There has been a significant rise in the facilitation of online learning. In recent years this has continued to exponentially grow particularly in light of global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Institutions increasingly acknowledge that online learning is crucial to their long-term strategy. Learned scholars highlight the need for quality to expand with the increase in online learning. Various endeavours and initiatives [1] [2] have been established to promote and encourage quality in online learning and provide guidance in the development and enhancement of online learning environments.

Professional associations, such as the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE) have a major role to play in regard to informing and assuring the quality of online learning environments in tertiary education. This has been a driver for ASCILITE undertaking the conceptualisation and development of the TELAS initiative.

The TELAS initiative has now launched a set of internationally benchmarked accreditation standards, criteria and performance measures in its TELAS Framework. This Framework is the basis for assessing, assuring, certifying and recognising the quality of online learning.

The development of the TELAS Framework was guided by four operational phases conducted between 2017 – 2019. These included:

  • Phase 1: A draft accreditation framework was developed through a synthesis of the findings from an extensive literature review. This review focused on the indicators for quality in online learning. Workshops with senior learning and teaching tertiary education leaders, were conducted across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to iteratively refine and progress the draft accreditation framework. At the end of this phase the first version of the TELAS Framework was conceptualised.
  • Phase 2: The TELAS Framework was further refined by the TELAS Strategic Advisory Group and a National Summit involving key Australasian senior higher education leaders. These stakeholders also conceptualised a formal accreditation process and associated resourcing for the operationalisation of the Framework.
  • Phase 3: The revised TELAS Framework was iteratively further developed through the facilitation of extensive stakeholder consultative workshops with educational technology practitioners and students. An online survey was also implemented to gather feedback on the TELAS framework from practitioners across the global tertiary education sector. This consultation phase was a vehicle by which the draft accreditation framework was significantly progressed with the development of performance criteria and measures with associated quality indicators. Administrative and organisational details for the facilitation of the formal accreditation process were finalised.
  • Phase 4: Feedback from Phase 3 was reviewed by an identified TELAS Reference Group[3] to finalise the Framework. The Framework was subsequently edited by Susan Hoadley from the Linguistics Department at Macquarie University. At the end of 2019, a series of face-to-face pilot workshops were conducted with educational technology practitioners from Macquarie University and Australian Catholic University. These workshops served as a mechanism for user testing and to further validate the TELAS Framework. They also assisted in piloting the peer reviewer workshop program that will be periodically conducted throughout Australasia to accredit individuals to be TELAS Certified Reviewers. Feedback from these workshops endorsed the framework and warranted it as a valuable tool for guiding and assessing the design of quality online learning environments. 2019 and early 2020 saw the development of the TELAS website, self-assessment tool and app.

[1] OLC Quality Scorecard Suite available at https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/consult/olc-quality-scorecard-suite/
[2] Quality Matters Rubric available at https://www.qualitymatters.org/qa-resources/rubric-standards/higher-ed-rubric
[3] Our thanks to the TELAS Reference Group for their invaluable guidance and efforts: Elaine Huber (USyd), Carol Hunter (CSU), Vebica Evans (ACU), Hilary Wheaton (RMIT), Yvonne Breyer (MQ), Gai Ramesh (MQ), Penny Wheeler (ACU), Dom McGrath (UQ) and others.