Scoring online quality

Evaluating the quality of online learning programs isn’t easy, says Kaye Shelton, dean of online education at Dallas Baptist University.  Working with the nonprofit Sloan Consortium and online education administrators, Shelton has developed a “quality scorecard” with 70 metrics, reports Inside Higher Ed.

The categories, in descending order of aggregate weight, are support for students (24.3 percent), course development and instructional design (17.1 percent), evaluation and assessment (15.7), course structure (11.4 percent), support for faculty (8.6), technology support (8.6 percent), teaching and learning (7.1 percent), general institutional support (5.7 percent), and social and student engagement (1.4 percent).

Sloan-C describes the scorecard as “versatile enough to be used to demonstrate the overall quality of online education programs, no matter what size or type of institution.”

Perhaps as a result, the specific metrics within the larger categories are mostly broad and nonprescriptive. For example, under the “support for students” heading, one metric asks if “efforts are made to engage students with the program and institution.” In the “course structure” category, it inquires if “instructional materials are easily accessible and usable for the student.”

While the scorecard was developed to help online educators measure their own work, it could evolve into a tool for consumers, says John Bourne, Sloan-C’s executive director. The scorecard might also prove “invaluable for institutional reporting,” says Janet Moore, chief knowledge officer for Sloan-C.

Sloan-C will open an “interactive” version of the scorecard on its website on April 23.