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Enhancing Quality in Online Learning: Scaffolding Planning and Design through Proactive Evaluation

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Distance Education Volume 23, Number 2, ISSN 0158-7919


A major issue confronting educators is the extent to which they wish to conform to so-called paradigm shifts in teaching and learning. In the contemporary world of tertiary education these shifts embrace both pedagogy (from instructivist to constructivist) and technology (from classroom to online). As teachers and learners are faced with the potential of these new learning environments, the extent to which learning outcomes are achieved remains a high priority and subject to a wide range of evaluation strategies. Conventionally, evaluation has been positioned at the end of the instructional development cycle, to assess first whether or not the creative effort achieved the original product goals and second whether or not the desired learning outcomes were realized. In the context of online teaching and learning environments, however, the level of understanding teachers, learners and developers have of the medium can impact the ultimate effectiveness of the product. This paper articulates an additional dimension to post-development evaluation processes in proposing proactive evaluation, a framework that identifies critical online learning factors and influences that will better inform the planning, design and development of learning resources. This notion of proactive evaluation advocates resource development being undertaken where all planning activities are assessed against the evaluation criteria that would normally be applied during formative assessment. By performing these evaluation checks proactively, online learning resources will, in principle, work first time as all relevant factors and issues will have been considered and resolved. More importantly, for those participants who are new to online environments, proactive evaluation will perform a scaffolding and professional development role by enhancing online teaching or learning competencies. (Contains 8 tables.)


Sims, R., Dobbs, G. & Hand, T. (2002). Enhancing Quality in Online Learning: Scaffolding Planning and Design through Proactive Evaluation. Distance Education, 23(2), 135-148. Retrieved January 25, 2021 from .

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