Promoting the quality of online courses

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Learning for an Unknown Future Vol. 26

July, 2003, 692 pages
Published by
Helen Mathews and Rod McKay
0 90 8557 55 8

The assurance of quality in online courses is a topic of some interest within universities. This paper focuses on two aspects of quality–the standards by which online courses are judged, and providing support for academics to develop their own scholarship of teaching in the area of online learning in order to make these judgements. The development and evaluation of a review instrument and associated website at the University of South Australia is described. The instrument focuses on four areas–instructional design, interface design, use of media and technical aspects–with items developed in each to reflect specific standards. The areas and the standards associated with them have been derived directly from teaching and learning theory as it applies to online situations. These have been translated into an accessible checklist which can be used in either course development or evaluation by invited academics. The paper includes a discussion of both formative and summative processes of evaluation. This approach supports a scholarly approach to online teaching and learning, with academic staff responsible for their own course development, and peer review as critical to the recognition of its value. The checklist has particular relevance within quality initiatives such as course improvement processes, formal evaluation of courses and in providing evidence to support applications for promotion. A major feature of the approach is its educative dimension which recognises that online teaching and learning is an emerging area of scholarship which needs to be supported and encouraged.

Keywords: online; scholarship; peer review

Promoting the quality of online courses

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George, R. & Wood, D.