eLearning Development And The Importance of Testing

Why eLearning Testing Is Critical
Summary: Developing eLearning applications requires a rigorous approach to testing much like any other software, but there are additional needs that must be considered when testing eLearning applications.

A Guide Covering Development And Testing Processes

eLearning software has exploded in popularity recently, partly due to many school systems switching to remote learning during the pandemic. Students across the globe use these services to engage with lesson material and to develop new skills. Bugs and software issues that cause friction to the learning experience are felt very acutely by students and tutors alike; this makes it imperative that eLearning solutions adopt rigorous testing procedures so that they do not get in the way of the learning experience.

What Makes eLearning Special In Software Testing?

When testing eLearning platforms rather than other types of software, some special considerations have to be taken into account. eLearning courses typically contain a lot more multimedia resources, such as images, videos, examinations, and potentially collaborative and interactive materials.

eLearning QA testing must also take into account the “learnability” of the content on offer when doing application testing. This refers to how "learnable" a course is—usually defined as a combination of an eLearning solution’s usability, functionality, accessibility, and performance. Any issues in these areas can negatively impact the user experience and cause friction between the student and the platform. These are issues that must be addressed in eLearning development, or platforms risk losing out to competitors.

Types Of eLearning Platforms

eLearning solutions come in different types, depending on the learning material used and how course content is designed and delivered to users. The most common types of eLearning platforms include:

Video-Based Learning

Video-based eLearning courses provide pre-recorded content in the form of videos that users can experience at their own pace. These function similarly to a video playlist, but many platforms also integrate tests and other materials into the course content.

One-On-One Learning

One-one-one eLearning solutions provide users with the opportunity to connect with a tutor and participate in private lessons directly with the tutor. This will often involve using webcams and microphones for the student and tutor to interact, as well as a system to deliver the lesson content, which may come in the form of an interactive whiteboard or slideshow area.

Group Learning

Group learning platforms function similarly to one-on-one learning solutions, and indeed there are eLearning platforms that offer both. The difference is that group learning solutions have multiple students interact with a tutor, rather than one-on-one. This adds additional challenges to an eLearning platform, as students’ technical issues should not have an adverse impact on the experience of the other students in a class.

Why eLearning Testing Is Critical

The growth and scope of online education and the variety of eLearning solutions make testing a critical part of eLearning development. eLearning platforms allow students to connect with teachers and access content from all over the world and from all sorts of devices. The student experience should be the same, regardless of whether a student is connecting using a desktop device and a high-speed internet connection or using a cell phone with a 4G connection.

The growth of online education has created a greater demand for eLearning solutions, putting pressure on software companies to provide even faster time-to-market solutions that are error-free and frictionless to use for both students and tutors. Compatibility with existing standards is also a must because plenty of learning content already exists. Platforms that are incompatible with industry standards face an increased struggle when it comes to user adoption and content creation.

eLearning Testing Vs. Software Testing

The goal of software testing is to ensure that a product works seamlessly from an end-user experience. This generally involves making sure a piece of software is not impacted in its functionality, efficiency, and usability by bugs. This means that the software should not get in the way of the course material and the learning experience.

For eLearning in particular, lower-level testing (unit testing, API/integration testing, etc.) is insufficient. End-to-end (E2E) testing should involve not only usability testing but also "learnability" testing. This has a specific focus on judging how "learnable" content is. This means testing not only that the software is bug-free but that it is also easy to use and doesn’t cause friction between the end-user and the material. This involves utilizing an extensive testing suite, with a large focus on the end-user experience.

Testing Types To Focus On To Avoid Learnability Issues

Proper eLearning QA testing involves holistically testing an application using a variety of different criteria. This is to ensure that not only does everything work but that what is presented to the user is highly learnable. A rigorous test suite is recommended for eLearning solutions as it is for other software, but for eLearning solutions, special consideration should be given to the following types of testing:

Functional Testing

This involves extensively testing all course material, including audio and visual resources and any examination functionality a course may have.

Multi-Browser Testing

Accessibility is essential for eLearning development, so making sure the software works correctly across all major browsers, platforms, and devices is a must. Tests should also include low-bandwidth and offline modes.

Localization Testing

eLearning is not restricted to geographical boundaries like traditional classroom-based education is, so students and tutors may be connecting to an online education platform from different countries around the world. Each will expect a consistent experience regardless of their locale, so this must be accounted for in testing.

Compliance Testing (Including SCORM)

As the eLearning industry continues to develop, standardization starts to become a necessity in order to provide interoperability between platforms and eLearning content. SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is a collection of standards and specifications for developers to follow in order to create eLearning solutions that are interoperable with other platforms and learning materials. eLearning QA testing should involve testing compliance with SCORM and other followed specifications.

Optimizing The eLearning Quality Assurance Process

eLearning solutions require an extensive testing procedure, including significant investment in E2E testing. There are additional concerns beyond the scope of what would be expected for general software testing, which can put increased strain on a software company’s testing resources. Automating your testing platform can significantly lighten the load of your testers, who can then better focus their efforts elsewhere in the QA process. By taking advantage of AI-powered automated testing tools, testing a codebase becomes not only much easier but also much more extensive. When tests and test data are generated automatically, testers have the time to focus on the issues highly relevant to eLearning, like learnability, accessibility, and compatibility.