August 16, 2018

E-learning quality assurance standards, organizations and research

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


Quality Matters


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 (

E-standards for Training (

Commonwealth of Learning

Quality Assurance Microsite:
Knowledge Series: ODL Policy Development:
Perspectives on Distance Education: Towards a Culture of Quality:
Quality Assurance Toolkit: Teacher Education:
Quality Assurance Toolkit: Higher Education:

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:

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