For an Online Learning Centre

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4.2 Set of indicators to monitoring and measuring quality of e-learning centres

It could be useful to set a number of indicators to monitor and measure quality of e-learning centres. For example, we can look form different perspective and analyse distinguish among them as we show in the table 2.

Let consider each indicator starting form the learners' perspective.

They are interested to acquire content skills and knowledge that are:

  • relevant to work and/or the best thinking in the field;

  • general enough to be transferable between work/learning situations, e.g., employability and communication skills;

  • specific enough to lead to work or higher learning, e.g., content or technical expertise;

  • a blend of traditional education and applied technology skills.

From the perspective of

  1. Learners

  1. Processes

  1. Inputs and/or Resources

    1. content skills and knowledge,

    2. learning skills,

    3. credits or credentials,

    4. return on investments.

    1. management of learners,

    2. delivery and management of learning,

    3. technologies,

    4. communication facilities,

    5. human resources management,

    6. program management.

    1. intended learning outcomes,

    2. curriculum content,

    3. teaching/learning materials,

    4. product/service information,

    5. learning technologies,

    6. technical design,

    7. personnel,

    8. learning resources,

    9. learning package,

    10. course package,

    11. review and evaluation,

    12. program plans and budget,

    13. advertising, recruiting and admission information.

Table 2

At the same time, learners want to acquire learning skills for:

  • successfully completing the learning program, explicitly:

    • sources of information and retrieval processes;

    • analytical and critical thinking;

    • reading and writing skills in context;

    • exam taking;

  • lifelong learning by:

    • providing a systematic introduction to the field;

    • offering a comparative or contextual framework for viewing the field of study;

    • seeking to broaden the learner and provide generic skills;

    • offering some freedom of choice and flexibility in structure;

    • providing for the incremental development of self-directed learning;

  • self-directed learning management, for example:

    • creation of a portfolio of acquired skills and knowledge;

    • awareness of personal gaps in skills and knowledge and relevant learning opportunities;

    • exercise of good judgement in making personal learning decisions;

  • ethical, effective and efficient use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), including:

    • respect of copyright and privacy rights;

    • information retrieval skills and quality assessment tools;

    • communicating through, e.g., e-mail and attachments, chat rooms, videoconferencing;

    • creating through word processing, spreadsheets and graphics;

    • ethics of computer-assisted information access and use.

Learners are also interested in credits and credentials. In other words, they look for courses of study that are:

  • recognized by professional accreditation bodies and employers;

  • recognized by other education institutions, locally and internationally;

  • of the same value whether acquired through on-site or distance learning;

  • transferable within programs and institutions, and between countries.

Since learners invest time, finances and energy, they claim for return on investments by looking at:

  • effectiveness, i.e., achievement of personal goals;

  • efficiency, i.e., best use of learner finances, time and energy;

  • satisfaction with processes and practices;

  • adequacy of producer/provider inputs/resources.

If we take the perspective of processes, we can look at learner management processes and practices, incorporating:

  • registration procedures that deliver:

    • assurance that accepted learners have the background, knowledge and technical skills needed to undertake the course/program;

    • a clear statement of expectations of learners;

    • an orientation program/service for those desiring it;

  • intake and place procedures that provide:

    • ad hoc course / career counselling;

    • assessment and recognition of prior learning;

    • appropriate placement;

  • management of learner records for:

    • documentation of learner achievement in each course and at completion of a program;

    • respect of privacy and confidential treatment of records;

    • learner access to records;

  • learner involvement in decision-making;

  • assistance with the technologies being used, i.e.,

    • the purpose of the technology(ies);

    • the etiquette involved;

    • skills and knowledge to manipulate and interact with it.

