Last week I set out the benefits of QA. But what does ‘QA’ mean?
To many people, it is synonymous with ‘proof-reading’, but that’s a very simplistic view. QA stands for quality assurance, and that means quality in every respect.
Let’s think about some non-learning examples.
If you were QA-ing a newspaper article, the review would of course cover spelling and grammar. But it would also cover factual accuracy, tone of voice, sources for quotations and so on. You’d probably want to check the headline appropriately reflected the thrust of the article, and that any accompanying photographs made sense with the story.
If you were QA-ing a dining table, however, there’s no proof-reading required. Instead, you’d probably check that the wood was in good condition, that the dimensions of the table top are suitable for the given number of people, that the four table legs were all the same height, and that everything was screwed together securely.
So, when you’re QA-ing an e-learning course, what are you looking for? It depends a little on the stage of the process: what you check at storyboarding stage will be slightly different from what you check once it’s built. But overall I think there are three categories of things you should check during an e-learning QA.
- Textual: This covers spelling, punctuation and grammar, of course. But it also covers accuracy – are all the facts and figures correct? Obviously the subject matter expert will need to check this too, but you should pick up any contradictions or any statistics that don’t add up, for example. Your textual QA should also cover the tone of voice – is it appropriate and is it adopted throughout the course? This is particularly important if more than one person has been involved in storyboarding. Finally, consistency: someone once told me consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative, but I maintain it’s important. Some learners might not notice inconsistent writing, but some will and it disrupts the flow and experience. Is the writing consistently UK or US English spelling? Are capital letters used consistently? Are bullet points punctuated consistently?
- Visual: This covers the layout, which should be user-friendly and clear, as well as more detailed visual considerations. Check every text box to make sure that no words or letters have been cut off, check that special characters are appearing properly, and check that different elements on screen are aligned appropriately and (yes, again) consistently. Check that all images are of a high enough resolution, that they support the message on that screen, and that any animations or diagrams are easy to understand. And, of course, check that the visual design throughout is in line with any branding guidelines.
- Functional: This covers how the course works. You should be checking that all interactive elements are easy to use and smooth – disjointed or stilted activities aren’t user-friendly. You should also make sure that all interactions have been translated correctly from the storyboard – that right and wrong answers are designated correctly, for example – and that any URLs launch the expected page. Finally, if accessibility is a requirement, this needs checking too, as does the interaction between the course and any system it needs to be hosted on or interact with.
So which of these three areas is most important when carrying out a QA?
That’s a trick question, of course: none of them is more important than the others. Every learner will focus in on different things so you can’t afford to have mistakes in any area – your QA needs to give each element equal attention.
Next up, I’ll share my tips for carrying out a QA of the three elements mentioned above in the most effective, time-efficient way.
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