In order to operationalize (put a handle on) and measure quality assurance, we must first define “quality”.
The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines quality three ways:
1) how good or bad something is
2) a characteristic or feature that someone or something has : something that can be noticed as a part of a person or thing
3) a high level of value or excellence
Merriam Webster’s — quick version definition — the activity of checking goods or services to make sure that they are good —- and the long version — a program for the systematic monitoring and evaluation of the various aspects of a project, service, or facility to ensure that standards of quality are being met.
Quality Assurance–in other words–is a systematic plan of evaluation to ensure that what an organization claims it will do has been done. Quality Assurance is about accountability and accountability is about standards
Quality is determined according to standards. In grades K-12 public education, State Standards define and mandate “quality” education; federal standards prescribe further details about education in the various content areas and mandate additional criteria for categorizing schools.
In the State of Texas, Schools are qualified along a continuum that includes ranks :
In higher education, there are accreditation standards set by accreditation institutions. The SACS is a regional accreditation institution. For more information about higher education accreditation in the US, visit Wikipedia.
If accreditation standards are not met by an institution, that institution cannot receive Federal funds; however, the Federal government agencies reserve the right to change the rules and standards mandated for higher education (read more about the policy struggles over Quality ).
What does Quality Assurance have to do with Instructional Design??
In order to receive valued Federal Funds, standards must be met by K-12 and post secondary education institutions. Quality is money, and Quality Education is defined by the Federal and State Standards. But what does that have to do with Instructional Design?
As an Instructional Designer, I am aware of standards that must be met for instructional products. For K-12 education in the State of Texas, I must keep myself up to date with the TEA standards — the best way to sell my products is to demonstrate that all are standards-based, and it doesn’t hurt that I’ve been a public school teacher and have an understanding about the nature of straddling the standards while finding creative ways to deliver content. The same must be true about higher education. So what is quality in ID?
Quality Instructional Design depends on quality of — content, appropriate delivery method, instructional model, learning-theory grounded design, and evidence that materials effectively facilitate learning goals.
How is Quality Assured in an instructional design system? —- systematic EVALUATION.
Evaluation requires knowledge about qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods of data collection and data analyses. Evaluation determines the extent to which —1– learning goals were accomplished during instruction, –2– instructional and learning goals, objectives, activities, and content are aligned (this process is continuously engaged throughout the ID process—I also revisit it during evaluation), and –3– stakeholders’ goals were met. (A fourth process, not always investigated by instructional designers, is the extent to which an institution’s overarching mission or goals were met.)
Evaluation can take place as an internal or external process. External evaluation is often required when funding agencies (non-profits, governments, foundations, etc.) award paid contracts for specific purposes. An experienced instructional designer routinely conducts evaluation to assure the client about progress on goals. Evaluation is a complicated process that will be discussed further in future blog entries.
In summary, quality assurance —like instructional design — takes place through a systematic, carefully planned and executed design guided by standards. Standards for instructional design are determined by the project, the targeted audience, and the nature of instructional delivery. Standards for quality assurance are set by governing agencies for Institutions, Industry, etc.