Course Editing: Ensuring High Quality and Consistency in Online Courses
Concurrent Session 1
Successful online universities ensure courses provide a consistent, high-quality student experience. One university employs a Course Editing team to verify that courses meet uniform standards and are error-free. This interactive presentation equips participants with strategies for implementing quality control measures in online offerings through utilizing Course Editors.
In an article for Research in Learning Technology, Heather Kauffman (2015) explains that the instructional design quality of online courses is “associated with improved performance” (p. 5), while “decreased satisfaction with internal factors including instructional design . . . [is a predictor] of attrition” (p. 11). Quality assurance for online courses can be a challenge for some institutions, but as it is such a significant component of institutional success, providing high quality is nonetheless essential. When developing online courses on a large scale, how can one ensure that each course meets uniform standards? One effective way to fulfill this purpose is through employing a team of Course Editors.
A Course Editor’s job is to review the materials, settings, and content of online courses before each term begins. In addition to common editing foci such as grammar, spelling, and formatting, Course Editors also review assignments, instructions, grading rubrics, course schedules, and more for clarity and consistency in presenting course content. Furthermore, they place and test technical elements, such as web links and videos, and oversee other details within each course. If issues arise within a course, Course Editors correspond with stakeholders to seek efficient solutions that will provide a seamless and accessible educational experience for all students.
One can imagine the amount of work and potential challenges that arise in developing hundreds of online courses within a given span of time each semester. Course Editors help to smooth this process by reviewing each course to ensure consistency across all areas. Ultimately, Course Editors collaborate with stakeholders to produce high-quality courses that meet consistent university standards and provide students with an optimal learning experience.
The Course Editing team fulfills a quality control function. It is the “final gate” through which a course must pass before faculty and students gain access. Without this quality assurance stage, a number of content issues within a course could negatively affect students’ online learning experiences. Having Course Editors in place helps to enhance the quality of students’ learning experiences and maximizes their chances for academic success. Through their diligence, expertise, and attention to detail, Course Editors ensure success in online learning for stakeholders, students, and institutions.
To actively engage participants in this session, we intend to have users on their devices navigate through one of two sample Blackboard courses (created beforehand), and ask them to locate certain items and information. One group of users will have a well-edited course that meets uniform standards, making their navigation experience much more accessible, efficient, and pleasant. Another group of users will have an unedited course, which will be more difficult to navigate or to find consistent information in. Examples of errors or difficulties in the unedited course could include:
Contradictory information in different course locations, such as one assignment being listed with different names, point values, or due dates. A well-edited course would contain consistent information in each of these areas instead.
Grading rubrics with inconsistent formatting, or with point values or ranges that do not add up correctly. Rubrics in a well-edited course would be formatted consistently and contain correct point values.
Unclear assignment instructions. A well-edited course would present all instructions with clarity and conciseness.
Broken video or website links. A well-edited course would contain functional and up-to-date links.
Different versions of the same document (syllabus, assignment instructions, grading rubrics, etc.) in multiple different course locations. A well-edited course would contain one central location for these documents, rather than having different versions of documents in multiple different places.
Spelling or grammatical errors in documents; multiple font sizes/styles throughout the course; visually un-appealing text. A well-edited course would use correct grammar and spelling along with consistent font formatting.
After navigating through each course, participants will be better able to identify possible items or areas of a course that would benefit from a quality review by a course editor. This hands-on activity of navigating through courses of two different quality levels will help participants to understand firsthand the issues that can arise in a course from a lack of editing or quality control, as well as the benefits and ease of accessibility that thorough editing and quality control can bring.
Online learning is a relatively new but ever-expanding field. Just as the capacity, scope, and influence of distance education have skyrocketed in the past 25 years, these fields still appear to be growing more and more rapidly, a trend which will only continue in the years to come. Any institution that wishes to remain competitive and relevant in its online offerings must necessarily utilize some form of quality control measures to ensure consistently excellent content for all its courses. Even with all of the capabilities that technology may acquire in the future, it will still be necessary to have have a team of skilled editors to fine-tune all of the details that technology may miss. With a team of thorough and detail-oriented course editors in place, higher learning institutions can continue to offer a smooth, strong, and highly satisfactory learning experience for all of its students and stakeholders.
By the end of the session, participants will be able to:
● Describe challenges faced in producing quality courses on a large scale.
● Define the Course Editor’s role in quality assurance of courses.
● Apply strategies to develop quality control programs for online courses.
Practice navigating a Blackboard course and identify specific factors that mark either high or low quality in a course.
Possible questions for discussion:
■ Does your institution or organization have standards of quality control for online courses, or a team who ensures quality?
■ If not, how could your institution benefit from implementing these elements?
■ If your institution or organization were to double in the size of courses they produce, would your current design team be able to handle that load while still producing high-quality course content?
Kauffman, H. (2015.) A review of predictive factors of student success in and satisfaction with
online learning. Research in Learning Technology, 23, 1-13.