While the flexibility of e-learning has numerous benefits such as students’ freedom to select their own pace of learning, quick feedback on assessments, and reduced time and space constraints, quantifying the quality of e-learning has remained a major concern for quality assurance experts.
By Doreen Inyo
Date: May 22, 2020
As the world grapple with the covid19 pandemic, e-learning is increasingly becoming an alternative mode of delivery in higher education institutions. Online learning or e-learning is viewed as a teaching method where educational information is delivered through the internet. There are numerous forms of e-learning such as the use of videos and audio materials, iTunes, e-books, and institutional content.
While the flexibility of e-learning has numerous benefits such as students’ freedom to select their own pace of learning, quick feedback on assessments, and reduced time and space constraints, quantifying the quality of e-learning has remained a major concern for quality assurance experts. This is due to the complexity surrounding the evaluation of the quality of online learning. As higher education institutions try to devise ways of using online learning mode, there are numerous quality standards and frameworks that have been defined and tested in different educational contexts across the globe.
The following are quality components that should be emphasized when designing a robust online learning mode of delivery.
Course Design and Development
To maximize the use of the Learning Management System (LMS), the course instructors should create the course content that meets quality standards and is appropriate to the learner’s requirements. The quality of the course content and instructional materials impacts positively on the students’ satisfaction and perception towards the e-learning system.
The course design and development is evaluated based on the course information, layout, structure and organization. Besides, the pedagogical factors such as communication channels, availability of resources, and quality of course content should be emphasized
The provision of support to the learners during the interactions with the e-learning platform determines the quality of learning. Previous studies on the importance of learners support system show that social presence is a key element of e-learning. Interactive such as prompt feedback, student-to-student contact, student-to-lecturer contact, discussion forums, and collaborative learning enhances the quality of e-learning. Also, students should have access to administrative support including services such as guiding and counselling and overall student welfare. Similarly, persons with disabilities and technologically handicapped people should obtain the necessary support required to use the e-learning platforms.
Student assessments are essential in evaluating whether the students have achieved the expected learning outcomes. The assessments usually comprise of formative (e.g. continuous assessment tests, assignments, term papers, class presentations, and demonstrations for workshops, studios, and laboratories) and summative (e.g. end of semester examinations). Students should be engaged by taking online quizzes and self-assessment tests to gauge their performance. Furthermore, clear expectations and grading criteria for assessments should be given to the learners. Also, timely feedback on assessments should be encouraged to motivate the students’ performance. The effectiveness of the e-learning system should be demonstrated based on the behaviour modification and quality education to the learner.
The choice of technology and media platform should support the purpose and learning outcomes of the course or programme. The accessibility to e-learning by users requires adequate information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure that entails availability of computers or laptops, stable network connectivity, and strong internet bandwidth for both instructors and learners at all times. As well, the operational policies on online learning and financial support for installation and maintenance of online platforms are necessary. Moreover, the functionality of the e-learning system in terms of the hardware and software requirements should be considered.
Both students and staff should be sensitized and trained on e-learning competencies through video and audio conferencing, workshops, and seminars. Improving the technological literacy of students and staff is critical in building positive attitudes towards online experiences by users. For instance, instructors should be well-equipped with skills on the development of e-learning course content and instructional materials. Training creates ease of use and adaptability, which enhances the quality of e-learning outcomes. Also, the users’ mode of operation should be effective.
Monitoring and Evaluation
The teaching and learning processes must be evaluated and reviewed periodically to gauge the overall performance of the progress. The e-learning systems can be evaluated based on whether the purpose of the program, learning outcomes and institutional overall goals of e-learning are achieved by the preset parameters. Also, academic programmes and instructional styles should be reviewed regularly to remain relevant and enhance stakeholder satisfaction. The main goal of e-learning as an education system is to improve the quality of education provided for the benefit of the entire society.
The e-learning should be understood as a complement of the traditional face-to-face mode of teaching and learning rather than considering them as opposites of each other. Also, the institution should put more emphasis on team works and collaborations to encourage commitment among the staff and students.