Tallinn University of Technology

At a recently held special seminar, quality labels were awarded to the best online courses. This time around, the Online Course of the Year award went to a water pipeline modelling course (entitled Veetorustikud ja modelleerimine) created by Raido Puust at the Tallinn University of Technology.

Raido Puust

Puust’s water pipeline modelling course explores modern technological solutions in the water management industry. The subject is practical in nature, with one of the main learning outcomes being the design of a real system, using modern technologies.

The evaluation committee for the quality label project stated that the course is visually well designed and provides highly detailed instructions to students. It utilises a variety of automatically interfaced materials (e.g. lecture recordings, video materials) and activities, as well as self-evaluation and reflection tools. The course includes deeply educational and interesting discussions that develop students’ constructive and reasoned thinking skills. In addition, students are asked for various types of feedback, which shows that the teacher is carefully analysing their teaching methods and the structure of the course.

‘Winning the Online Course of the Year award fills me with motivation and the confidence that my efforts have received wider attention,’ stated the creator of the course, Raido Puust. ‘I am really glad that this course won. It is an excellent example of how, when creating a course, one should never think or assume that ‘that’s it, it’s done’, because creating an online course is a process – just like learning in general!’

Quality labels boost visibility

Puust remarked that a quality label is like a sign that says, on the one hand, that the course is comprehensive, and, on the other, that it is ready for further improvements in the future. In his opinion, quality labels also boost the visibility of a course, especially in situations where the course may be taught to different target groups. ‘I have repeatedly said that courses that have been awarded a quality label are easier to introduce to students who are enrolled in open education programmes or looking for electives. Thus, I advise this year’s quality label recipients to take advantage of this.’

Puust added that participating in the application process for the quality label for online courses is a good opportunity to get constructive feedback on the clarity and structure of the chosen learning process and the course as a whole. ‘This feedback has also inspired me to make my courses clearer in previous years,’ Puust noted. ‘And if the feedback can be applied to other courses that utilise a similar structure, then that is a double win.’

Puust believes that anyone who is wondering how they could create a good online course should first enrol in various online courses as a learner themselves. ‘Doing so allows us to see things from a different perspective and understand what e-learning can entail for learners, what kind of problems it actually involves,’ he explained. ‘Of course, it also provides an opportunity to find new ways to further improve your course. In other words: continuous learning will help improve the way you teach.’

Quality label awarded to 34 courses

A total of four courses were nominated for Online Course of the Year. In addition to the winning course, the nominees included a course on public procurement law (Riigihankeõigus by Mari Ann Simovart at the University of Tartu), a course on mathematical thinking (Matemaatiline maailmapilt by Johann Langemets, Kati Ain, Terje Hill, Alvin Lepik, Kaido Lätt, Julia Polikarpus, and Rein Prank at the University of Tartu), and a course on anatomical pathology (Patoloogiline anatoomia by Ave Minajeva at the University of Tartu).

In 2021, the quality label was awarded to a total of 34 courses from a variety of educational institutions across Estonia. The competition received a total of 52 applications from 12 educational institutions and one collaboratively created course. The highest number of applications was received from the Tallinn University of Technology (23) and the University of Tartu (18). A full list of the courses that were awarded the quality label can be found here.

In addition to the main award winner, a number of other excellent courses were presented at the seminar, and good practices for creating a quality online course were discussed. In her opening statement, Aune Valk from the council of the university consortium Eesti e-Ülikool remarked that the previous year has been revolutionary for online learning. ‘Educational designers and educational technologists, whose support has been vital for educators, are among of the greatest heroes of this year,’ Valk said. ‘And the list of heroes certainly also includes educators who have been able to improve their courses and inspire their colleagues to do the same.’ Valk added that, going forward, more attention needs to be paid to grading and conducting exams, which are some of the biggest challenges in online learning.

The quality label for online courses is a mark of recognition for course creators who have achieved outstanding results in the application of digital technologies in learning processes. The objective of the quality label programme is to raise awareness about good practices and provide feedback on online courses based on a set of established quality criteria. The quality label for online courses has been awarded since 2008. More information about the quality label is available here.

This news article is based on an article published by the Estonian Quality Agency for Higher and Vocational Education.