The delivery of education online has forever changed higher education and distance learning programs throughout the world. Many institutions experienced quick success in this new method for teaching and learning; however, there was much concern expressed regarding quality and how it compares to the traditional method for teaching and learning. In fact, both administrators and faculty have questioned how to measure quality in online education and what evaluation methods should be used for continuous improvement strategies and accreditation requirements. This six-month long Delphi study produced an answer to this important question: a fully developed instrument for online administrators to use for program evaluation that may be used at the program, college, or system level—The Quality Scorecard for the Administration of Online Programs (QSC).  The Quality Scorecard may be used to demonstrate elements of quality within the program as well as an overall level of quality. In addition, weaknesses are identified that can be used to support program improvement and strategic planning initiatives. The Quality Scorecard was developed to be utilized by an administrator as the researcher believed that the only the administrator would have a large enough perspective and knowledge of all elements of the online program.

The QSC is organized into nine categories: Institutional Support, Technology Support, Course Development and Instruction Design; Course Structure; Teaching and Learning, Social and Student Engagement, Faculty Support, Student Support, and Evaluation and Assessment with a total of 75 quality indicators. Each of the 75 indicators is worth one, two, or three points and corresponds to a provided rubric. The administrator will determine at what level their program meets the intent of the quality indicator after examining all procedures and processes.  The following guidelines are provided as part of the coversheet for the scorecard:

  • 0 points = Deficient. The administrator does not observe any indications of the quality standard in place.
  • 1 point = Developing. The administrator has found a slight existence of the quality standard but difficult to substantiate. Much improvement is still needed in this area.
  • 2 points = Accomplished. The administrator has found there to be moderate use and can substantiate the use of the quality standard. Some improvement is still needed in this area.
  • 3 points = Exemplary. The administrator has found that the quality standard is being fully implemented, can be fully substantiated, and there is little to no need for improvement in this area.

The following scoring guidelines are also provided as a general recommendation for the online education administrator:

  • 189-210 points – Exemplary (little improvement is needed)
  • 168-188 points – Acceptable (some improvement is recommended)
  • 147-167 points – Marginal (significant improvement is needed in multiple areas)
  • 126-146 points – Inadequate (many areas of improvement are needed throughout the program)
  • 125 points and below – Unacceptable.

Quality is a perception that varies within industries, including that of higher education whose traditional indicators for quality are changing. The results of this study provide an industry agreed upon tool by creating a scorecard for determining levels of quality in online programs, which satisfies a great need in the field. This study provides just such a process, which is now being used throughout the United States, in Latin America after a norming process, and Mexico. The assessment of quality online education has never been more important as fierce competition from for-profit programs as well as many non-profits programs continues to increase and students all over the world are clicking to find a quality online degree program.

EDEN conference website.