distance (Figure 8). Those DE infrastructures are mainly the security of student data, reliable technology infrastructure, reliable learning management system, and media production technology. In terms of physical classroom, most of students feel that it was not as important as other DE infrastructures. These findings tell us that DE students seem more valued infrastructure for DE which could facilitate learning at a distance rather than for learning on face to face basis.


Figure 8. Students’ value on DE infrastructure


Internal QA system
In term of QA system, most students pointed out that the clarity of QA guidelines and the existence of quality standards are more important than periodic internal and external evaluation. These findings showed us that students view that QA system as an important and useful tool or instrument that could be used by DE institution to improve the quality of learning at a distance. The internal and external evaluation of DE program is viewed by students as much more focusing on management concern rather than academic concern (Figure 9).


Figure 9. Students’ perception on internal quality assurance system


Institutional credibility
Most students argued that external accreditation, qualified staff, and the international accreditation are more important in term of institutional credibility than the strong leadership and the clarity lines of authority. They thought that qualified staff and accreditation, both external and international, could stimulate the academic development and improvement of the DE institution; while the strong leadership and the clarity lines of authority might function in improving the management of the DE institution (Figure 10).


Figure 10. Students’ value on institutional credibility


Course development
Well structure course, guidelines for course development, the adaptability to student’s needs and multimedia components in courses viewed by students as the most important part of course development in DE. They believe that they could learn well and independently as long as they are facilitated by well-structured course materials which guided them step by step on how to study the content/substances of the course. In the students’ point of view this kind of course materials could only be developed by the experienced course writers (Figure 11). The experienced course writers generally would have the ability to develop best DE course materials as long as they have enough knowledge about the substance would be written, the characteristics of DE students, the typical of learning at a distance; and clear guidelines for course development and media selection. In addition, the students also assume that the well structured course materials could only be learned easily if it is developed by considering adaptability to student’s needs. On the other hand, students viewed video-recorded lectures as the less important part of course development. In this case, likely students “prefer” learn from written course materials rather than from video program.


Figure 11. Students’ value on course development


Interactive task
Almost all of interactive task in DE such as problem/case-based learning, individualized learning, and collaborative learning viewed by students as important activities or tasks that could facilitate them in learning at a distance. In this case, it seems that students are conscious about their limitation on face to face interaction among each other’s and with tutors. That is why they valued very high interactive tasks in distance education, because according to them they could be conducted independently (Figure 12).


Figure 12. Students’ value in interactive task in learning


Teaching and learning
Most students viewed that access to online library, online tutorials, and interaction with instructors, flexibility in learning methods, asynchronous online interactions, and flexibility in learning pace as the most important facilities and support in teaching and learning at a distance. It seems that everything that could facilitate students’ learning at a distance and support students’ independence learning is viewed as meaningful and helpful by students. Other facilities such as interaction with other students, access to physical library, synchronous interaction, face to face tutorials, and informal meeting with tutors and students are viewed as less important by students (Figure 13). The conditions indicate that students feel more comfortable with independent learning using any kind of DE facilities and support rather than learning on face to face instruction. The students’ reasons for this conditions might be because they are aware that it is difficult for them who live spread out around the country to interact on face to face basis with tutors, other fellow students, access to physical library, face-to-face tutorials, and even in synchronous interaction.


Figure 13. Students’ value on teaching and learning


Information and publicity
It seems that students are concerned with the function of information and publicity in DE. All of information and publicity on DE such as course information, clear requirements for assignments, and program/course administration are viewed by students as an important part of DE services to the community (Figure 14). In students’ point of view, the image of DE institution would be great as long as the DE institution could inform all of the programs clearly and thoroughly to all stakeholders.


Figure 14. Students value on information and publicity


Students support
Almost all of students support facilities in DE, such as media/technology support, administrative support, distance learning skills training, flexible payment method, social support, learner welfare, guidelines for funding, and psychological support, were viewed as important and useful by students. Only one kind of students’ support that was viewed less important than other namely established appeal mechanism. In this case, students might be argued that appeal mechanism was not important yet for them because it does not rely on directly to their learning needs (Figure 15).


