Valerie Ruhe and Bruno D. Zumbo. Evaluation in Distance Education and e-Learning: The Unfolding Model. New York, New York: The Guilford Press; 2009. 305 pp, $34, ISBN-978-159385-872-8.
Evaluation in Distance Education and e-Learning: The Unfolding Model articulates a framework for evaluating distance and e-learning courses. Beginning with the rationale for and the importance of conducting evaluations, the authors transition to an easy-to-understand description of their model, and conclude with a practical guide for applying the model.
Chapters 1 through 4 are dedicated to explaining the "unfolding model." After establishing the definitions for distance education and e-learning used throughout the book, Ruhe and Zumbo establish the importance of employing a professional, scientific approach for the evaluation of these teaching and learning environments. The authors then present their unfolding model in a clear and logical manner. Comprised of 4 basic elements--scientific evidence, relevance/cost-benefit, underlying values, and unintended consequences--the model encompasses the critical aspects needed for effective evaluation of e-learning courses. By including unintended consequences as a major component, the authors have effectively addressed a deficit in many other evaluative models; namely, examining unexpected changes in productivity, unanticipated consequences, and negative outcomes countering predicted benefits. Additionally, this model tackles the need for a course evaluation mechanism that can accommodate the ever changing e-learning landscape. As institutions adopt and mature their use of e-learning, resultant changes in administrative structures, areas of focus, and educational technologies necessitate a flexible evaluative model such as that proposed by the authors.
Using the unfolding model as the framework, chapters 5 through 9 guide the reader through a mini-course in conducting educational research and applying the unfolding model. The basics of planning a study, the internal review board (IRB) process, and consideration of institutional politics and stakeholders are presented. …