Quality guidelines

Having quality guidelines for online course development can help ensure the quality experience for your learners.  A quality experience means a smooth, seamless experience for the learner with relevant and accurate information.

Online courses should consider the following guidelines:

  1. Outlines technology requirements to the learner
  2. Outlines pre-requisites to the learner
  3. Relevant information
  4. Accurate information
  5. Applicable to real world situations
  6. Support resources readily available (additional material, contact person)
  7. Knowledge checks to assess learning
  8. Engaging activities to keep learners attention – communicate expectations, foster active learning (http://www.futured.com/pdf/CanREGs%20Eng.pdf)
  9. Appropriate for the level of the learner
  10. Navigational instructions – http://www.wcu.edu/WebFiles/PDFs/facultycenter_OCAT_v2.0_25apr07.pdf
  11. Provides opportunity to practice
  12. Suggests time required to complete
  13. Presented in a format appropriate for the online environment
  14. Guidelines for communicating and collaborating
  15. Instructor is aware of learner progress
  16. Timely response to learner questions
  17. Assessments are frequent enough to provide formative feedback


ePortfolios are a form of assessment that focuses more on developing learners reflective skills and encourages them to evaluate themselves.

An ePortfolio requires the following 3 elements (https://youtu.be/xvqBORISA5k)

  • electronic
  • artifacts
    • supporting materials that showcase your learning, such as pictures, videos, reports, etc.
    • communicate your skills, experiences and learning to your audience
  • reflection
    • reflect on how you achieved the course outcomes

Things like online resumes do not contain all three of the elements, as they generally don’t contain the reflection element.

ePortfolios have a focus on Assessment for learning, rather than Assessment of learning, meaning the they are designed to help the learner learn, rather than for the purposes of providing a grade.

Assessment for learning is the idea that assessment should take place during the learning process, rather than at the end of a course or unit. The focus is not on the quantity, but rather the quality of what the learner has learnt and should be designed to help learners improve.  Assessment for learning should assist the learner in becoming an independent learner with the ability to assess their own work. (Fenwick & Parsons, 2009).

Learners are required to look at the course outcomes, reflected on how they have achieved them and document this on their ePortfolio. Having learners reflect on the outcomes allows them to own their own development and evaluate if they have achieved the outcomes or not, rather than being told. The reflection also allows them to make sense of the learning and make connections between blocks of content (Pelliccione & Dixon, 2008).

Douglas Myers, executive director PLA Centre Halifax, talks about how ePortfolios captures the informal as well as the formal learning. (https://youtu.be/qPskeVP8Nd0)

According to Elizabeth Cleark, ePortfolios have become more popular over the last few years due to 4 factors:

  • Technology improvements – pretty much anyone can easily create an engaging looking eportfolio – with social media such as facebook students are more comfortable creating digital representations of themselves
  • pedagogical change in higher education moving towards student-centred, active learning
  • It has become easier for students to change educational institutions and take courses from multiple institutions, therefore the eportfolio acts as a passport to document all the change
  • Government requirements to demonstrate results to justify funding


This article also gives a good list of 9 best practices for instructors.

I think there is a definitely a place for ePortfolios in my teaching, as I am not concerned with learners passing or failing a test, but whether or not they are able to use the information providing in training to do their jobs. Asking learners to create a ePortfolio and demonstrate their learning can be a good way to see where there are gaps in training.

There could also be value in me creating my own ePortfolio for my professional development.  This could be a way for me to document ways in which I can practically implement the theory I learn in courses and readings. Examples of artifacts could be evaluation forms, assessment implementation ideas and curriculum templates and examples.


Fenwick, T. J. & Parsons, J. (2009). The Art of Evaluation: A Resource for Educators and Trainers. Toronto, Ontario: Thompson Educational Publishing, Inc.

Pelliccione, L. & Dixon, K. (2008). ePortfolios: beyond assessment to empowerment in the learning landscape, ascilite, retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org/conferences/melbourne08/procs/pelliccione.pdf


Learning theories and online learning

Learning theories help us understand how adults learn, which in turn can help inform how we should design learning that is conductive to learning.

Each of the four main learning theories; Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism & Humanism are summarized in the Adult Learning Theories Cheat Sheet. This is a summary of learning burst I created on learning theories and references can be found below. eLearning community also has an interestingn article about 3 Traditional Learning Theories and How They Can Be Used in elearning.

A relatively new learning theory, connectivism, has emerged to address the changing landscape of learning with the introduction of more and more technology. I believe a quote from Karen Stephenson summarises the need for this theory well;

“Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people.” (retrieved from elearnspace)

The theory focuses on the fact that the world is ever changing ,new knowledge is constantly being created and technology can hold vasts amounts of information.  What is important for learners is how to navigate this information and technology and have the skills to make connections.

As an online instructor it will be important for me to created an environment and tools that allow learners easy access to information.  The implementation of an Learning Management System (LMS) will create a hub of information and a place for learners to learn from each other.  Setting the LMS up in a way that enables learners to easily get notified about new information that is relevant to them will help learners manage the pipe of information.  Creating a social hub environment on the LMS will encourage learners to use it as a place to share their knowledge and a resource for gaining new knowledge.  In another article on connectivism, on learning theories (2015), Siemens talks about how much of learning happens across peer networks online.  The instructor needs to create the environment to allow this to happen and encourage learners to seek out more knowledge for themselves and share back with the community of learners.