Figure 15. Students’ value on students support

Faculty support
Almost all faculty support DE, such as policy and procedures for staff selection, continuous assistance for tutors, training for staff, and faculty/tutor/staff welfare were viewed as important and useful for managing DE by students. From the students’ point of view, policy and procedures for staff selection would help institution select the appropriate candidate for certain jobs. Continuous assistance for tutors would improve the quality of academic services for DE students. Training for staff would improve the knowledge and skills of staff in certain working area, and this would indirectly improve the DE institutional capacity. Faculty/tutor/staff welfare would make the institutional environment healthy (Figure 16).


Figure 16. Students’ value on Faculty support


Evaluation and assessment
In term of evaluation and assessment, most students commented that feedback to student assignments, fair rubrics for assessment, periodic student evaluation, periodic institutional review of lecturers, and feedback from graduates were important for them in order to know their learning achievement in DE situation. It seems the students believe that feedback on assignment would give them the information about which part of their assignment is right and which part is wrong. Fair rubrics for assessment would guide them on how to do the assignment. Periodic students’ evaluation would give them a chance to do self-assessment and evaluation and doing continuous improvement. Periodic institutional review of lecturers would make lecturers more competence in facilitating students learning. Feedback from graduates would give a useful information about the quality of study program, the quality of graduates, the quality of students support services, etc (Figure 17).


Figure 17. Students’ value on evaluation and assessment


Students’ satisfaction
Students’ satisfaction on the quality of their program and courses were surveyed. Some criteria such as course content, learning activities, technology infrastructure, human right issue, etc. were asked. The result showed that human right issues, course content, and technology infrastructure were well facilitated by the institution. Three of those criteria were rated 3.60 and above (Figure 18). A human right issue was the highest which probably mean that students’ right to pursue their study was guaranteed by UT. As already mentioned most of UT’s students are fulltime worker who have difficulties to continue their study through conventional face to face mode of learning.


Figure 18. Students’ satisfaction of UT services



The information gathered from the analysis will benefit UT in evaluating and improving the general services for UT’s students, as well as QA system. But it must be taken into consideration that UT’s respondents in this research are only a small part of the whole UT students who have online access. More information should also be gathered among UT’s non online students. From the profile it showed that UT’s students fall into category of traditional distance learners for they still use more of printed materials rather than online resources, although online learning has gained increasing attention too. Students also relied on conventional support such as academic support from academic staffs, which were similar to those at conventional universities.


Concerning key areas addressed in the research, in term of infrastructure students viewed that reliable technology was more important than physical infrastructure. In terms of QA system, students valued QA as a means to improve the quality of learning. According to UT students, institutional credibility will be proven by external accreditation, international accreditation, and by qualified staffs. In the area of learning, well structured courses, problem-based learning, and online support such as online library and online tutorials were considered very important. In the area of student’s assessment, feedback to assignments was considered the most important. Those aspects valued by UT’s students will be most useful in improving criteria for UT’s QA system.


Furthermore, students’ satisfaction of UT’s services was relatively high especially for the human right issues. Apparently, the right to learn and engage in formal study for a wide range of age, geography, and other condition is assured at UT.


Latchem C. & Jung, I. (2010). Distance and blended learning in Asia. New York: Routledge.


*) This paper has been prepared as part of a larger research project supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The authors wish to express special thanks to IDRC principal investigators Professors Insung Jung (International Christian University, Japan), Wong Tat Meng (Wawasan Open University, Malaysia), Chen Li (Beijing Normal University, China), Professor S. Baigaltugs  (Mongolia University of Science and Technology, Mongolia), and Professor Tian Belawati (Universitas Terbuka, Indonesia), for allowing to use the data for further analysis in the specific context of Indonesia. 
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