WikiEdProfessional eLearning Guidebook/Evaluating the impacts of eLearning/The importance of evaluation
Why is evaluation so important?
Before we can answer this question, we need to explore ideas around quality. If we are evaluating a product or a course, it is generally to find out if the item is any good. In an educational setting, students will only keep coming to an institution if they know they will receive a high quality learning experience. With the advent of eLearning and multimedia resources for learning, there has been quite a bit of hype around quality.
Some of the questions which might be asked when examining the quality of an educational experience are the following:
- Do students learn well enough online?
- How can we design courses and materials which provide meaningful interactions between students and their lecturers and with each other?
- What sort of design will provide the best learning?
And so on.....
Some of the dilemmas around design and quality are illustrated in the report of an evaluation study conducted at the University of Michigan (U-M) School of Dentistry (Brittain, Glowacki, Van Ittersum and Johnson, 2006). The report describes the formative evaluation of three pilot projects where media (video, audio) was used to record lectures for dentistry students. The results of the pilot studies were surprising and demonstrate how important formative evaluation is if teachers are to gauge the relevance and success of introducing new learning strategies.
A number of people have written about the issue of quality in education, and there are a number of items for you to peruse in the References section. A good starting point if you are thinking about ways in which eLearning can be evaluated for quality, is to explore the eLearning Guidelines. These guidelines were developed as part of an eCDF (eLearning Collaborative Development Fund) project.
For example, there may be an issue in your area around the feedback and support students are getting in one of the courses in a programme you coordinate. To explore this issue with colleagues, you choose Guideline SO12 - Do students have access to content support in a timely manner? This question triggers some ideas and solutions to the problem.