Cathy Anderson

How do we harness the energy of information? Through Education!!

Quality Standards for Online Courses

Written By: Cathy - Dec• 16•12


There are several standards that are used to evaluate quality in online education, some of these have been around and in use for years.  I would like to identify some of them here:


Sloan Consortium:

A Quality Scorecard for the Administration of Online Higher Education Programs


Evaluation is based upon:

Institutional Support

Technology Support

Student Support

Course Development and Instructional Design

Course Structure

Teaching and Learning

Social and Student Engagement

Faculty Support

Evaluation and Assessment


The Illinois Online Network uses the following dimensions in their rubric:


Instructional Design

Communication, Interaction, and Collaboration

Student Evaluation and Assessment

Learner Support and Resources

Web Design

Course Evaluation


The Online Course Evaluation Project (OCEP) identifies and evaluates existing online courses in higher education, Advanced Placement, and high school.  The goal of OCEP is to provide the academic community with a criteria-based evaluation tool to assess and compare the quality of online courses.



Course Developer and Distribution:   Models


This section notes the type and status of the course developer,  the major methods for distribution of the courses to the organization’s constituents, and any licensing models employed by the developer in making the course content available to students and faculty outside their own institution. Breadth of coverage refers to the completeness of the course content and the degree to which the curriculum adheres to standard curriculum requirements as defined by AP standards from the College Board, the national high school curriculum standards or generally accepted higher education curriculum



Scope and Scholarship


This section focuses on the intended audience for the course,  as well as the breadth and depth of the content presentation.  It also looks at the quality and accuracy of the writing and how the course concepts are presented to the learner.  This section is always addressed by a subject matter expert in the discipline.


User Interface


The User Interface section includes evaluation categories that address the instructional design principles used in the access, navigation and display of the course that allows the user tointeract with the content.  This includes aspects of a computer system or program which can be seen or heard by the user and the commands and mechanisms provided for the user to control its operation and data input.


Course Features and Media Values


The Course Features and Media Values section addresses the types of media used to convey the course content and to demonstrate how the user interacts with the content presentation.  The evaluation looks at the effectiveness and relevance of the content presentation, the level of engagement for the user, and the instructional design value of the multimedia content.


Assessments and Support  Materials


The Assessments and Support Materials section addresses the availability and types of assessments (complete tests or other activities used to assess student comprehension) and support materials that accompany the course as a resource for the instructor and the student. 





Communication Tools and Interaction


The Communication Tools and Interaction section addresses the course management environment, how communications take place between instructors, students and their peers, and what course content exists to effectively utilize the communication tools provided by the CMS.  Since most course management environments include the functionality noted in the evaluation categories, the emphasis for this review is placed on the course content designed to drive the use of the communication tools (threaded discussion, chat, group or bulletin board activities, etc.).



Technology Requirements and Interoperability


The Technology Requirements and Interoperability section addresses the technology and distribution issues related to the course, as well as the system and software requirements,

operating systems, servers, browsers and applications or plugins.  The section also includes an evaluation of the accessibility and interoperability standards applied to the course and course content.



Developer Comments


This section gives the course developer an opportunity to highlight unique features of the course, provide a summary of course outcomes per available information, and clarify other course resources.





The standards selected are based on the original standards, the results of a research review and survey of online course quality criteria. These quality standards were evaluated and assembled into an easy to use document for evaluating online courses with common benchmarks.



Section A: Content

Description: The course provides online learners with multiple ways of engaging with learning

experiences that promote their mastery of content and are aligned with state or national content





Section B: Instructional Design

Description:  The course uses learning activities that engage students in active learning; provides

students with multiple learning paths to master; the content is based on student needs; and

provides ample opportunities for interaction and communication — student to student, student to

instructor and instructor to student.




Section C: Student Assessment

Description: The course uses multiple strategies and activities to assess student readiness for and

progress in course content and provides students with feedback on their progress.




Section D: Technology

Description: The course takes full advantage of a variety of technology tools, has a user-friendly

interface and meets accessibility standards for interoperability and access for learners with special





Section E: Course Evaluation and Support

Description: The course is evaluated regularly for effectiveness, using a variety of assessment

strategies, and the findings are used as a basis for improvement. The course is kept up to date,

both in content and in the application of new research on course design and technologies. Online

instructors and their students are prepared to teach and learn in an online environment and are

provided support during the course.




CSU ChicoWhat does a high quality online course look like? It is our hope that instructors and instructional designers will use this site to learn more about the Rubric for Online Instruction, and be able to view examples of exemplary courses that instructors have done in implementing the different components of the rubric.

Learner Support & Resources

Learner Support & Resources contains three criteria in which a course can be deemed exemplary. These three criteria are shown below in the three rankings of baseline, effective, and exemplary.

Online Organization & Design

Online Organization & Design contains five criteria in which a course can be deemed exemplary. These five criteria are shown below in the three rankings of baseline, effective, and exemplary.

Instructional Design & Delivery

Instructional Design & Delivery contains five criteria in which a course can be deemed exemplary. These five criteria are shown below in the three rankings of baseline, effective, and exemplary.

Assessment & Evaluation of Student Learning

Assessment & Evaluation of Student Learning contains five criteria in which a course can be deemed exemplary. These five criteria are shown below in the three rankings of baseline, effective, and exemplary.

Innovative Teaching with Technology

Innovative Teaching with Technology contains four criteria in which a course can be deemed exemplary. These four criteria are shown below in the three rankings of baseline, effective, and exemplary.

Faculty Use of Student Feedback

Faculty Use of Student Feedback contains three criteria in which a course can be deemed exemplary. These three criteria are shown below in the three rankings of baseline, effective, and exemplary.


The Quality Assurance e-Learning Design Standards are intended to provide a measure of quality assurance for online courses in order to serve the e-learning needs of Penn State students. These standards are directed to departments and colleges that wish to share online courses with other campuses or with students external to a Penn State geographic location via Penn State’s World Campus or e-Learning Cooperative.


1. Navigation

The course has a consistent and intuitive navigation system enabling students to quickly locate course information and materials.


2. Student Orientation

A course orientation is used to familiarize the students with the course.


3. Syllabus

Students have easy access to a course syllabus which contains crucial course information and requirements they need to know about the course prior to starting.


4. Instructor Response and Availability

Instructor response time and availability is clearly communicated to the student.


5. Course Resource Requirements

Hardware, software, or specialized resources required are clearly communicated to the students.


6. Technical Support

Information regarding access to technical support is clearly communicated to the students.


7. Accessibility Requirements

The course adheres to University policies and guidelines regarding accessibility.


8. Learning Object

The course contains learning goals and objectives.


9. Learning Activities and Assessment

The course learning activities and assessment serve to stimulate student interactions with the course content and determine how well student performance achieves the course goals and learning objectives.


10. Copyright Requirements

The online course adheres to the current University policies for the use of third party copyrighted material or is able to provide evidence of appropriate copyright clearance.


11. Course Functionality

All aspects of the course perform properly and support student progress.


12. Student Input for Course Improvements

Opportunities are provided to gather input from students on an on-going basis in order to inform course improvements.







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