5 Ways To Evaluate And Choose A Suitable Online Education Program
Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

How To Evaluate And Choose A Suitable Online Education Program

By the ascendancy of global education being corroborated by the advancement of technology and steadily increasing rate of internet access all over the world, new education, and learning delivery have been brought to the world. This has also created a plethora of choices that may leave stakeholders bewildered and wonder what product and service to choose that can fit their learning needs. In order to ease the process of evaluating online education programs, I will try to provide some basic criteria that can help clear out the blur created by this age of attention.

In 2016, The Joint Research Centre (JRC) published a report entitled "Validation of Non-formal MOOC-based Learning" that delves into matters related to assessment and recognition practices of online programs in Europe. The report also provided a handy tool on how to assess online education programs in terms of their worthiness and effectiveness taking formal education as a reference point.

Here are 5 critical steps that act as a companion to spot any strength or weakness in any online education adventure learners may want to immerse themselves or try them on.

Identity Verification Of The Learner

This is where online education platforms ensure and check the identity of the learner through certain procedures. This may be one of the bugbears that these platforms are still lagging behind and certainly finding a reliable solution is still in the oven. Coursera, for example, requests that the learner submits a copy of their identity cards by taking a live picture of them through webcams attached to their devices and, recently, it has given up writing pattern verification where learners have to enter a sentence to compare it against their previous one. Also, most of these platforms assign each learner’s credential to a reference number that is stored in their databases where potential employers or universities can verify it through a permanent link linked to students.

Partnership And Collaboration

In this step, an online education platform is encouraged and strives on to establish several partnerships with various stakeholders that might be an instrumental asset including government units, universities, and employers as well. By doing that, it raises its opportunity for recognition, visibility, and trust before learners. For instance, Coursera partners with pioneer universities and has recently partnered with the Indian government to offer learning packages to Indian employees with certain payment plans.

Award Of Credits

This is one of the most salient features of an online education initiative and is considered as an evergreen debate of the raison d’être of online learning. In order to assess any online education program based on credits, one has to distinguish between two important elements that decide the worthiness of online education:

Credential

That happens generally through issuing a certificate once a learner has successfully finished a given program such as MOOC with its different versions. For instance, the famous MOOC provider, Coursera, grants a certificate of completion upon a successful completion one of its MOOCs. At the time being, Coursera doesn’t have a credit transfer system where learners enjoy a formal recognition by other institutions such as universities.

Recognition

Ηappens when a competent authority, per se, grants formal credentials to a learner who finishes a given course. For instance, UK Open University grants European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) to learners who successfully finish one of its courses allowing them to transfer that credits that can be used with other education programs.

Quality Assurance

This is where authorized institutions appraise and check the validity and reliability of the content being delivered and judge its relevance to the educational context being provided for and in. One of the famous institutions that are in charge of this task is Quality Assurance Agency that checks the quality of the content. Quality insurance can be also conducted by Subject Matter Experts who should endorse and point out any gaps in the educational material being provided.

Informative Certificates/Badges Acknowledging Learning

Here, you can measure the worthiness of an online education program based on the information found in the issued certificates. A typical certificate should include the name of the course, the name of the learner, the instructor, the duration, the logo of the institution granting this certificate, and the skills acquired as well. Also, a thriving concept of badges is still in its embryonic stage where learners can showcase what they have learned through a set of pre-configured badges that can be seen and accessed by stakeholders. Perhaps one of the famous platforms that offer that is Mozilla Open Badges System. It is important to mention that these badges, like certificates, contain metadata of where, when, who, and on what basis a learner has gained these badges.

Supervised Assessment

This is also considered one of the most challenging points for online education programs due to the nature of learning and its delivery system. Most of the online education platforms require that a learner should finish a set of tasks such as watching all the videos, complete an automated multiple choice question, and/or submit an education product to be peer-reviewed by other classmates. Some resort to online proctoring systems by a proctor watching and supervising learners in real-time to ensure the reliability of their outcomes and that they don’t veer into cheating. With this promising alternatives, other voices aspire to make their assignments based on higher order thinking skills where the learner has to use his deduction and analytic skills they gained throughout the course to complete an assignment between his hands.

So?

Online education programs are shifting the paradigm of teaching-learning with its 3 pillars: content, technique, and purpose. In this regard, advancement of technology and spread of knowledge have certainly brought new opportunities for learners, new challenges for educators, and, possibly, new dangers as well for all stakeholders.

Now, armed with these guidelines, you can decide which path is a fit for you, yet these latter are not a one-size-fits-all solution but should rather encourage you to be more critical and informed about what is in the near or far horizon of your learning-teaching adventure.

Close