A European kitemarking scheme for online higher education will be launched next year in a bid to address the lack of confidence in the quality of e-learning.
The European Foundation for Quality in E-Learning (Efquel) was launched last week at the Online Educa 2004 conference in Berlin. It will continue the work of four European-funded e-learning projects, including the Sustainable Environment for the Evaluation of Quality in e-Learning (Seequel) and the European Quality Observatory.
The Quality Mark will cover all educational sectors and will incorporate existing quality assurance mechanisms. Its form will be decided by a working group to be appointed next year.
A web portal, due to be launched in April, will act as a single point of access to resources on quality and will facilitate dialogue between researchers, organisations and e-learning users.
Delegates at the conference said establishing standards was vital if e-learning was to evolve, and it was important that no single vendor controlled them.
Keith Baker, professor of computer science at Reading University who was involved in the Seequel project, said a key role for Efquel would be to encourage software companies to create the tools and services needed to allow digitised course material to be used in any online system.
Professor Baker lamented the demise of the UK eUniversity initiative, a flagship government project that was wound up this year after it failed to attract sufficient students, calling it a "missed opportunity". He had been involved in its creation.
A record 1,700 delegates attended the tenth Online Educa conference last week. It revealed that in many areas the corporate sector was ahead of universities and schools in delivering appropriate and compelling materials needed by learners.