Quality on the Line, Benchmarks for Success in Internet-Based Education

Feb 15th, 2002 | By | Category: 13-3: Sustaining Our Future, Media Reviews

An overview of the report prepared for The Institute for Higher Education Policy with support from Blackboard and the National Education Association (NEA).
33 pages
Available at: www.nea.org/achievements/student/details/03.html

Review by Dr. Lori Lambert

The quality of on-line learning and the success of students who enroll in Internet-based courses is a hotly debated topic among educators.  There is no middle ground. One either hates this type of teaching/learning or loves it.

The report documents a project attempting to bring research data and reasoning to this hotly debated issue. The original benchmarks for success were developed for all methods of distance learning (satellite, video-conference, correspondence). The new project attempted to determine if these benchmarks are applicable to Internet-based distance learning. In addition to Blackboard and the National Education Association, six institutions participated in a research study: Brevard Community College, Regents College, University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, University of Maryland, Utah State University and Weber State University.

Twenty-four benchmarks were identified by the institutions and considered essential to ensuring excellence in Internet based (asynchronous) learning. The benchmarks are presumed strategies to assist university presidents, academic officers, faculty, students, and policy makers to make informed decisions with regard to quality in developing and assessing their curriculum offerings. The benchmarks for success include: institutional, course development, teaching/learning, course structure, student support, faculty support, evaluation, and assessment benchmarks.

The report is an excellent resource for institutions beginning to develop online curricula or for institutions under self-study for accreditation for online degrees since these benchmarks dovetail with the guidelines for accreditation.

What does this report mean for students taking online courses at tribal colleges? It is an excellent attempt to determine methods of achieving quality for online courses. Students can examine the benchmarks to determine quality of online learning from their particular institution. Faculty and administrators can determine what efforts must be put into their online programs.

No mention is made of a benchmark in learning style or how learning styles are incorporated in the course designs, or how teaching styles affect course development. At tribal colleges we pride ourselves in designing quality culturally relevant courses appropriate for learning styles of our students. This aspect of on campus and online courses is a major key to the success of retaining students in online learning.

Lori Lambert, Wabenaki/Mi’kmaq, is the assistant director for distance education at Salish Kootenai College.

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