Developing Online Degree Programmes in Higher Education

SeOppi 2/2019
Text: Marjo Joshi
Image by: Design Zilliacus

Pedagogy is at the heart of designing quality online learning. When the entire degree is offered fully online, it becomes even more important to focus on pedagogy throughout the design.

Digitalisation and globalisation of higher education (HE) have increased access to degree-providing education. Visions for future higher education call for flexible and open education, as well as new approaches to degree education. Online degree programmes (ODP) offered fully online give students globally an opportunity to access degree studies irrespective of location and even time.

National Collaboration in Online Degree Education

Online degree studies enable studying while travelling, working or staying at home. Read online degree students’ stories from BBA in International Business Online (TUAS).

eAMK is a project funded by Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture which aims to develop year-round digital courses accessible to all students from Finnish universities of applied sciences (UAS). As part of the project, eAMK Online Degree Working Group was set up to develop online degree education within the context of universities of applied sciences in Finland. The working group represents six universities of applied sciences with degree programmes in various fields, including business, ICT and health care.

Joshi coordinates the working group, and she explains that the group created a common definition for the term ‘online degree’, as it was used in various ways and standardisation was needed. The term was defined as “a degree that is offered online and includes interactive, guided study and real-time online meetings, which may be held at specific times using specific platforms”.

Tips from Online Degree Students

The Online Degree Working Group has shared good practices in a series of webinars targeted for anyone interested in online degree programme design and development. The webinars have focused on various aspects of online degree education, including pedagogical and technical solutions, course design, and guidance.

Joshi mentions that each webinar has had a student representative from a different online degree programme and UAS in Finland, and their views have been valuable to the development of online degree education as part of the project. Some of the important aspects mentioned by the students were well-organised studies and time management, clear instructions and contact with peers and teachers. The webinar series continues in the autumn 2019 with two new webinars on student wellbeing and student tips for online degree studies.

Pedagogical development of Online Degree Education

Offering a degree programme fully online requires input in terms of both pedagogy and technology. Joshi is currently conducting research on pedagogical design of online degree programmes. According to her, holistic design of online degree programmes is important. The higher education institution needs to consider how to implement the pedagogical strategy in a digital context.

According to her, when online degree education is developed with a “focus on the online learner, pedagogy should be considered in terms of design, support, implementation and environments. Pedagogical strategy therefore needs to be integrated in the construction of the entire online degree programme.” Joshi presents her research at this year’s Online Educa Berlin, on 27-29 Nov. The theme of her presentation is Online Degree Programmes in Higher Education – Pedagogical Strategy in a Digital Context.

Marjo Joshi, works as a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering and Business at Turku University of Applied Sciences (TUAS) and is responsible for BBA in International Business Online degree. She specialises in online education and as part of Future Learning Design team, she manages the pedagogical development of online degree programmes. Her PhD research focuses on pedagogical design of online degree programmes in Higher Education.