“The achievement of excellence has been considered as the cornerstone of universities” (Vlachopoulos, 2016). Quality in education is rather a complex, multidimensional concept as there is no one clear explanation of the term, nor one collective opinion but a number of approaches and interpretations.
In a commercial context, customers would measure a few features of a product in relationship to its intended purpose. In education it is very difficult to define what quality means, since each prospective “customer” focuses on a different feature of the product or service which they address as “quality” (Zavlanos, 2003). Some of the factors quality of online education is measured on, derive from the student, the curriculum, the educational design, the technological means used, and the characteristics of the school.
Online education is facing a paradox: the demand is on the rise as more and more people are considering eLearning, yet the concerns over quality of these courses and programs is arguably the main obstacle in reaching its potential. The need for adhering to the existing quality standards as well as the continuous improvement and re-evaluation of these standards becomes a must.
In an article in Teachonline.ca from 2014, there were six key quality assurance issues identified and discussed. I have summarized them below:
- Program and Curriculum Design
- What are the learning outcomes intended for the course/program?
- Based on the skills and experience of faculty and students, will they be achieved?
- Is the pedagogy adopted likely to ensure they are achieved?
- The Delivery System (including the learning management system) and Related Pedagogy
- Challenge for instructor: know little about learners, yet they have to anticipate different learning styles and needs
- Design a course using various methods of delivery while ensuring the method chosen is the best way of achieving the planned outcome
- Use of a learning modality grid*
- Preparation and Skills of the Faculty Member
- Ensure online instructor is prepared to deliver online courses through prior prep courses and annual professional development
- Assessment and Authentication
- Authentication – how do we ensure that the person submitting an assignment or examination is in fact the learner registered for the course
- Participation – what should the “participation” grade be based on and how much weight should it carry for the final grade for the course?
- The design of assessment – consideration to be given to the overall “architecture” of assessment
- Student Engagement
- Regarded as the best predictor of student performance and success whether the learning is classroom-based, hybrid, blended or online
- Key characteristics as per the National Survey of Student Engagement:
- Academic Challenge
- Learning with Peers
- Experience with faculty
- Campus environment
- The Use of Open Education Resources
- Because of the growth and development of open education resources and their increased use by the faculty as additional resources for students, standards had to be created around their use
- Question to be answered: how well are they integrated into a designed experience for the learner? “Learners need to know why they are reviewing or using them, what they are supposed to do when they use them and what learning is intended to be associated with them.”
- Some questions to be considered:
- Accuracy and validity – Are the materials correct, accurate and valid?
- Reputation of author/institution
- Standard of technical production, accessibility and fitness for purpose
- Other practical questions, but as important:
- How will the OER resource be used by learners? What guidance and support do they need to make the best use of this resource?
- How will instructors assess the use of the OER resource by learners?
- How will instructors ensure that the OER materials in the course remain current?
Pappas, C (2013, June 10) Learning Management Systems Comparison Checklist of Features Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/learning-management-systems-comparison-checklist-of-features
Vlachopoulos, D (2016, December), Assuring Quality in E-Learning Course Design: The Roadmap Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/2784/3957
As a Faculty Member, What Do I Need To Know About Quality in Online Learning? Retrieved from: https://teachonline.ca/tools-trends/quality-guidelines-and-practice/faculty-member-what-do-i-need-know-about-quality-online-learning