Structure, Content, Delivery, Service, and Outcomes: Quality e-Learning in higher education
This paper addresses the need for quality e-Learning experiences. We used the Demand-Driven Learning Model (MacDonald, Stodel, Farres, Breithaupt, and Gabriel, 2001) to evaluate an online Masters in Education course. Multiple data collection methods were used to understand the experiences of stakeholders in this case study: the learners, design team, and facilitators. We found that all five dimensions of the model (structure, content, delivery, service, and outcomes) must work in concert to implement a quality e-Learning course. Key themes include evolving learner needs, the search for connection, becoming an able e-participant, valued interactions, social construction of content, integration of delivery partners, and mindful weighing of benefits and trade-offs. By sharing insights into what is needed to design and deliver an e-Learning experience, our findings add to the growing knowledge of online learning. Using this model to evaluate perceptions of quality by key stakeholders has led to insights and recommendations on the Demand Driven Learning Model itself which may be useful for researchers in this area and strengthen the model.
Quality has been defined in terms of the design of the e-Learning experience, the contextualized experience of learners, and evidence of learning outcomes (Carr and Carr, 2000; Jung 2000; Salmon, 2000). Quality and design of e-Learning courses, however, are sometimes compromised in an “ . . . effort to simply get something up and running” in response to pressing consumer demands (Dick, 1996, p. 59). Educators and researchers have voiced concern over the lack of rigorous evaluation studies of e-Learning programs (e.g., Arbaugh, 2000; Howell, Saba, Lindsay, and Williams, 2004; Lockyer, Patterson, and Harper, 1999; Robinson, 2001). McGorry (2003) adds, “although the number of courses being delivered via the Internet is increasing rapidly, our knowledge of what makes these courses effective learning experiences is limited” (p. 160). In an economic environment marked by intensive competition between educational institutions, producing and ensuring quality e-Learning programs will be a competitive advantage to attract learners to post secondary institutions (Daniel, 1996; Duderstadt, 1999).
In this study we used a credible model, the Demand-Driven Learning Model (DDLM), (MacDonald, Stodel, Farres, Breithaupt, and Gabriel, 2001) and its companion evaluation tool (MacDonald, Breithaupt, Stodel, Farres, and Gabriel, 2002) to design and evaluate an online course. Several data collection methods were used to understand the experiences of key stakeholders in this case study: learners, design team, and facilitators. In addition to adding to the growing knowledge of online learning, our findings highlight additional elements that could be incorporated into the DDLM to further refine the model.
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