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Defining Quality Standards for Online Education. CADE, Calgary May 2002. Lawrence C. Ragan Penn State’s World Campus. Program Goals. Discuss quality variables and their impact on the design and development of online course instruction

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Defining Quality Standards for Online Education

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Defining quality standards for online education

Defining Quality Standards for Online Education

CADE, Calgary

May 2002

Lawrence C. Ragan

Penn State’s World Campus

Program goals

Program Goals

  • Discuss quality variables and their impact on the design and development of online course instruction

  • Review set of quality standards developed to guide the design, development and delivery of instruction online

Assignment 1

Assignment #1

  • Turn to Defining Quality and complete definition

  • Compare answer with partner at table

  • What was common in both definitions?

Defining quality

Defining Quality

  • Writing by committee:An event or experience that provides a reasonable opportunity for success for the student and instructor

Defining quality1

Defining Quality

  • Varied interpretations of “quality”

  • Several industry-wide guidelines or standards for production of course materials (CHEA, AAHE, others)

  • Broad statements of principles and guidelines

Bottom line

Bottom Line

  • The definition of quality varies from institution to institution and is dependent upon the mission and model of the online initiative.

Assignment 2 quality characteristics

Assignment 2: Quality Characteristics

  • To define quality we need to define variables

  • Turn to #2. Complete Quality Characteristics variable labels

  • Compare answer with partner at table

  • What variables were common in both lists?

Quality characteristics

Quality Characteristics

  • Dependability

  • Reliability

  • Performance (speed)

  • Value

  • Consistent

  • Measurable

  • Etc…

Quality characteristics not

Quality Characteristics-NOT

  • Technology

  • Cost

  • Aesthetic

  • “Gee whiz factor”

Quality standards 2 options

Quality Standards-2 Options

  • Develop standards that can be used to judge the “readiness” of a course/educational event for an online delivery format

  • Develop standards of design that can serve as a specifications guide

  • Difficult to do both in single document

Considering implementation

Considering Implementation

  • Development of plans for implementation

  • Institutionalizing standards

  • Developing “failure to comply” strategies

Wc online design standards

WC Online Design Standards

  • Struggle between specifications document and “quality filter”

  • Had to decide on “objective” of the publication

  • Opted for “quality filter’

Quality filter described

Quality Filter Described

  • Create an instrument that would serve as a “readiness assessment tool” for courses NOT designed or developed BUT to be delivered via the World Campus.

  • Is not created as a design specification document

Wc ods categories

WC ODS Categories

  • COURSE PROFILE TOOL: method of gathering demographic information regarding the nature of the course

    • Asynchronous vs synchronous

    • Nature of assignments

    • Timing and duration

    • Individual vs cohort

    • Etc…

Wc ods categories1

WC ODS Categories


  • What questions would you add to make this work at your institution?

    • What platform for delivery? (browser)

    • Learner and setting analysis - target audience, student profile

    • Special (#19) may not be specific enough - define general applications

    • Mission or objectives of course should be outlined

    • Computer literacy prerequisites

    • Availability of faculty

    • Practical applications - lab requirements

    • Nature and timing of exams

    • Group under location requirements

    • Communication to student about how to start

    • Total instructional time to manage the course

Online design standards

Online Design Standards

  • User Interface:

  • issues of structure, navigation, and layout

  • Media Elements:

  • issues related to the use of technology

  • Software: issues related to the use of software and the implications of its use in the course

  • Permissions/Legal: issues relating to the legality of course and related content

  • Accessibility: issues related to the accessibility of the course to all students

Media elements

Media Elements

  • Appropriate use of media

  • Variety of media mix

  • Considerate of student bandwidth

  • Designed to support learning objectives

  • Considerate of development costs

Instructional design

Instructional Design

  • Clear learning objectives

  • Clear connection between learning objectives and assessment process

  • Clearly articulated assessment criteria and process

  • Non-ambiguous use of language

  • Appropriately designed learning activities



  • Quality standards need to be defined in the context of the institution

  • Quality characteristics need to be articulated (vary based on context)

  • Need to define purpose of quality standards: readiness or specifications

  • Define implementation plan

Thank you

Thank you

Larry Ragan


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