At the same time, we can analyse the delivery and management of learning by looking at:

  • training processes that:

    • provide prompt feedback to learners;

    • respect diverse ways of learning;

    • recognize the diversity of learners, learning needs, learning contexts, and modes of learning;

    • respond to individual learners;

    • incorporate an appropriate learner-tutor ratio;

  • approaches to learning that:

    • foster active learning;

    • emphasize time on task;

    • build on learner’s strengths and acquired skills and knowledge;

    • accommodate different individual learning styles;

    • support interaction and the development of learning communities;

    • increase learner control over time, place and pace of instruction;

  • scheduling and timetabling that is:

    • deliberately synchronous and/or asynchronous;

    • flexible and responsive to learners;

    • adequate and realistic;

  • assessment of learning that is:

    • frequent and timely;

    • appropriate and responsive to the needs of the learners;

    • in various forms such as written and oral assignments, self-assessment, demonstrations, and exams;

    • competency-based;

  • authentic assessment of learning through:

    • faithful representation of the contexts encountered in the field of study or in the real-life tests faced by adults;

    • engaging and important problems and questions;

    • non-routine and multistage tasks and real problems;

    • self-assessment;

    • trained assessor judgement;

    • the assessment of habits of mind and patterns of performance;

  • evaluation of learning against criteria that are:

    • transparent;

    • relevant;

    • realistic;

    • reliable;

    • valid.

By looking at processes, one should also try to discover if technologies are appropriately used to:

  • make learners feel comfortable, even those with disabilities;

  • accommodate and promote individualization;

  • create opportunities for learners to do meaningful work;

  • increase proficiency at accessing, evaluating and communicating information;

  • improve learners’ abilities to solve complex problems;

  • encourage artistic expression;

  • enable active engagement in the construction of knowledge;

  • drill learners on basic concepts to reach mastery.

By analysing processes, one should also find indicators of quality by studying the ability of communications facilities, processes and practices:

  • to encourage contact between learners and faculty providers;

  • to offer flexible opportunities for interactions and problem-solving;

  • to develop reciprocity and cooperation among learners;

  • to provide the opportunity to “hear and see” other learners’ questions;

  • to enable learners to hear and to question experts in the field.

Since the importance of people, it is a good practice to analyse policies for human resources management, which can include:

  • recruitment and selection of appropriate personnel;

  • a requirement for ongoing professional development in content areas;

  • availability of technical skills development and support;

  • regular evaluation of competence;

Last, but not the least, one should care about program management, accountable for:

  • learner management and learners’ rights;

  • learning management;

  • technology planning and utilization;

  • planning and evaluation of all aspects of the product/service;

  • responsiveness and flexibility to the learner and to changing learning requirements;

  • maintaining links within the education and business communities;

  • research and continuous improvement;

  • financial viability and continuity.

The last perspective one can take to discuss indicators of quality of an e-learning centre relates to inputs and/or resources. First, we should verify if intended learning outcomes are:

  • clearly stated;

  • observable / demonstrable;

  • measurable;

  • achievable;

  • useful and appropriate for the intended learners;

  • shaped, where possible, with input from learners;

  • appropriate to the rigor and breadth of the degree or certificate awarded;

  • consistent with the providing organization’s role and mission.

Then, we should observe if Curriculum content is:

  • credible and academically respectable (source identified) ;

  • accurate;

  • relevant;

  • balanced and free of bias;

  • updated consistently;

  • documented;

  • appropriate to the learning objectives;

  • culturally sensitive.

Then, we can confirm that teaching / learning materials are:

  • prepared by qualified content experts (author identified) working with qualified design experts (identified) ;

  • readily available;

  • learner friendly;

  • interesting in content and layout;

  • affordable;

  • well-organized;

  • free of errors;

  • free of cultural, racial, class and gender bias;

  • accessible to those with disabilities;

  • adaptable to learner needs and abilities.

As indicator of quality, we could also state that complete learning package should include:

  • course description;

  • course/project objectives;

  • information about the instructor(s) and tutor(s) ;

  • learning/lecture notes and additional learning resources;

  • course activities and assignments;

  • quizzes and examinations;

  • answers to questions/quizzes;

  • a portfolio of acquired learning.

