A Guide to Successful Evaluation of Online Learning Materials
Evaluation helps us measure the effectiveness of a method, find the problems then fix them. In education, evaluation is critical to measuring the success of a teaching system or method. In this article, we show you 9 salient aspects that need attention in the evaluation of learning materials, especially online materials.
The importance of content quality is indisputable. There are doubtless two vital aspects of any instructional materials: content and the way it is presented. Now we are focusing more on the criteria related to the evaluation of content.
In designing content, it is always advisable to be clear and accurate. False or misleading information, no matter how well you present it, is useless. Another aspect that makes good content is impartiality. The information must be carefully researched with sufficient supporting evidence. It must only present the truths for learners to study and choose sides for themselves. The content itself should not choose sides for the students.
Last but not least, the content should match the learners’ various levels in mind. The use of language and exercises should be suitable for learners of various levels. Also, there should be different kinds of exercises targeted at different groups of learners.
The Connection Between Study Content and Tests
Learning and assessment are two inseparable concepts in education. The outcomes of a learning process are measurable and usable only after assessment. This whole teaching, learning and assessing process is by no means easy to manage because learning materials, online and offline, are often found to be irrelevant to tests.
To avoid this, teachers must carefully select content and exercises or activities so that they train students the skills which will be tested in an exam. When designing content, teachers must ask what good the content does for students and what skills it highlights for students. Teachers should apply the same questions in designing additional materials in many forms.
Adaptive Materials and Feedback
Learning materials, especially online ones, should not be limited to just providing information. Nowadays online materials can be brought to life using various technologies such as animation to enhance learning experiences. Therefore, online learning materials should be adaptive to learner characteristics and provide interactive feedback.
The adaptation of learning materials means they are designed to fit the strengths and weaknesses of individual students. For example, an animated instructional video for low-level students should be longer and have clearer and more relatable images than one for high-level students in the same subject.
Besides, materials need to have some forms of feedback giving to students such as an interactive answer key section where suggestive questions lead students to the answers. For example, SimCity does a great feedback job by showing students the consequences of their actions, which make them reflect on important issues.
We’ve discussed the importance of online student motivation before. Much of the motivation comes from the learning content and the presentation methods. The well-known expectancy-value theory has great details about motivation.
Teachers should aim at student intrinsic motivation when designing learning materials. Good motivational online materials are those that provide relevant, useful information and have decorations (animation, audios, etc.) that capture students’ interest and guide them towards the knowledge, have interactive features that let students participate in authentic activities, and many more.
The Design and Presentations of Materials
Good evaluation of learning materials, especially online materials, must take into account how the content is presented to students. Putting a bunch of texts in a video with the teacher’s voiceover does not make good online materials.
Instead, various audiovisual materials should be used to boost learning effectiveness. And the design (symbols, images, colors, infographics, audios, interactivity, etc.) of those materials should make students understand and remember concepts better.
This term refers to how easy it is for students to navigate through an online learning environment or material – whether they can understand and use the features easily or not. A learning website or material should be user-friendly so that students can focus more on the interaction with the content, rather than the setting options.
To increase interaction usability, especially for a learning website, designers should use clear instructions, help features and familiar symbols that web users usually associate with certain functions.
In order for learners to study any online materials, they have to access them first. Evaluation of learning materials accessibility asks the questions of:
- Whether learners can see and use the materials via their smartphones, tablets, etc.
- Whether the materials are in the familiar file formats which do not need converting.
- Whether they are stored in a place accessible by people that need the materials.
Accessibility is also about how easy it is for disabled or impaired people to use online materials. For example, if one of your students has a very poor vision, can he use your graphic materials as well as others?
Good evaluation of learning materials should also consider the reusability, which describes how easy it is to reuse the materials in various learning contexts and with different groups of learners. For example, if you have an instructional video on making animated videos for online learning, is it suitable for both novices and intermediate users? Is it for various age groups to understand?
If an online learning material satisfies even the smallest standards in presenting texts, pictures, or quotes, it will be very well-designed and add to the professionalism and credibility of a material. Standards here mean international specifications in:
- How a page layout should be.
- Which word size is the minimum for easy reading.
- How many lines there are in a PowerPoint slide.
- How a reference to a book should be written, etc.
We hope this article helps with your evaluation of learning materials. These nine aspects presented above are critical for successful assessment. You can absolutely be flexible and creative with your own assessment of your materials as long as your methods work.
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