Why eLearning quality assurance (QA) matters
eLearning Quality Assurance, or eLearning QA, is the process through which we monitor and enforce standards. It ensures the delivery of an outstanding training product. Assuring the quality of SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) courses can be incredibly challenging, especially for lengthy or complex programs. Even so, quality assurance checks must be done to guarantee that learners will have an effective, enjoyable learning experience and not encounter factual or grammatical errors.
What if the quality assurance phase is skipped?
Although eLearning quality assurance is an extremely important step in the SCORM course creation process, it is often underestimated. Not valuing QA of your eLearning courses is a huge mistake for learning and development (L&D) teams that aim for excellence. When the QA phase is skipped, the final product may end up reaching the learner with spelling errors, functionality issues, or bugs, both ruining the learner experience and harming your company’s reputation.
Knowing a bit more about the QA process, specific to eLearning, may change your mind about the importance of including a QA phase with every project. Also, learning some QA strategies can make the process seem more manageable and show how it will take your training product from mundane to exceptional. This article describes a few ways you can achieve accurate, effective eLearning products with a sound QA process.
eLearning QA review in three acts
L&D teams that are up against a tight deadline might try to test an eLearning product all at once to see what the learner would get when taking the course for real. But this quick scan might miss important details that do not immediately catch the eye. For that reason, we suggest using an eLearning QA process in three acts, or phases, to guarantee a thorough review:
Act 1: Content Review
Content should be the first thing reviewed. First, compare the actual SCORM course content with the storyboard to ensure that the course is complete and accurately follows the design. Next, examine the content for grammar, spelling, and punctuation issues. Poorly written text can damage the credibility of the course, and the harm can spill over to the company’s credibility and reputation. If no storyboard is available, read the content more than once to evaluate the flow, completeness, and coherence of the course.
If the course contains narration, be sure to check the audio along with the text or slides. Verify that it matches the text, sounds as expected, and is at a pleasant volume level. Ideally, you will complete the narration review during the final phase of the QA process.
Act 2: Functionality
Once you’re satisfied with the content, it is time to test interactive elements. This is when you click all buttons, hover over links, and watch for animation inconsistencies. Test out various ways a learner might navigate through the course to see whether they could easily “break” something. Also, verify that the course setup ensures that learners access the training content in a logical way. As you review interactive activities, choose both incorrect and correct responses to verify that the appropriate response is marked as correct and that feedback fits the question and response. Pay attention to timing and slide transitions, making sure every single feature works smoothly and as expected.
Act 3: Design and Visuals
Last but not least, the QA check examines the quality of images, graphics, and videos. Make sure that images and graphics all look neat and crisp, especially when enlarged. Test each video to ensure it is not pixelated and that its audio is synchronized.
Quality assurance with a “fresh pair of eyes”
Once a team member has completed the initial review, it is essential to have someone else review the course. A fresh pair of eyes is critical because, when a course developer spends a lot of time working on a project, it can be hard for them to spot small errors, such as typos or a slightly different animation type. Ideally, someone who is not directly involved with the project, but who has the knowledge and access to collaborate, should be asked to perform this additional review.
Multiple review cycles attribute to a sound eLearning QA process
Establish the number of review cycles at the beginning of each project, during initial course development planning. We recommend at least four review cycles at different stages of your eLearning project — when planning and allocating project management and resources. The four review cycles are:
- Initial Review — The first full review takes place immediately after the course is built.
- Second Review — Once the issues and errors found during the initial review have been fixed, a new review round confirms that everything is correct and no new issues have arisen.
- Project Owner Review — The third review is carried out by the owner of the project and provides them the opportunity to check that everything looks and works as expected. It’s also their last chance to change anything before the project is finalized.
- Final Review — Once you have addressed feedback, fixed issues caught in earlier rounds, and applied any late changes, it is time to do a final review and make sure everything is perfect.
eLearning QA review time — times three
Budgeting time and resources for eLearning quality assurance from the beginning of project planning and management is essential. The three-stage QA process of a 30-minute course, for example, may take up to 90 minutes; the time it takes depends on the number of interactive elements, as well as the number and type of issues found. Allowing time for each round of QA and course revisions is an important consideration when starting a new project. It is always better to set aside more time than needed and not use it than the other way around.
Recording errors and feedback
While performing QA reviews, keep track of all errors, issues, and feedback. The reviewer, as well as the digital designer, should use a document to log all information: It can be an MS Word file, a spreadsheet, or even use a collaborative web app, such as Google Docs or Review 360. If multiple reviewers are logging their findings, a project lead or other designated team member should have final decision-making authority and be responsible for approving the completed product.
Thorough eLearning quality assurance fuels success
Treating your eLearning products with care and respect ensures that they look and work perfectly, therefore providing your learners with an enjoyable and effective learning experience. This, above all, is the key to your success!
Learning Hub: free resources for eLearning
The Neovation Learning Hub contains many free resources and articles that can help you improve eLearning outcomes at your organization. Continue learning about Custom eLearning Development topics, read articles on Instructional Design, or find new eLearning tools to help you with your eLearning initiatives.