Evaluating Quality in Online and Blended Learning


Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D; Online Learning Consortium

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Higher education continues to face pressure from a variety of external stakeholders to validate the quality of the educational experience for students.  Key for institutions that provide curriculum in an online or blended modality is the need to provide evidence that the quality, or value, of the experience students receive in the virtual environment matches what is provided in the traditional format. However, there seems to be a disconnect between the need to validate the online program and an understanding of how to evaluate the quality.  

So how can the quality of an online or blended learning program be comprehensively evaluated in order to sustain a culture of quality?  To provide a strong foundation for quality online learning, the Online Learning Consortium has supported the Quality Scorecard and the institutions that implement it since 2011. The 2014 version developed by Kaye Shelton is based on the original tool she developed as part of her doctoral dissertation in 2010. The update to the instrument now includes 75 indicators across nine categories that provide a comprehensive overview of items needed in a quality online program.

While the OLC Quality Scorecard, along with our newest tool the OLC Blended Quality Scorecard, is available as a free download to anyone, there are opportunities to work directly with Dr. Shelton in OLC’s Quality Scorecard Mastery Series beginning on March 19th and at the OLC Innovate Pre-Conference Workshop, In Search of a Quality Online Program: Steps for Program Evaluation and Improvement, on April 19th in New Orleans, LA. In this workshop, Shelton will be joined by OLC’s Chief Knowledge Officer, Dr. Karen Pedersen, to provide an interactive session in which participants will have the opportunity to begin to apply the instrument to their institutional setting.  

Further resources available to institutional members, include:

  • The Interactive Scorecard. This allows for easy completion of the Scorecard and uploading of required artifacts to substantiate claims made for each indicator.
  • The Quality Scorecard Handbook.  While a PDF version is free to institutional members, non-members may purchase a hard copy of this book which provides detailed information regarding each indicator as well as recommendations on how to complete this item.
  • The Quality Scorecard Rubric.  Institutions can use this tool to identify how to appropriately self-assess and score each indicator.  The rubric can also be found in the Quality Scorecard Handbook.
  • Quality Scorecard Review.  Upon completing the Interactive Scorecard, further validation of an institution’s online or blended program can be completed through our peer-review process.  This in-depth evaluation, completed by our expert team of reviewers, can provide valuable information to help improve the overall quality of the online program.  Institutions achieving an exemplary status through the Quality Scorecard Review are also eligible for a special logo that can be displayed on their website.
  • Customized Workshop: An OLC expert can come to your college or university to conduct a half-day or full-day customized Quality Scorecard workshop for your faculty, staff and administration.  For pricing, or more information, please call Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D. at (781) 583-7571 or visit our Advisory Services website.
  • Coming Soon: Quality Scorecard – Regional Accreditor Framework. Recognizing that many of the institutions that implement the Quality Scorecard use the evidence included to validate their program to external stakeholders, the OLC is now providing a framework that shows how each indicator aligns with the criteria of regional accreditors.

Interested in additional resources on this topic? Consider: 

Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2016). Online Report Card: Tracking Online Education in the United States, 2015. Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group, LLC.

Shelton, K. (2010). A Quality Scorecard for the Administration of Online Education Programs: A Delphi Study. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 14(4), 36-62.

Tobin, T. J. (2015). Don’t Tell the Faculty: Administrators’ Secrets to Evaluating Online Teaching. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 18(3). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/fall183/tobin183.html

About the Author

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Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D. is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Online Learning Consortium. Dr. Mathes has nearly 20 years of experience in both public and private for-profit higher education where she has supported online learning initiatives since she taught her first online course in 1997. She has been instrumental in working with start-up online initiatives as well as leading growth in institutions with an existing online program. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she wrote her dissertation on “Predictors for Student Success in Online Education.” She also has earned a Master of Science degree in Business Education and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications from Illinois State University.

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