What have you learned about the importance of following quality guidelines when developing an online course? What potential exists if you don’t use a set of quality guidelines? How can you ensure that your online course meets the needs of your learners when developing your own quality checklist?
As Online Learning is still relatively new and people are still learning and making developments, it is very important to follow quality guidelines when developing an online course. This helps the new course developer keep in line with the industry standards and it serves as a checklist of reminders for the experienced developers. It also ensures that courses are consistent and of high quality.
Designing an online course is a big project and the guidelines act as a quality assurance check throughout the process. There are a lot of things to keep in mind so it is easier to have set guidelines for course creators to use. If there are different course creators within an institution it will also ensure that courses look the same and reflect more of the institutional brand than the individual course creators. Without the guidelines, course creators might also slip back into teaching methodology that is more suitable for a face to face course or get carried away with the technology tools.
Parker (2004) points out, “at a basic level, the characteristics of quality educational delivery demonstrated in [various quality] frameworks include 1) providing clear statements of educational goals; 2) sustaining the institutional commitment to support learners; and 3) engaging in a collaborative process of discovery which contributes to 4) improving the teaching and learning environment” (p. 386). I would keep these characteristics in mind when developing my own quality checklist as well as look at already established checklists for ideas and common guidelines to use. In order to make sure that the course meets the needs of the learners, I would also do a needs assessment at the beginning of the course. I can use the quality guidelines to build a course with the average learner in mind. But it is only when I ask the individual learners, that I know what their needs are and could then tailor the course for them.
How does this fit with your experience? What successes and/or frustrations have you experienced in your eLearning that may have been attributed to following (or not following) quality guidelines?
I did my Master’s in Education completely online through the University of Calgary. I think all the courses I took were in accordance to some sort of quality guidelines as I was successful in all of the courses and they were all very well put together. In doing a bit of digging, I found this website on documenting quality teaching from the Office of Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary. I could not access their specific guidelines on assessing course and program redesign but there are some other resources on the site. It looks like they encourage a teaching dossier/eportfolio, peer review, and mid-term student feedback on teaching as well as the guidelines. It is interesting that this all applies to face-to-face as well as online courses and instructors.
When I was working on my first project developing online learning materials, I was part of a team and we all had different educational backgrounds and different degrees of online learning exposure/experience. We didn’t have a lot of explicit guidelines but the project lead was really good at telling us what we needed to keep in mind as we created components for the course. She was also constantly reminding us that it was an online course and although certain activities seemed really simple and almost too easy, students would be on their own when doing these parts of the course so it should be simple and easy. We did have explicit technical guidelines and some guidelines for content and those guidelines were really useful in keeping me from getting carried away with the excitement of my first online project.
What does this new learning mean to you? What new insights do you now have? How has your thinking changed because of this learning?
I sometimes get carried away with creating the content and materials and forget that what is in my head, might not be obvious to anyone else. I should use the guidelines as a way to be more explicit about what I am doing, why I am doing it, and why it is beneficial to the learner. I also think there are way too many aspects of online course design to NOT use a guideline or checklist. It also keeps the course creator organized and that in turns makes the learning easier.
This learning hasn’t changed my thinking radically because I already knew the importance of having some sort of guideline when creating an online course. What it has done is make me realize that I should really take the guidelines part of online course designing more seriously and invest some more time in coming up with more guidelines as they will frame the course and make it so much better. The resources for this part of the course are also really useful. It never occurred to me to look for guidelines that are already being used by other institutions to get ideas for my own.
How can this new learning be applied in your online course?
I will make sure that before I create my online course I will start with a set of quality guidelines that are appropriate for the context. I will refer to them as I go through the process of putting a course together. I now have some ideas of what real, established guidelines look like and what to keep in mind when choosing guidelines. The Canadian Recommended E-Learning Guidelines (CanREGs) are a good place to start. Their list of the features of their guidelines is that they are consumer-oriented, consensus-based, comprehensive, futuristic, distinctively Canadian, adaptable, and flexible. (Barker, 2002). For the actual guidelines themselves, I prefer the checklist look of the guidelines from the Coulter Faculty Centre eLearning Faculty Fellows Online Course Assessment Tool (OCAT) and Peer Assessment Process. These resources will definitely be referred to when I work on online courses in the future.
Barker, Dr. K. (2002). Canadian Recommended E-learning Guidelines (CanREGs). Retrieved from http://www.futured.com/pdf/CanREGs%20Eng.pdf
Parker, N. (2004). The Quality Dilemma in Online Educationl In Theory and Practice of Online Learning (chapter 16). Retrieved from http://cde.athabascau.ca/online_book/ch16.html