Thursday, March 5, 2009

The first task as part of the course Evaluation eLearning for best practice, I have been asked to comment on the following questions:
# Why is evaluation important to you and how do you define it?
# What sort of evaluations mentioned on the presentation are familiar to you already and why?
# Why is quality important in eLearning?

In answer to the first question, why evaluation is important to me, my initial thoughts were to consider how evaluation validates my resources and delivery as a lecturer within my course and context. In many ways evaluation gives you the confidence in the materials, resources, teaching and learning strategies that I would use in the classroom and the assessment material. As most of my teaching is face to face, I may need to look at different strategies as I embark into the world of elearning. Evaluation comes from a number of different sources and by way of definition.

Course evaluation by students, pre and post moderation of assessment material (peer review), usability of teaching methods, feedback from students in class, student retention and results, industry feedback.

A number of evaluations were presented within Bronwyn’s slides and on the wiki, although familiar with many, I may not have practiced many. At the end of last year, my HOD observed my teaching within the classroom. I am interested in exploring some of these evaluation methods with regards to eLearning.

As I am new to eLearning, I would have to question “Why is quality important in eLearning?’ – and ask is quality not important in all learning?, should there be a distinction. I see quality as a needs assurance, that it is cost effective, that student retention and completion of a course is good and that the outcomes for students is positive.


  1. Rachel you have made some insightful statements about quality being necessary for a range of areas, e.g., needs assurance, cost effectiveness, student retention and positive outcomes for students, You ask a very thought provoking question - “Why is quality important in eLearning?’ – and ask is quality not important in all learning?, should there be a distinction." Good on you for asking this extremely important question.

    This has spurred me on to write a lengthy reply (also repeated on course blog). Quality as you mention Rachel has always been important and in all areas of education, not just eLearning. However, the reason quality became such a sticking point in eLearning harps back to the early days of online teaching. In the early days, people new to online teaching often took the pages and pages of lecture material they used in class and just "slapped" it online. Design principles were poorly adhered to (graphics, chunking of text, formats, navigation, instructions etc) and approaches were often inconsistent re tools, instructions, formats and layouts.

    Then the "bells and whistles" brigade came along and produced fancy multimedia which no-one could open (software issues) or you could only use with a Nasa-designed computer. :)

    Now of course we are much better informed, but the dilemma in the online classroom which several people have mentioned, is the lack of personal interaction in an online classroom - lack of body language or facial expression, unable to observe students and answer queries immediately. And it is more difficult to teach unprepared online - how many of you experienced teachers have walked into a f2f classroom not as prepared as you would like, but comfortable in your knowledge and expertise on the subject and had a great session? I believe it is harder to do this online because people can get so lost and intimidated. They seem to like schedules, instructions, structure and clarity. Do you agree?

    This means we have to be much more slick with the way we organise online courses. This is where evaluation in the design and development stages becomes so important - so we get the design of the online learning as good as possible before we impose it on students. And then we need to find out if the approach was effective. I guess it is not quality which is different but they way in which we ensure we are meeting particular standards or guidelines which help us produce quality learning. This week we are looking at the eLearning Guidelines developed specifically to address some of the issues around quality in online teaching and learning.

  2. Thanks Bronwyn for your comments. As I am new to this arena, I really wanted to question myself as well and see if there are different ways of preparing myself with eLearning, in comparison to my f2f classes. As I do not have an online course going, it may be harder to get my head round this at the moment. I certainly understand that we cannot just replicate our f2f classes. I look forward to the next few weeks when I can explore these ideas further.

  3. Good question Rachel. Thx Bronwyn for ur comments. I've learned quite a lot here :-)

  4. In reading those comments, Brownwyn- I remembered what happened at home on Sunday when I watched the Youtube film of the Bowie Song (performed by the 2 guys whose name I cannot remember-Concords??). Anyway, in terms of 'quality' I thought it was brillant- my context of quality was that I knew the songs they were referring to, the entertainment value was excellent and they were very subtly picking up on lots of Bowie querks. However, when I described the excercise to my partner and asked ""listen to this 'song'"", the first comments were along the lines of "not good quality" as she was listening to it in terms of sound quality, not CONTENT because it was a bit hard to listen to the perceived in a totally different context. I had of course listened to is twice. Hence the content of the course could be 'excellent', but if the right delivery method isn't chosen (or available) for the student, then the quality level for some might be downgraded.
    This is all very interesting to me, sorry for the ramble.