Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Rules of e-Learning: Be sure of the Quality of your e-Learning


Warning: this particular blog in this series points you to an area that many will not wish to discuss.  The advantages of this are that, if you follow the suggestions here, you will have greater knowledge than many of your colleagues and can help them to produce e-learning to be proud of.  The disadvantages only apply if you are one of those who do not like to discuss anything other than making e-learning as quickly as possible.

Because quality is so important, I am going to put the summary first (it is normally at the end of each blog)

Summary: 
Make sure you are not the only one to judging quality before the course is launched.  You certainly won’t be the only one after the course is launched!
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I have often written about the quality of e-learning, bemoaning how poor it can be and how vast the difference can be between the good and the bad. 
I know that in order to establish good quality we must have a clear plan for quality:
·         Define the quality of our course as clearly as possible
o   Without a clear definition of the quality required for the course and its intended purpose we cannot hope to get the quality right for our learners.
·         Set our own targets and standards
o   Very often the established systems for quality do not match our need. Many projects will use parts of various quality systems or add one to another.  A clear idea of what systems there are and how they work, what they are intended to do and why they were developed will help tremendously in adopting the right ‘bits’.
·         Gather reviewers
o   Before you start production, it might be good to gather a group of reviewers (not just one!), with various expertise across the course content, technology and pedagogy. This could take time so start early, plan your group and keep in touch with them.
·         Establish clear guidelines for the outcomes
o   Not just what the learners will be able to do or how they think at the end of the course, but how the course will operate, the content be updated, maintencance, who is in charge and so on.

I also know the difference between quality assurance (assessment) (QA) and quality enhancement (improvement) (QE) and that each requires a different approach:
·         They apply at different times in the life cycle
o   Fairly obvious when you think about it.  QA applies during production and soon after.  QE is a continual process that will contribute not just to the current production but also to future productions.
·         It is quite likely that they will be enacted by different people
o   QA = the production team; QE = the teaching + maintenance teams
·         They act on different areas of e-learning
o   QA on the building of the course as wells as its presentation; QE throughout the life of the course, perhaps more after production rather than during.
·         They require different systems and technology
o   Goodness! This is a big subject area!  To simplify: production quality can be assured through Project Management; launch quality through Technological Management; teaching quality through external monitoring and life cycle management through a combination of technology maintenance, content management and pedagogical management.
·         They require different surveys and reports
o   Again a giant area for discussion.  Suffice it to say that surveys should include owners, technicians, teachers and learners.

(Yes, I am keeping the lists simple, otherwise this could become a big blog!)

And then I realised that in order to ensure all this quality action takes place according to your plan, you will need a clear understanding of Quality in e-Learning.  In fact to write the plan in the first place requires a great deal more knowledge and understanding of Quality in e-Learning than many would-be e-learning authors, builders and project managers have today – never mind the teachers!

So I decided to raise awareness of quality approaches, the rules and regulations and the authority they carry with us and our clients, through a course about Understanding Quality. 

But in order to write such a course I needed to find out for myself, all the variations – there turned out to be a lot of them, no wonder everyone is confused about Quality in e-Learning!

In following this path two things happened:
1.       I came across epprobate, who’s Quality Grid is one of the best systems I have seen for judging e-learning quality but also for guiding development.  I became a Quality Reviewer – a Head Reviewer actually, which means that I can organise and lead quality reviews alongside my colleagues at epprobate.  From here I have become Academy Manager, meaning I write and run epprobate’s courses on e-learning quality – no one is allowed to sit still at epprobate!
2.       I discovered Guided Social Learning (GSL) and developed it to my own style of ‘teaching’.  GSL encourages learners to develop their own understanding of a subject by social, peer-group development (Social) while taking advantage of the tutor’s previous experience of learning by following their path through the learning (Guided).  The tutor acts as mentor to the group rather than as teacher.
The result is a more interesting way of gaining knowledge and understanding, involving the learner in a deeper learning experience.  But it doesn’t stop there, because I also like to encourage past students and experts from outside the course to join in discussions, thus enhancing the knowledge gained and guiding the understanding towards current thoughts and in the process ensuring the course is always up-to-date.

The result is a new epprobate course called Understanding Quality, the first in a series of three, which is designed to provide all e-learning stakeholders with the knowledge and understanding of e-learning quality so they can be sure of what quality is and what they want in their e-learning.

So my suggestion is that if you want to be sure of the quality of your e-learning, you might like to join our course Understanding Quality, the first run will be October 20th.  I hope to see you there!


To find out more about epprobate and our course, click the button!

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