Software Goes Through Beta Testing. Should Online College Courses?

“Testing online courses is not standard practice at traditional colleges,” points out a new article at EdSurge — though beta-testing is part of the process for other online learning sites. jyosim summarizes their report:
Coursera has recruited a volunteer corp of more than 2,500 beta testers to try out MOOCs before they launch. Other free online course providers have set up systems that catch things like mistakes in tests, or just whether videos are confusing. Traditional colleges have shied away from checking online course content before going live, citing academic freedom. But some colleges are developing checklists to judge course design and accessibility.
“It would be lovely if universities would consider ways of adopting the practice of beta testing,” says Phillip Long, chief innovation officer and associate vice provost for learning sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. One factor, though, is cost. “How do you scale that at a university that has thousands of courses being taught,” he asks… How much beta testing makes sense for courses, and what’s the best way to do it?

A senior instructional designer at the State University of New York says “On most campuses, instructional designers have their hands full and don’t have time to review the courses before they go live… We’re still trying to find the magic bullet that motivates people to review other people’s courses when they’re not being paid.”


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