Other indicators relate to the appropriateness of learning technologies to:

  • the field of study or subject matter content and skills;

  • the intended learning outcomes;

  • the relevant characteristics and circumstances of the learner;

  • cost and benefit for the learner;

  • provide access to high-level and high-interest courses;

  • provide representations in multiple modalities;

  • provide interconnections among concepts through hypertext;

  • increase global awareness;

  • make available real-world situations and simulate laboratory work;

  • provide instructor assistance with problems, guidance and reminders of assignments and exam dates.

Technical design should reflect the ability of learning materials and delivery to be:

  • easily navigable;

  • updateable and updated;

  • complemented by graphics rather than distracted by them;

  • available in text-only interfaces for non-graphical browsers;

  • inclusive of “live” links to relevant, previewed documents;

  • reliable;

  • complete;

  • sensitive to bandwidth constraints of learners;

  • compliant with current technology and ICT standards.

Appropriate and necessary personnel should include:

  • instructors / teachers / professors / tutors with

    • qualifications in the subject area;

    • teaching experience at the relevant level;

    • relevant experience and/or current knowledge in the field;

  • customer-oriented management that helps with

    • information and course/program advising;

    • application and registration procedures;

  • content support persons, e.g.,

    • course / academic counselling;

    • library staff;

    • tutors and mentors;

  • process support persons, e.g.,

    • technical support;

    • learning skills support;

    • career planning and employment counselling;

    • problem-solving;

  • program management accountable for:

    • learner management and learners’ rights;

    • learning management;

    • technology planning and utilization;

    • recruitment and selection of appropriate personnel;

    • planning and evaluation of all aspects of the product/service;

    • responsiveness and flexibility to the learner and to changing learning requirements;

    • maintaining links within the education and business communities;

    • research and continuous improvement;

    • financial viability and continuity.

Learning resources, in addition to teaching materials, should be:

  • varied;

  • easily and totally accessible via distance delivery;

  • respectful of copyright;

  • flexible to accommodate different learning styles.

Program plans and budget must include:

  • written policies for all aspects of the course/program;

  • an adequate budget to achieve stated program goals;

  • enabling legislation (public education / private enterprise) ;

  • financial and administrative commitment to the continuation of a program for a period sufficient to enable learners to complete a degree/certificate;

  • integration of distance delivery with the institution’s overall policy framework;

  • a technology plan defining technical requirements and compatibility needed;

  • to support the learning activities;

  • security of systems to ensure the integrity and validity of information shared in the learning activities.

Among indicators of quality is necessary to find evidence of program success through routine review and evaluation of:

  • course content and objectives;

  • learning materials;

  • instructional design;

  • instruction and instructors;

  • learning and learner achievement;

  • policies and management practices;

  • operational procedures;

  • learner satisfaction;

  • learner support services.

Product/service information for potential learners should be:

  • in writing;

  • clear;

  • current;

  • accurate;

  • comprehensive and complete of:

    • course description;

    • learning objectives;

    • assessment and completion requirements;

    • information about the instructor(s) ;

    • learning/lecture notes and additional learning resources;

    • course activities and assignments;

    • quizzes and examinations;

    • access to answers for questions/quizzes;

    • a framework for portfolio development.

Advertising, recruiting and admissions information must include:

  • pre-requisites and entry requirements;

  • the curriculum overview;

  • specific delivery format;

  • course level and credit points;

  • course length and degree requirements;

  • all fees: registration, tuition, books and materials, equipment, other;

  • institutional regulations

  • residency requirements;

  • workload requirements;

  • extensions;

  • grade appeals;

  • withdraws and refunds;

  • costs and payment policies;

  • the nature of the faculty/learner interaction;

  • assumptions about technical competence and skills;

  • technical equipment requirements, and availability of rentals;

  • academic support services and learning resources;

  • technical support services;

  • financial aid resources;

  • types of assignments and grading methods;

  • learning assessment procedures and evaluation criteria;

  • program success from evaluation and learner follow-up reports.

The comprehensive course package (all materials and technologies) should be:

  • appealing in appearance;

  • user-friendly;

  • customizable;

  • extensible;

  • inclusive of all institutional services and activities (registration, payment, advising, tutorial assistance, library services) ;

  • personalized;

  • coherent and complete;

  • reviewed and evaluated routinely.

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