Quality and Its Measurement
in Distance Education
Annette C. Sherry
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Translating ideals of academic excellence into applicable terms for providers and users of distance education is not an easy task. Providing exemplary pedagogical experiences within rapidly changing technological environments requires the combined efforts of everyone engaged in the distance learning enterprise. In this newcentury, with distance education expanding worldwide, the urgency of quality assurance is apparent.
The organization of this chapter's exploration of quality measurement in distance learning is depicted in Fig. 31.1.
As suggested by the dashed frame, the chapter begins by “framing” the overall condition of distance learning today through an introduction that recognizes the variety of large and small providers (represented by the thick and thin dashed lines of the frame) who engage in designing and delivering distance education. The lighting bolt primarily represents Internet-based delivery but also symbolizes by its repetition other electronic means for delivering instruction. Fittingly, the learners are at the core of the distance learning picture, whose dynamic and fluctuating nature is indicated by the jagged dashed lines. Factors encompassing the evaluation of the learners' four main types of responses to their experiences are presented next, as the learners are the main focus. To engender a better understanding of the framework in which learning occurs, the chapter then explores issues surrounding quality at the institutional and faculty levels. Although institutional and faculty issues are somewhat distinct, as indicated by the dashed line used to separate the institution and the faculty, they are interrelated, indicated by the use of similar shades of gray. The policies and procedures that institutions choose to implement directly impact faculty responses, as do faculty initiatives within the institution. For these reasons, institutional and faculty issues are commingled to some extent during the discussion of sample guidelines and projects intended to illuminate exemplary distance learning. Descriptions of representative global, national, and institutional initiatives and projects are also used to illustrate relevant points.