Did you know a thorough QA eliminates all avoidable errors or bugs before you release your content into the real world? In this article, Stephanie Karaolis will share why quality assurance for elearning is so important, and give you some tips to help you effectively QA your next course.
When you think of a theatre production, you think of the stars of the show: the acting cast, the orchestra, perhaps the chorus line. You don’t give much thought to the backstage team. The people who pull ropes and turn cranks to make sure everything runs on time, the ones who make sure the right costumes are in the right place for the right people, the cleaners who make sure the auditorium is set to give the audience not just an entertaining show but an overall enjoyable experience.
Like those unsung heroes of theatreland, quality assurance is the oft-overlooked part of online learning design. It’s not glamorous, it’s not exciting, but good quality assurance has the power to really make your content – the star of the show – shine.
A robust QA process means less work for your reviewers and stakeholders, quicker sign-off, and more time to focus on enhancing the experience rather than fixing mistakes. More importantly, the lack of good QA risks causing your audience to (at best) lose interest or (at worst) cast your content aside in frustration.
QA is just proof-reading, right?
Actually, no. There’s more to to delivering a perfectly polished end product than simply dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. But how you QA does depend on the product. Physical products like furniture require a very different quality checklist compared to something like a newspaper article, for example.
When it comes to online learning content, we think there are three things to focus on:
- Text. First, the obvious: spelling, punctuation and grammar. In addition, check consistency, accuracy of facts and figures, and tone of voice.
- Visuals. This includes layout, relevance and quality of graphics and images, alignment of text and other elements, and brand guidelines.
- Function. In a nutshell, does it work? Check that all interactive elements work smoothly, answers and feedback are correct, links launch as expected, and so on.
That’s a lot to look out for…
It’s true – reviewing all those different aspects is a big job. But there are some strategies you can employ to make sure you do a thorough but efficient job.
- Use a fresh set of eyes. If possible, get someone else to QA content that you’ve written, designed or built. If that’s not possible, leave some time (preferably days, not hours) before reviewing your own work. It’ll help you see the detail, not what you think or remember you produced.
- Do several end-to-end reviews. Don’t try to review text, visuals and function all at once. At the very least, do one start-to-finish review of the text and overall sense and then another focusing on visuals and function. Three iterations is even better.
- Give yourself time. A thorough job takes time. There’s no hard and fast rule, but it’s worth allowing yourself around three times the duration of your content for a good QA. (So a 30 minute course might take 90 minutes to QA.)
- Log every bug or error. Whether you or someone else will make the subsequent fixes and changes, make sure to document everything that needs doing. It’ll speed up turnaround and provide an audit trail.
An example in practice
Let’s take a look at some screenshots from a course built in Elucidat and highlight the kinds of things you should be scrutinizing during a QA.
For example, in this screenshot, ask these questions:
- Do all images make sense with what’s being said? Are they relevant, audience-appropriate, and good quality? How do they display on mobile views?
- Is the right information revealed when buttons like this are clicked? Have you clicked around in different areas to check it works as expected?
- Is it clear to the user whether open-input interactions are optional or required in order to progress? Is the character limit appropriate to the question?
And in this screenshot, here are some questions to ask:
- Are colors applied consistently to denote meaning (like the white text on orange here)? Are font styles and sizes used consistently for headings, sub-headings and so on?
- Are graphics and icons (like the badge icons here) in keeping with the overall style? Have brand guidelines been followed appropriately?
- Are results and scores accurate? Have you checked different inputs deliver the right results? Have you tried giving correct and incorrect responses to make sure different permutations lead to the right scores, badges or feedback?
- Has all content been checked for spelling and grammar, readability and language? Is the language used appropriate (for example, UK or US English, or avoidance of slang for an international audience)? Does everything read easily and is the meaning always clear?
Elucidat’s Commenting function: an ideal QA tool
Establishing a solid QA routine doesn’t have to be complex and involve lots of new documents and processes. Elucidat’s Commenting function is ideally suited to the job, for two reasons.
First, it makes the task of documenting errors and bugs – and their subsequent fixes – simple and smoothly integrated into the workflow. You can add comments (in both ‘Edit’ and ‘Preview’ modes) directly into the course. Even better, each comment is in context: the orange icon denoting a comment appears in the relevant part of the screen. This can really speed up the process of making required changes as designers and developers can easily see where the fix is needed without the QA reviewer needing to write lengthy descriptions.
Second, it provides a complete audit trail. Once you’ve made a change, simply press ‘Mark this comment as resolved’ and it will be logged as complete. But it doesn’t disappear: you can view all resolved comments (as well as open comments) at any time. This also has the benefit of making it super simple for different people to take responsibility for implementing different types of change, whilst also allowing the project owner a holistic and real-time view of progress.
Finally, it’s designed for collaborative working so it’s really easy to QA other people’s work or virtually discuss any more complex requests. Having a separate change log document brings with it risks around version control and a slow backwards-and-forwards process. In The Commenting function in Elucidat means all members of a team can be working on the project simultaneously. It’s worth still having one person responsible for QA, but other team members can start working on fixes as soon as each one is logged, rather than waiting for the QA to be finished in full.
There’s a more detailed guide to the Commenting function available here.
As part of our expert team, Stephanie has created some fantastic Elucidat Masterclass topics. You might like the ones she’s created on Better QA for polished releases and Writing for a global audience. We have a whole host of expert-created topics available; all packed with tips, in-depth guides and demos.