I am surprised how often academic colleagues argue that there are no quality standards for e-learning. Well, hello, I’m sorry, but there are and some of them are damned good. However, I was surprised to find while doing some research for a client that there is no single source where one can go to compare different quality standards for e-learning. So I’m starting a list here, and would appreciate it if readers could direct me to ones that I may have missed. (For more detailed information on some of these, see comments below).


Barker, K. (2002) Canadian Recommended E-learning Guidelines (CanREGs) Vancouver BC: FuturEd/CACE (also available in French)

Barker, K. (2001) Creating quality guidelines for online education and training: consultation workbook Vancouver BC: Canadian Association for Community Education

BC Ministry of Education (2010) Standards for K-12 Distributed Learning in British Columbia v3.0 Victoria BC: BC Ministry of Education

Ontario Postsecondary Education Quality Assurance Board: Review Guidelines: Review of Capacity to Deliver Online Degree Programming Toronto ON: Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities


National Standards for Quality: https://www.nsqol.org/

Quality Matters http://www.qmprogram.org/rubric


JISC (2009) Effective Practice in a Digital Age Bristol UK: JISC

JISC (2004) Effective Practice with e-Learning Bristol UK: JISC

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (1999) Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education: Section 2: Collaborative provision and flexible and distributed learning (including e-learning) – September 2004 Gloucester, UK


e-xcellence in e-learning: The European Quality benchmark for online, open and flexible learning, developed and offered by the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU)


The 2008 report “E-learning quality: Aspects and criteria for evaluation of e-learning in higher education” is part of an ongoing endeavour by the Swedish National Agency of Higher Education to develop knowledge about what constitutes quality in e-learning, and how such quality may be assessed within the framework of a national quality assurance system.

New Zealand

Marshall, S. (2006). E-Learning Maturity Model Version Two: New Zealand Tertiary Institution E-Learning Capability: Informing and Guiding E-Learning Architectural Change and Development Project Report. Wellington NZ: New Zealand Ministry of Education


Basic Standards for E-Learning Sites (http://tdu.uws.edu.au/qilt/downloads/Basic_Standards_for_Elearning_Sites.pdf)

E-standards for Training (http://e-standards.flexiblelearning.net.au/)

Commonwealth of Learning

Quality Assurance Microsite: http://www.col.org/QualityMS
Knowledge Series: ODL Policy Development:http://www.col.org/resources/publications/trainingresources/knowledge/Pages/policyDevt.aspx
Perspectives on Distance Education: Towards a Culture of Quality: http://www.col.org/PSQuality
Quality Assurance Toolkit: Teacher Education: http://www.col.org/QAToolkit_TE
Quality Assurance Toolkit: Higher Education: http://www.col.org/QAToolkit_HE

Organizations focusing on quality assurance in e-learning

The European Foundation for Quality in e-Learning (EFQUEL) has in my view a very enlightened approach to quality assurance. EFQUEL’s web site is well worth exploring.

JISC is the UK university IT network organization and has an excellent e-learning programme that includes quality standards, research and innovation.

International organizations

epprobate is a new international quality label for courseware, an initiative of three organisations: The Learning Agency Network (LANETO), the Agence Wallonne des Télécommunication (AWT) and the e-Learning Quality Service Center (eLQSC). epprobate has reviewers and partners in over 30 countries, and launches at the end of March 2012. For more information click here and here

Online education services for students

There are also other conditions beyond management and teaching that contribute toward high quality e-learning systems. Flexible transfer of credits that recognise qualifications taken online as well as face-to-face, and government web sites that provide accurate and reliable information about the quality online programs available within their jurisdiction, are also essential components of a high quality e-learning system. For examples, see:

BC Transfer Guide

Education Planner


eCampus Alberta

Contact North

Research on quality assurance

Probably the best coverage of quality issues in both formal (for-credit) and ‘post-traditional’ (open, non-credit) online learning are the two papers published by Academic Partnerships:

Butcher, N. and Wilson-Strydom, M. (2013) A Guide to Quality in Online Learning Dallas TX: Academic Partnerships

Butcher, N. and Hoosen, S. (2014) A Guide to Quality in Post-traditional Online Higher Education Dallas TX: Academic Partnerships

If you use the category search on “quality and quality assurance” on this site, you will find over 100 articles or postings about this topic on this site. I have selected just a few below:

Maxim Jean-Louis’s Another perspective on quality

My posting In search of quality in e-learning

My posting on What do instructors need to know about teaching with technology?

