For an Online Learning Centre

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4. Applying quality concepts and criteria

4.1 How to understand needs

Among stakeholders, it could be useful to focus on customer needs. One can think that they are interested in the following:

  • provision of information and advice;

  • production of learning materials;

  • distribution of learning materials;

  • assignment feedback and return rates;

  • delivery services using technologies;

  • library services;

  • support services;

  • certification of study;

  • community.

This list could extend to include other stakeholders' requests:

  • copyright;

  • password protection;

  • privacy;

  • 24/7 (24 hours per seven days) connectivity;

  • training for the use of technologies involved.

Moreover, it can include human being awareness to elements such as prestige of the learning provider, branding, need of aggregation in a real place, etc. In spite of this, we concentrate comments to on-line learning materials to determine the critical elements of effective learning environments and potential areas of continuous improvement. As matter of facts, we sustain that the education of the learner is the product to achieve. As consequence, we think that it is essential that learners take an active role in the development of the product by interacting with provider to make the best possible learning materials. The three elements that we consider (see table 1) for quality determination of e-learning centre results are learning pedagogies, learning resources and delivery strategies.

Area of


Framework to assess quality of on-line materials



Delivery strategies

Authentic tasks


Reliable and robust interfaces



Clear goals, direction and learning plans

Learner centred environments



Engaging activities


Appropriate bandwidth demands

Meaningful assessments

Media coherence

Equity and accessibility



Appropriate style

Table 1

From a pedagogical point of view, we can assume that learning activities should involve tasks that reflect the way in which a person will use the results in real life settings. In other words, it can be useful to put together:

  • problem-based learning activities using real-life contexts;

  • learning tasks based in workplace settings;

  • complex and sustained tasks.

Following this reasoning, e-learning activities should be collaborative in the sense that learners should have the chance to work in partnership with other learners and/or with providers to create suitable results. It is useful to have:

  • tasks that require learners to collaborate meaningfully;

  • user friendly systems to connect;

  • forum, chat, video conferences.

There should be a focus on the learner. Teaching and multimedia effects are not the core results to achieve. Therefore, an e-learning centre should activate to provide:

  • coaches and facilitators instead of pure teachers and tutors;

  • inquiry and problem-based learning tasks;

  • activities that support and develop learners’ metacognitive skills.

Learning environments and tasks should challenge and motivate learners by providing:

  • interesting, complex problems and activities rather than theory not related to the context;

  • activities that arouse learners' curiosity and interests;

  • activities and assessments linked to learners’ own experiences.

Learners should have the chance to evaluate their own achievement. They can do that, if:

  • assessment is integrated with activities rather than separate from them;

  • opportunity to present polished products rather than simple drafts;

  • opportunities exist for learners and their instructors to provide support on academic endeavour.

The last critical element from the pedagogic point of view refers to feedback. The simplest feedback could be the qualification or the certified level of education and training achieved. Therefore, e-learning centre should:

  • accredit its learning activities;

  • understand learners requests after the learning activities are finished;

  • set up a customer relation management system to deal with learning requests.

The quality of an e-learning centre is also evident from the learning materials it provides. Therefore, when a learner looks for resources it is important they:

  • are separate from learning tasks;

  • easy to get to them;

  • are at the disposal of the learner at any time, from everywhere.

At the same time, resources should be usable in a way that:

  • is intuitive and clear the way to use them;

  • highlight design and navigation;

  • are accessible in a non linear format even by disabled learners.

E-learning centres should also pay attention to the resources' currency. As matter of facts:

  • resources should where possible be current and based on regular literature reviews by lecture;

  • seminal works should not be removed on the basis of age;

  • wherever possible learners should be provided with primary resources.

Resources should be rich in a sense that they

  • have to represent a variety of views, even conflicting ones, to allows learners the opportunity to assess the merit of arguments;

  • come from different data sources;

  • present a wide range of perspectives.

Media utilized for the delivery of resources should be appropriate. As matter of facts, providers should:

  • use a variety of media to deliver resources;

  • avoid the approach "book on the screen";

  • encourage simplicity and clear presentation, preventing "special effects" if they are not necessary.

Last, but not the least, resource should be inclusive, by eliminating any social and cultural distinction. By providing materials on the net, the centre should:

  • include a variety of cultural perspectives where possible;

  • avoid any kind of segregation;

  • separate generic and specific content only to facilitate customisation and adaptation.

The analysis of delivery strategies reveal the quality implemented by an e-learning centre. Materials should be accurate and error free in their operation. For this reason:

  • corporate and learning site is accessed reliably;

  • navigation and orientation is faultless;

  • learners are supported with many forms of online support.

Moreover, e-learning centres should have clear goals directions and learning plans. Unit information and expectation of learners are clear in a sense that:

  • learners can find information on the website about the unit and its requirements;

  • unit structure makes explicit relationship between learning outcomes, resources, activities and assessments;

  • instructions clearly placed and always available.

E-learning centre provides opportunities and encourages dialogue between learners and between providers and learners. As matter of facts:

  • information and communication channels are open and inviting for learners;

  • learners are encouraged to communicate with the e-learning provider and other learners;

  • events are scheduled and organised to capture the participation of audience.

When e-learning centre build materials, it takes in account bandwidth demands. Materials are:

  • accessible without differentiation of calendar times;

  • optimised to take care of the fact that graphic, video, audio and other elements can delay download times;

  • technologically updated to better perform on the net.

There is not any kind of segregation among learners, since all materials and activities are accessible and available to all learners. As matter of facts, e-learning centre:

  • open its activities to all possible learners;

  • makes requirements explicit to learners ahead of the learning activity;

  • does not hamper learners by firewalls or geographically sensitive restrictions.

Last, but not the least, e-learning centre adopt a corporate style to ensure a benchmark quality of presentation. E-learning centre should:

  • produce layout and presentation that incorporate common elements (fonts, colours, resolution, etc.) to reflect the corporate style;

  • enhance rather than dictate a pedagogical approach;

  • communicate a style.

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