Like any other product or service, online course design and development must be subjected to quality control (QC) standards to ensure that its users’ needs are truly being met. But like other design-driven products, in which subjectivity plays a key role in a course’s development and execution, the quality of eLearning products can sometimes be difficult to evaluate objectively.
Luckily, organizations like Quality Matters provide instructional designers with resources, standards and expertise to apply QC in online learning.
Here are some best practices to help you integrate quality control standards into your course design and delivery.
Designing and Delivering High Quality
The Quality Framework proposed by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) spells out five pillars for measuring quality in distance education:
- Quality in Learning Effectiveness: When designing and delivering online learning content, course developers must aim to provide a teaching solution that’s at least as effective as any equivalent traditional learning opportunity in terms of accomplishing learning outcomes.
- Quality in Scale: Distance learning course providers must demonstrate a commitment to continually reduce course costs (for themselves and for the learner), while constantly focusing on technical excellence in course development.
- Quality in Access: As instructional designers, you are responsible for providing as broad a platform as possible for your audience to access your courses. This includes both the means of access (e.g. multiple devices, alternate operating systems, etc.), and the number of courses offered.
- Quality in Faculty Satisfaction: Another measure of quality is the satisfaction derived by those teaching or delivering your course. Course designers must work closely with those delivering the final product to ensure their aspirations are reflected in the design.
- Quality in Student Satisfaction: In many ways, this is the ‘acid test’ for determining course quality. If learners are happy with their online learning experience – including content, assessments, interactions, and feedback – then the course will be considered to be of maximum quality.
One way to conform to these 5 pillars is by introducing a multi-point QC strategy in your development process.
- Design: Ensure adherence to industry best practices, such as those espoused by the Quality Matters Course Design Rubric Standards. These rubrics span the entire gamut of the course, from Introduction, Learning objectives and Assessments, to Interaction, Activities, Technology, Accessibility, and Support.
- Review: Where possible, institute a continuous review process for each element of your course (content, graphics, video/audio narrations, navigation, assessments). While peer reviews are common practice, you may also seek external consultants to help with such reviews.
- Test: While unit testing each component of the course is helpful, course creators must insist upon end-to-end testing of the entire course, too. Ensure you conduct such tests using your targeted environments (desktops, tablets, smartphones, various operating systems, etc.). Take steps to capture feedback from those tests, and incorporate suggested improvements into your design accordingly.
- Pilot Testing: Never launch your course (even when test results imply “100% perfection”) unless you’ve done at least one pilot run. Design processes to capture pilot-run feedback and include those improvements into the design accordingly.
- Post-Implementation Feedback: Each iteration of the course you deliver must include a Feedback mechanism (live chat, email, feedback form, etc.). Feedback providers must include Learners, Faculty/Instructors, and Sponsors/SMEs. Design processes to capture, review and act upon their feedback for subsequent iterations of your course.
Where Do You Stand?
Instructional designers may want an independent assessment of how they stack up in terms of the quality of their online course design and delivery. In their “Hallmark of Excellence in Online Leadership”, The University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) has established some guidelines for best practices in distance learning quality.
These guidelines, termed “Excellent Practice,” span almost every aspect of course design, development and delivery. It may be well worth reviewing your own course design and deployment strategy against each of those “Excellent Practices” to assess how you measure against their quality meter.
How CourseArc Can Help
CourseArc was designed with many of these QC components in mind. Our default tools and designs will help ensure that you’re already on the right track to deliver a high-quality user experience. We also have many features that foster collaboration, enabling teams to work together on the creation of truly outstanding courses. Learn more about our design features, or explore our sample course and see how it stacks up against the QC checklist.