Kidney, G., Cummings, L. & Boehm, A. (2007). Toward a Quality Assurance Approach to E-Learning Courses International Journal on E-Learning, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 17-30. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

A special issue on e-learning quality from the Journal of Educational Technology and Society: http://ifets.info/issues.php?id=35

Jung, I. and Latchem, C. (20112) Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Distance Education and e-Learning New York/London: Routledge


It is one thing to have a set of standards for e-learning; it’s quite another to implement them. Even rarer are studies that attempt to measure the impact of a quality assurance process on actual quality of teaching and learning. Nevertheless there are many articles in academic journals on this topic. If you know of one that was particularly helpful or informative, please let me know – a single site on quality and quality assurance research would be really useful – especially if the references are of high ‘quality’, however defined!

For a discussion of the limitations of quality assurance in e-learning, see Chapter 6, ‘Quality Assurance’ in Bates, A. and Sangrà, A (2011) Managing Technology in Higher Education, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

For an excellent example of what happens when quality assurance standards are not followed see:

Smithers, M. (2012) eLearning at Universities: A Quality Assurance Free Zone? Learning and Educational Technology in Higher Education, February 19


  1. Tony,

    The various benchmarking frameworks also provide a form of QA standard for e-learning, commonly incorporating the items you mentioned (including for example the Quality on the Line set from IHEP). Paul Bacsich created a useful overview on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benchmarking_e-learning, although I’m not certain when it was last updated by a knowledgeable person.

    When folk criticize the quality standards for e-learning I think in part this may reflect the dominance of technical standards and external assurance standards as opposed to more pedagogically directed quality improvement documents – although as you rightly point out JISC produces some extremely valuable documents…


  2. Tony:aggregations are very helpful. Hopefully people can annotate or comment on particular entries to give greater insight into their progress, strengths, weaknesses, etc.

    In the Australian community there are rapidly emerging developments with the formation of the new TEQSA (Teritary Education Quality Standards Agency, http://www.deewr.gov.au/HigherEducation/Policy/teqsa/Pages/Overview.aspx), which applies to eLearning and fixed place institutions (Regulatory and Quality Arrangements Diagram: http://www.deewr.gov.au/HigherEducation/Policy/teqsa/Documents/HIEDArrangements_Diagram.pdf). I do not believe they distinguish between eLearning programs from any other, but my colleagues will certainly correct me if I’m in error here – still a newbie in Oz.

    For the vocational and technical education sector the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework) at http://www.flexiblelearning.net.au/content/act-e-learning-hub provides guidance and recommendations.

    I didn’t see the Commonwealth of Learning in your list, but I may have overlooked it. In case, the Commonwealth of Learning report on Open and Distance Learning Policy Development can be found here http://www.col.org/resources/publications/trainingresources/knowledge/Pages/policyDevt.aspx

    There is work going on in the tertiary sector through the refocusing of ALTC (Australian Learning and Teaching Council, confusingly similar to the UK’s ALT-C) and in particular the development of a common discipline standards description, again agnostic to the delivery methodology. This work is probably tangential to what you’re trying to assemble, but in case it’s useful, their Standards work is at http://www.altc.edu.au/standards.

    I look forward to seeing this repository grow and contribute back to our understanding of the area. Good luck with it.


  3. Deborah Vaness writes:

    Hi Tony

    The Australian Council of Open, Distance and eLearning benchmarks were developed about 5-6 years ago by Christine Goodacre and Angela Bridgeland. You should be able to get to them on the ACODE website: http://www.acode.edu.au/benchmarks.php. They published a couple of papers about them, too. They aren’t as comprehensive as Marshall’s EMM model, but are easier to work with, perhaps for that reason.

