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Bob Ridge-Stearn: My dream: Quality Assurance for Online Courses.

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Bob Ridge-Stearn
12 January 2013

My situation (context).

I manage an e-learning department in a UK university.  We offer blended lerning and fully online courses.  Courses are designed by academics who are expert in their fields but not necessarily experts at designing (or teaching on) online courses.

I do not want to design a course on this MOOC but by participating I want to synthesis my ideas about Quality Assurance.

Over the last few months I have been reading many QA checklists that are avaialbel online and thinking about how they might be applied.  I curate a ScoopIt site on the subject  and through that found David Jones blog in which he argues against trying to police courses (  This set me back a little as I was leaning towards having a Quality Checklist against which all our tutors could check their courses.

I have just completed Oxford Brookes online course in course design  which focussed on Learning Design (activity design) and met there a number of design benchmarks/matrices/checklists that can be used to help design something from the beginning. In my job too we have used Leicester's CArpe Diem model to design activities.

So there are guides to use to design and to check designs.  I've got one on my desk at work that's 70 pages long and another that's a single sheet of paper. 

What I find is that academically-focussed advice concentrates on learning theory but largely ignores usability/accessibility issues while technically-focussed advice ignores pedagogy.

So I'm here to see how this is dealt with in this course and to ponder over the design of this course itself. I'm not going to design a course but I may end up with a useable checklist for my tutors.

The change I would like to see (challenge)

I would like to have a strategy to work with academic tutors running online courses at my university that will improve and enrich their courses. This may or not be a Quality Checklist.

How you might go about bringing that change

This I do not know yet.  I have been pondering it for some time.

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Anne Bradbury
1:23pm 12 January 2013

Hi Bob,

I certainly recognise several points you raise here, including:

<<< What I find is that academically-focussed advice concentrates on learning theory but largely ignores usability/accessibility issues while technically-focussed advice ignores pedagogy.>>>

This also sounds familiar from my work as a tutor on the OU’s MAODE (MA in Online and Distance Education) modules where many students (as elearning professionals) grapple with these issues in their everyday work contexts eg. working with teachers to produce material for online or blended courses, sometimes producing material directly themselves. 

Would be interested in keeping in touch on this and see where thinking (and experience on OLDS MOOC) takes us.


Apostolos Koutropoulos
4:13pm 12 January 2013

Hi Bob,

You may have alerady come across this, but I thought I would post just in case you hadn't:

I came across this while I was taking part in BlenkIt last fall and even though the focus was blended learning, I think these resources may be useful to you :)

Bob Ridge-Stearn
5:31pm 12 January 2013

I'm not sure I like the way these Clouds work.  Wish I could reply to your comments people make instead of just adding another comment to my own CLoud.  Seems clumsy to me.

Anyway, thanks Anne and Apostolos for your comments and thanks too, Apostolos  for the article - looks interesting. 

Bob R-S

8:54pm 12 January 2013

I would like to work with you on quality assurance in online education.  Here is a link to some writing and research I have done in online education:


I have not addressed tutoring programs specifically what are your htoughts?   

Suzanne Aurilio
2:48am 13 January 2013

I've been recently thinking about this topic as well, and my colleague has suggested a QA checklist approach. Conceptually it makes sense. The challenge isn't the absense of the the QA alone, but how the work of online course development gets parced out, and who is ultimately accountable for quality.

Another often understated challenge is the workload itself. It's often underestimated. Content experts developing online courses they will teach are underprepared for what they must learn to do and do. 

So while QA is certainly a helpful mechanism, I'm uncertain about how effective it will be in our context* because quality in my view is directly related to "time-spent".  We don't and likely can't spend the time needed to develop an exceptional course with the budgets we have. 

We can't assure quality if we don't budget for quality. 

I realize the economics of design is not a happy topic. As a designer, I find it a challenging reality. 

* I work in continuing education. The courses I work on have to be financially self-supporting. The budgets for online course development are in part a line-item, (the instructor is paid a flat fee for course development) and in part not. (The time I spend developing a course is not parced out at the course-budget level)

Bill Steele
3:40pm 13 January 2013

This is an area that has also been taxing me lately as our University has decided that it wishes to expand into the international market and sees online delivery as a potential delivery mechanism. The suspicion is that insufficient thought has been expended as to the resources necessary to provide quality provision in this area and the change management that will be incurred.

Jonathan Vernon
10:58pm 13 January 2013

Having worked in Quality Assurance in the private sector I'm very interested to see how QA experiences compare. Brand Guidelines, immediacy, appeal, complex dynamic of collaborative teams, team members coming and going on short contracts, language, style guides, time sheets and budgets, competitive, international, reversioned ... and barely a passing thought for accessibility. From proof reading to testing and a role to play at every stage of the design project from pitching first proposals to usability testing on the client's VLE then reporting to give manages a sense of KPIs, ROI and trends.

Andrew Chambers
2:02am 17 January 2013

I'm interested in this. I work on a post grad business program that teaches online. I recently completed quality matters training and also am involved in AACSB accreditation. QA is a tough one. We already survey students on their experience but need QA processes for design of courses. Would be interested on working on such a project...


Ida L. Rodgers, Ph.D.
11:35pm 18 January 2013

Hello Bob,

I am new to MOOCs, Google discussions, and cloud spaces; therefore, I may not be of much help to anyone as I bumble my way through the posts for this course. I started nearly a week behind, and I feel overwhelmed with the amount of reading it seems I must do to figure out what to do and how to catch up. With all of that as background, I wish to applaud your activitiy. My disertation concerned evaluating organizational learning materials, but that was so many years ago that I doubt much of what I wrote would be useful today. 

The except to my guess that the dissertation would not prove useful is my discussion about James Kirkpatrick's four levels of evaluation that are nicely presented here where a flipped version is advocated. What I added to the discussion was--in addition to formative and summative measures--a reflective component for the designers of learning materials. This component would be used to contribute to future versions, upgrades, new editions and what-have-you.  

My questions for you assume that you have considered more than merely creating a quality control checklist for your evaluation measures:  Do you have an overall evaluation scheme, and if so how might others of us interested in your project help you develop what you need to fulfil that scheme? 

Ida Rodgers




Art Oglesby
4:22pm 29 January 2013

Welcome Bob,

I found workshop that has just started announced on this cloudscape.

The website is full of resources and will generate papers.

I could have used your blog post about Wk3 a few days ago.

I hope your summarize Wk4 assignments, too.


Nataliya Bukhanova
3:18pm 31 October 2014

Hi Bob,

Your blog is awesome! Are you still working on your quality project? I am asking because your post is dated Jan 2013.

I am working on quality assurance of online and blended learning at some Russian medical schools. I am very interested in seeing the results of your work. Have you finished your check list? How does it work? have your results been published somewhere?

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