What skills and knowledge will enable people to assure the quality of e-Learning?
But there are many e-Learning courses that are really good and yet it is so difficult to tell the good from the not so good when you are outside of the course; when you are choosing which course to take or when you are trying to say your course is best. Thus a growing area of interest is the quality of e-Learning from producers wishing to prove they have a good quality e-Learning course, to learners who wish to be assured that the course that they are about to spend money on is of the best quality. And then there are those industries who already use Quality Assurance and need to include their learning provision within their quality parameters; education is one such industry that needs to prove quality since education is its product and not a side-line as with vocational training.
Alongside this wish-list there is a growing number of organisations who specialise in reviewing e-Learning. Some like UNIQUe (working with education) and ECBCheck (working with industry) use peer and external review while others such as epprobate us a national review team overseen by an international one.
In addition, while most accreditation is aimed at e-Learning in general, epprobate concentrates upon courseware and I have just learned about their QA system. (http://bit.ly/YZcyKZ for a definition of courseware). This has set me thinking about what skills I need when reviewing e-Learning courseware and I realised the same list could be used by internal teams as well as external reviewers, I thought it might be useful to others:
What Skills Do You Need To Review e-Learning Courseware?
Skills required: During review
- Careful observation: don’t just look – investigate; ask questions
- Define and become the learner – think like one – act out the part and see what you find.
- Understand the purpose – what did the author/producer/client/etc., want to achieve
- Work with a vision of quality e-Learning and compare to it during the review
Actions required: Generally
- Read extensively: new ideas, reports, problems, research, International Standards
- Update your knowledge: talk to others, join discussions/forums, webinars, conferences, set up feeds from relevant blogs
- Test your knowledge: write a blog, contribute to forums, argue, discuss, learn
- Be an enthusiast for quality e-Learning!
The Knowledge Required To Review e-Learning Courseware
Knowledge required (short list)
From my experience with epprobate and elsewhere, I would suggest the following knowledge to compliment the above skills:
- Learner support: understand how the information around the course supports the content and learning path the learner should follow to achieve the expected (desired) objectives.
- Construction strategies: the knowledge of how to build good e-Learning with clearly aligned content, assessment and strategies to assist learners to succeed.
- Learner profile: understand how skill level, age group, experience, culture, affect the ability to learn and decisions such as learner autonomy, degree of personalisation, expected style of learning.
- Instructional design: understand how the various parts; acquisition, inquiry, practice, communication, construction, fit together to build effective, long-lasting knowledge, understanding and skill.
- Ergonomy: knowledge of how to facilitate the learner’s interaction with, and path through, the learning.
- Media: understanding the best media to present the content; where to vary media to add interest and aid learning, but also knowing what might be more of a hindrance than a help.
- Interoperability: understanding how courses can be used in alternative systems and what effect different browsers will have; what needs to be done to ensure continued operability of the complete course. (Although not essential for eLearning course quality this is a key issue if the content is to be used/re-used on other systems).
- Legal aspects: understand accuracy of content, copyright issues and compliance with local requirements.
- Maintenance: understanding how quality will diminish over time if the course cannot be maintained; maintenance systems, methods and records.
If the quality of e-Learning is a subject close to your heart, you might like to talk to epprobate, they are often looking for reviewers as they work across international boundaries.
Peter Condon is a Learning Architect, Educationalist, Mentor and owner of The Online Learning Development Company. He specialises in guiding the development of social Learning spaces and developing quality Online and Distance Learning provision, by mentoring teams in both industry and education.
Peter holds a MSc in materials Technology (specialising in Forest products and a MA in Online and Distance Education as well as being a qualified Mentor.Website: www.toldco.co.uk