    Deborah’s ‘The Educational Reflections blog can be found at: http://educational-reflections.blogspot.com/

  4. Resources from the Commonwealth of Learning:
    Quality Assurance Microsite: http://www.col.org/QualityMS
    Knowledge Series: ODL Policy Development: http://www.col.org/resources/publications/trainingresources/knowledge/Pages/policyDevt.aspx
    Perspectives on Distance Education: Towards a Culture of Quality: http://www.col.org/PSQuality
    Quality Assurance Toolkit: Teacher Education: http://www.col.org/QAToolkit_TE
    Quality Assurance Toolkit: Higher Education: http://www.col.org/QAToolkit_HE
    Quality Assurance Toolkit: Open Schooling (coming soon)
    Many others: go to http://www.col.org/publications and enter “quality” in the publications search field.

  5. Dave Wilson of the Commonwealth of Learning writes:

    Quality Assurance resources from COL:
    · Quality Assurance Microsite:
    · COL Knowledge Series: Quality Assurance in Open and Distance Learning:
    · Quality Assurance in Teacher Education Toolkit: http://www.col.org/QAToolkit_TE
    · Quality Assurance Toolkit for Distance Higher Education Institutions and Programmes: http://www.col.org/QAToolkit_HE
    · Review and Improvement Model (COL RIM): http://www.col.org/news/Connections/2010feb/Pages/Events.aspx
    · Quality Assurance Toolkit for Open Schooling (coming soon)
    · Perspectives on Distance Education: Towards a Culture of Quality: http://www.col.org/PSQuality
    · Various speeches: http://www.col.org/speeches
    · And others available through http://www.col.org/publications – search publications for “quality”

    Many thanks, Dave, for a great list of resources

  6. Already a highly interesting collection of resources, thanks for launching this Tony!

    The FFFOD (French Forum for Open and Distance Learning) produced a Code of Practice for eLearning in 2004. The French version is recognised by AFNOR, the French standards organisation.
    The English version is a faithful translation and, although the document is quite culturally specific, the overall approach might be of interest: http://www.fffod.org/media/20070613-RBPZ76001-EN.pdf

  7. Tony,

    Are you familiar with Quality Matters? http://www.qmprogram.org/rubric . This was a grant funded long range research project that ultimately resulted in a rubric and course review process for online and hybrid courses assessing quality. It has been adopted by many US colleges as a peer review and design tool.

    The research basis from which it was created is also interesting to peruse.

    Lisa Chamberlin,
    (co-author of Making the Move to eLearning: Putting your Course Online)

  8. Hi Tony,

    thanks for the summary.

    We are currently elaborating an international quality label for eLearning courseware, called epprobate: http://www.epprobate.com

    Beside the label, we are providing a consultative improvement process, based on the advices of eLearning quality experts, domain experts, peers (eLearning producers) and representatives of the target group.

    In contradiction to many other eLearning quality initiatives, we are also having a look at the content.

    We are following a participatory approach and thus, inviting everyone who is interested to become one of our reviewers. The official roll-out is on the 21st of March 2012.

    Best wishes,


  9. […] This could also be a useful way to evaluate open educational resources in an independent way, but the weakness is that it is dependent on organizations paying for this review and one wonders at how independent such a review can be. It will all depend on the rigorousness of the evaluation and the test will be whether epprobate is willing to deny recognition for materials that do not meet the highest standards, even though the client has paid a fee for the review. See also: E-learning quality assurance standards, organizations and research […]

  10. […] Ontario Postsecondary Education Quality Assurance Board: Review Guidelines: Review of Capacity to Deliver Online Degree Programming Toronto ON: Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities USA BC Ministry of Education (2010) Standards for K-12 Distributed Learning in British Columbia v3.0 Victoria BC: BC Ministry of Education Quality Matters http://www.qmprogram.org/rubric E-learning quality assurance standards, organizations and research […]

  11. […] what online. There is a clear set of best practices and design models for fully online learning (https://tonybates.wpengine.com/2010/08/15/e-learning-quality-assurance-standards-organizations-and-research…), but, other than the NCAT studies, we don’t have good models or at least well-tested models for […]

  12. […] Bates, T. (2010). eLearning quality and assurance standards, organizations and research. Retrieved from https://tonybates.wpengine.com/2010/08/15/e-learning-quality-assurance-standards-organizations-and-research… […]


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here