WikiEdProfessional eLearning Guidebook/Evaluating the impacts of eLearning/Definitions of evaluation

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If stated in the simplest terms, evaluation occurs when you look really closely at something.

Mr jackson's right eye by AMagill.jpg

Evaluation is a complex process and to find one definition and one only is not an easy task. For a start, the definition of evaluation, depends to some extent on the reason for the evaluation and the context in which it will be carried out. It also depends on the type of evaluation which is needed and the decisions to be made.

Evaluation in an educational setting has been defined by several scholars. For example,

  1. "the collection of, analysis and interpretation of information about any aspect of a programme of education or training as part of a recognised process of judging its effectiveness, its efficiency and any other outcomes it may have"(Ellington, Percival and Race, 1988).
  2. the systematic acquisition of feedback on the use, worth and impact of some activity, program or process in relation to its intended outcomes (Naidu, 2005).
  3. "the process of making judgements and decisions about a product and trying to understand how people use the product in order to learn" (Phillips, 2005).

A major goal of any evaluation activity is to influence decision-making. Often inadequate judgements are made by organisations about multimedia learning resources because the necessary information about the usability, effectiveness and impact of the resources, and the needs of the users have not been measured (Reeves and Hedberg, 2003; Reeves, 1996). Reeves and Hedberg (2003)are the authors of a very useful book on evaluation, and they state the following: "Decisions informed by sound evaluation are better than those based on habit, ignorance, intuition, prejudice, or guesswork" (p4).

There is plenty of evidence to indicate that if an organization is to be successful, a comprehensive evaluation strategy for its various teaching, learning and research related activities is crucial. This strategy needs to be wide-ranging and indepth so that different types of data and feedback from a range of sources are gathered, with the help of a variety of sampling instruments, for example, interviews, questionnaires, focus groups. The gathering of this kind of data and feedback is also crucial to ensuring high quality service, and the effective utilization of information and communications technology in teaching and learning.

The most basic distinctions between various types of educational evaluation activities are drawn between formative, summative, and monitoring or integrative evaluation (see also Kirkpatrick, 1994; Naidu, 2002; 2005; Reeves, 1997; 1999; Reeves and Hedberg, 2003).