Beck, C., & Kosnik, C.M. (2006). Innovations in Teacher Education: A Social Constructivist Approach. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press

Gray, A. (1995). Constructivist Teaching and Learning. Summary of a Master’s thesis The Road to Knowledge is Always Under Construction: A Life History Journey to Constructivist Teaching. Retrieved from http://www.saskschoolboards.ca/old/ResearchAndDevelopment/ResearchReports/Instruction/97-07.htm

Merriam, S.B., & Bierema, L.L. (2013). Adult Learning: Linking Thoery and Practices. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Wikibooks, Learning Theories / Constructivist Theories, https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Learning_Theories/Constructivist_Theories

Willis, J. (2009), Constructivist Instructional Design (C-ID): Foundations, Models, and Examples. Charlotte, N.C.: Information Age Publishing

Siemens, G (2005) Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. elearnspace, http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

krist2366, “Connectivism (Siemens, Downes),” in Learning Theories, June 1, 2015, https://www.learning-theories.com/connectivism-siemens-downes.html.


10 Best Practices for Teaching Online (plus 4 more)

Below is a list of 10 best practices for teaching online from Boettcher & Conrad’s book The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips, along with some practical suggestions.

1) Be present at the course site

  • Include my contact details (email) as part of the course
  • Contact learners to provide my details and let them know they can contact me with any questions
  • Assign specific time in my calendar to be present online and review discussion forums, assignments, post new resources, etc.

2) Create a supportive online course community

  • Create a discussion forum for learners to post questions and contact experts
  • Create assignments that encourage learners to post and give other learners feedback

3) Develop a set of explicit expectations for your learner and yourself as to how you will communicate and how much time students should be working on the course each week

  • Create an email template that will be sent to all new learners with clear expectations – how long it will take to complete the eLearn, how many models and what order they need to be done in, expectations for assignments, standard of how long it will take me or expert network to respond to questions

4) Use a variety of large group, small group, and individual work experiences

  • Create multiple assignments or knowledge check activities which require learners to work on their own or contribute to a group project
  • Group project example – post to a discussion forums ideas and other learners to provide feedback

5) Use synchronous and asynchronous activities

  • asynchronous – allow learners to complete elearn and assignment on their own schedule and provide a place to ask questions and hear from other learners
  • synchronous – schedule a monthly or quarterly skype call to bring learners together and share what they learnt, ask specific questions and bring their learning together

6) Ask for informal feedback early in the term

  • Create a feedback form to collect information from learners about what they like about the elearn and what didn’t work from them and what would have helped them learn better
  • Set up focus groups to collect feedback from learners

7) Prepare discussion posts that invite responses, questions, discussions, and reflections

  • Ask experts in the business to pose questions on discussion forums to learners that encourage them to deepen their thinking
  • Ensure experts are visiting the discussion forum regularly to respond to posts and ask further questions

8) Search out and use content resources that are available in digital format

  • Ensure all user manuals are saved online in a logical space for learners to find content

9) Combine core concept learning with customized and personalized learning

  • Create learning pathways for individual roles and use the technology of the LMS to give suggested readings or additional courses

10) Plan a good closing and wrap activity for the course

  • Final assignment that ties everything they have learnt together, possibly present at next quarterly team meeting

Additional considerations
11) Assess as you go by gathering evidence of learning
12) Rigorously connect content to core concepts and learning outcomes
13) Develop and use a content frame for your course
14) Design experiences to help learners make progress on their novice-to-expert journey

Boettcher, J. & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass

Challenges of online learning

  • What are the challenges for you as an online student?

One of the main challenges of being an online student is managing your time.  There are no set class times, so it is up to me to schedule my time accordingly to ensure I am getting the work done.  I set my own goals and deadlines based on my needs.  For example I would like to complete my first elearning course by mid December so I don’t have to work over the Christmas break.  This will be my motivation to get things done.

  • How are you going to deal with these challenges?

To deal with these challenges myself as a learner, I will plan out my week and block off chunks of time to do activities, readings and assignments. I will set myself deadlines for when I am going to get things done, such as by Wednesday I will have read up to page 50.

As an instructor I will help learners overcome this barrier by setting expectations upfront.  I will let them know how long they should anticipate to spend of activities or how long a video or elearn is.  I will also let them know any deadlines they need to work towards, such as if a link will expire or if they need to complete an activity before moving on to something else.

Another barrier my learners may face is the newness of online learning.  I have been working online for a number of years and I am very used to getting information in an online format, however my learners may not be as comfortable.  I will first need to enroll them in the benefits they can get from online learning and how it can be just as interactive and engaging as face-to-face. I will also need to train them on how to use the various technology I will be using.

  • What has been your most important learning to date?

I think the most important thing I have learnt from studying my instructors diploma online is to ensure I review the entire course website and get an idea of the assignments and activities. As it is self-directed and I can go at my own pace, it is good to have an idea how much work is involved so I can spread it out accordingly.  I sometimes find that I can do parts of one week combined with another.

I also find it is important to set goals and deadlines to work towards.  If I want to go away for the weekend, or take a break, then I need to complete my assignment by Friday.