Previously, we discussed how authentic assessments can be used to continuously improve the quality of eLearning experiences. Another key to the continuous improvement of your eLearning experience is the integration of quality assessment standards into the instructional design process.
It’s no secret that in many industries—from manufacturing and retail industries to software development and tech industries—some form of quality assessment is used to ensure that the final products continue to meet and exceed the market’s expectations. Yet, often when it comes to launching eLearning experiences in online environments, many organizations either do not have existing internal controls to cover the quality assurance of their instructional designs, or they apply the same quality criteria to their eLearning experiences as with other modes of learning (Jung and Latchem, 2007). This fails to recognize the unique elements (such as with usability, media usage, and accessibility) in the online environment that may hinder successful learning. Issues such as a lack of consistency in the design or navigation, a lack of accessibility, a lack of clarity in the content, poor structure, and even typos within the onscreen text are known to easily lead learners down a path of frustration, boredom, and complete disengagement, and ultimately be fatal to successful knowledge transfer.
Integrating quality control standards at the instructional design phase is one way that organizations can ensure not just quality, but also consistency and usability in their eLearning experiences. Usability—the level to which learners can interact with the product with ease and satisfaction—is a critical element to successful eLearning experiences. At its highest level, usability improves the learner’s motivation to engage in the experience, while also making information easy to access and process.
Fortunately, there are many organizations that have established guidelines in place to help instructional designers integrate quality assessment standards into their instructional design processes.
Here are two of the top organizations that are known for their efforts in improving the quality of online learning experiences:
The Quality Matters program has established significant standards for improving quality in educational, corporate, and professional settings. Established in 2003 by a small group of colleagues in the MarylandOnline, Inc. (MOL) consort, the Quality Matters program uses external standards and practices derived from instructional design principles to guide the design and development of eLearning experiences. These standards address key areas such as:
- Course overview and introduction
- Learning objectives (competencies)
- Assessment and measurement
- Instructional materials
- Learner activities and learner interaction
- Course technology
- Learner support
- Accessibility and usability
On the Quality Matters website, you can find valuable resources such as rubrics and best practice guidelines that you can use to get started on establishing a formal quality assessment process.
The Online Learning Consortium
Originally established in 1999 as Sloan Consortium, the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) also uses quality review scorecards that are grounded in research, best practices, and expert opinions to guide quality review processes. These scorecards are focused on areas such as:
- Course overview and information
- Course technology and tools
- Design and layout
- Content and activities
- Assessment and feedback
Like the Quality Matters program, on the OLC website, you can find scorecards and rubrics to help guide you in establishing effective quality assessment processes.
How do you select the right quality assessment standards for your instructional design processes?
One way to identify the standards for your organization is to check their alignment against the criteria outlined in your organization’s teaching philosophy—for example, at eLearning Brothers we would look for quality assessment standards that aligned with our philosophy of designing immersive, visually explosive, meaningful, and innovative eLearning experiences. You can also use documentation of feedback from clients, project reviews, and internal employees to identify key areas to assess during the quality reviews of your instructional designs.
Regardless of which method you choose to set the standards for quality with your instructional designs, it is important to keep in mind that quality assessments only work to fix design issues and not the process itself. A high-level of repeated errors noticed can be a significant sign that your instructional design processes also need to be re-evaluated and improved.
Whatever quality assessment process you decide to implement, remember that the continuous refinement and improvement of your quality assessment program is necessary to keep your learners motivated and immersed in the eLearning experience. By continuously improving the quality of your eLearning experiences, not only will you improve your learner’s level of satisfaction, you also will be improving their perception of your brand, setting their expectations for the type of experiences that you will deliver in the future.
Contact eLearning Brothers Custom Solutions team to find out how we can help you create eLearning that meets all your quality standards.
Jung, I., & Latchem, C. (2007). Assuring quality in Asian open and distance learning. Open Learning, 22(3), 235-250.