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Checklist for Evaluating eLearning Courses

by Anna Tower, studioD

Early surveys regarding eLearning instructional design showed that, while administrators believe evaluation is important, few reported doing it well or at all, as reported by Learning Solutions magazine. Many had disparate views on what should be evaluated, including student satisfaction, learning outcomes, job performance, test scores or completion rate. Regardless of evaluation method, quality assurance for eLearning provides administrators with valuable feedback, especially as eLearning courses are on the rise in K-12 and higher education.

Instructional Design

Careful consideration should be placed on how students will participate in an eLearning environment. Instructional design for eLearning can include text, audio, video, other graphics and any number of interactive or collaborative experiences online. Education Week's special report on the "flipped" classroom model, which replaces face-to-face lecture with video-based instruction, noted that passively watching the video does little for student outcomes. Instead, teachers should design ways for students to engage with the videos and their classmates. The same applies to all eLearning; a checklist should evaluate how the course is designed and if it meets student learning needs or not.


There is a danger of relying too much on text-driven instruction with eLearning, ignoring the opportunity to capitalize on the interactive nature of technology. Learning Solutions magazine identified six principles for quality eLearning, all focused on the combination of graphics, words and audio. The findings showed that purposeful integration of all three elements improves learning, but gratuitous or redundant use can impede learning. An evaluation checklist, therefore, can include how the course design integrates media effectively in such a way that mirrors the way the brain works.


The guidelines for distance education produced by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education include nine "hallmarks of quality" for eLearning; six of them relate to support in some way. The quality of faculty and administrative support can mean the difference between a positive or negative eLearning experience. Educators of eLearning courses should be trained in best practices for eLearning. Education Week's report on eLearning emphasized eLearning certification for online educators. Standards should be put in place that evaluate educator training, academic services, learning resources and administrative access.


In contrast to traditional schooling, virtually all aspects of eLearning can be evaluated, since there is a record of each experience within the eLearning classroom. On the other hand, it is often difficult to measure the changes any particular course makes in a student's life. Summative evaluations of eLearning rely mainly on student survey data and the willingness of students to report their views accurately. Students might be asked to evaluate aspects of the course, the effectiveness of the technology, how well their learning transferred to the workplace or the overall value of the program.

About the Author

Anna Tower has a B.A. in history and journalism from Washington & Lee University and a M.A.Ed. from the College of William and Mary. She has been writing since 2003 at various publications, including the "Rockbridge Report," the "Fairfax County Times" and "USA Today." Tower is certified to teach social studies, English and journalism in grades 6-12.

Photo Credits

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