Friday, March 13, 2009

Week Two thoughts

Why is evaluation important to you and how do you define it?

I view evaluation as a platform or tool for design, for development or for improvement. Evaluation is a way of determining what is needed, how it will fit with other developments and if something is really needed or just wanted. . Evaluation can easily be incorporated into the design stage of a project via SWOT analysis where the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are defined. Evaluation throughout development is vital to ensure that a reliable, realistic product is created.

Evaluation comes in many forms and informal talks with peers, stakeholders and industry advisors at conferences etc are just another example of ways in which we can self assess and expand our horizons.

2. What sort of evaluations mentioned on the presentation are familiar to you already and why?


These are used in the courses I teach to ensure students can actually do the physical tasks asked of them in the unit plan. Additionally, we as lecturers are observed by our peers in the classroom and given feedback on our practices.


Students are asked to fill in lecturer and programme evaluation forms each semester on each course. This enables the lecturer to take a look at themselves through others eyes.

Discussion forums

In one of my courses I use the discussion board in Blackboard to encourage collaboration amongst the students. This exercise also provides a way for me to be able to assess how the students are coping with the sometimes difficult material. I can then decide whether parts of the subject needs to be taught a different way or new resources created.

Expert Reviews

An example of expert reviews that I can think of is the external moderation of course design and material that happens on all programmes in the school I work in. Stakeholder meetings are also one way that our institute evaluates what is going on in industry and therefore which direction to take our courses.

3. Why is quality important in eLearning?

Quality in elearning is important because the product or resource has to replace (albeit
temporarily sometimes) a face to face lesson. Students will rely on that resource to provide the knowledge and answers they would generally ask of the tutor.
Providing a poor quality elearning product or resource with little or no support (teacher contact, help resources or f2f facilitation) will inevitably result in poor success rates and lower overall course participation numbers perhaps.


  1. Hi Heather

    I agree with your comments on the importance of the need for quality and evaluation - for me, the challenges I have been experiencing is trying to establish an agreed set of standards in the design of an elearning course and then agreeing to how it would be best to evaluate.
    How much emphasis should/can be placed on well-researched elearning design models when often an eLearning Advisor can/may only advise?

    If you are developing resources without an eLearning Advisor input, is there a minimum 'set of standards for best practice' with your team that must be met before a course is made available to students? (As you are probably aware, we have no best practice checklist for our whole institute).

    I'm interested in hearing your views.

    Kay Lewis

  2. Heather you mention some very important features of evaluation - as a tool for development or improvement. It can also be used to gauge impact of the eLearning, or to check that an online resource or course should remain as is or needs to change. As you say, evaluation can also be informal and like Sam you have alluded to the importance for self-assessing.

    The list of evaluations you say you are familiar with are called in "evaluation speake", sampling tools or methods - Observation, questionnaires, discussion forums, expert reviews. I wonder are you familiar with some of the other terms - types of evaluation such as formative, summative, usability, impact, effectiveness etc.?

    You make a good point about facilitation in online courses - some people advocate for regular interaction and feedback, others such as Terry Anderson (Athabasca) have written about the debate. My preference is for regular contact even when a resource is self-paced and enables self-assessment, and I also like to students to feel they are part of a learning community. He says: "Contrary to popular belief, the major motivation for enrollment in distance education is not physical access, but rather, temporal freedom to move through a course of studies at a pace of the student's choice. Participation in a community of learners almost inevitably places constraints on this independence, even when the pressure of synchronous connection is eliminated by use of asynchronous communications tools. " See:
    Chapter 2, Toward a Theory of Online Learning, Terry Anderson - From: Theory and practice of online learning (2004).

    Kay makes a good point about best practice guidelines - this is where the eLearning guidelines will come in handy.

  3. Hi there, Terry is partly right, and many students can cope well on their own. Howe ver,students can also find they feel very alone and unsupported when they are not part of a community, and are not getting much feedback about their progress.

    They also miss out on all the learning that comes from other students on the course.

    In my experience keeping up interaction can make the difference between a student staying or giving up altogether.

    I also think that if we can provide the choice - to interact or not - then that's got to be good?

  4. Thanks for your comments Kay, Bronwyn and Adrienne :)

    Kay: By the time a set of guidelines has beem developed, written, debated, rewritten, reviewed and finally accepted, a year or more could have passed.......a year in which a lot of online development has taken place.

    In most cases (my opinion only) it appears policies and procedures are developed post-event rather than pre-event. I cant imagine it is a fast process getting the different Schools or Faculties to agree to one set of guidelines let alone the different campuses we operate with.
    I dont know the politics that surround your job Kay but I imagine you have hurdles to overcome in terms of presenting 'your' best practice guidelines to the many varied teams working on the two very different elearning mediums at UCOL.

    Adrienne: Thanks for your comment, it has inspired me to carry on with what I am doing!

    As a student I am one of those students that have the ability and know how to pick up new technology and run with it but dont always have a lot of confidence within myself about my abilities to add to others learning. I am feeling intimidated reading some of the work that others are doing in this course and questioning my own choice of topic (and career).
    My own insecurities have me thinking "perhaps, I'm not doing enough?", "do I actually understand what is expected of me?", "what can I contribute to others' learning (if anything) on this course?", and of course "gawd, did I pick the wrong course to study?"
    I think without the knowledge that Bronwyn is in the background keeping 'tabs' on my (albeit slow) progress I may very well have slipped quietly off the radar.