Evaluating Online Courses


The evaluation of online courses involves many of the same criteria applied to traditional classroom courses but also necessitates the use of new criteria more directly based on the online environment. The course evaluation materials below offer a range of rubrics and guidelines for help in developing effective practices for evaluating online courses.


Online Course Evaluation Rubrics or Checklists

Quality Matters in Online Learning, QM.
A national non-profit organization dedicated to quality assurance in online education.  This site offers resources such as QM rubrics for fully online or hybrid and blended courses, course design based on QM standards, peer review, workshops, and conferences.

Michigan State University Quality Matters:  Teaching Tools
MSU has a campus subscription to QM.  This page provides information for creating a personal QM account in order to make full use of the QM rubric and online resources to create and assess improved online education and student learning.  Also offers links to other technology tools for teaching available at MSU.

Quality Online Course Initiative Rubric and Checklist (Illinois Online Network).
Offers two versions of a rubric for online courses: a comprehensive rubric with room for comments and a shortened version with only a checklist.

Central Michigan University Quality Assurance Checklist.
A checklist for faculty to review and evaluate their online courses for structure, syllabus, course content and usability, learning community, and assessment.

Online Course Evaluation Project (OCEP), Monterey Institute for Technology and Education.
Provides links to criteria-based evaluation tools and examples of recently reviewed courses.

Online Course Development Guide and Rubric (University of Southern Mississippi Learning Enhancement Center).
Provides a rubric and self-assessment tool for instructors based on best practices.

Online Course Development Guidelines and Rubric (Michigan Community College Association Virtual Learning Collaborative).
Guidelines and a rubric intended to assist institutions with developing online courses of quality.

Criteria for Evaluating the Quality of Online Courses (Clayton R. Wright, Grant MacEwan College, Edmonton, Alberta).
Guidelines for course developers or those evaluating the effectiveness of online courses.

California State University, Chico’s Rubric for Online Instruction.
Evaluates online or mixed mode courses with six domains along a spectrum of three rankings (Basic, Effective, and Exemplary).  Links to exemplary online courses at CSU, Chico in a wide variety of fields.

Evaluation of Online Course based on Principles of Online Design, Florida Gulf Coast University.
Four criteria––Instructional Design Elements, Interaction and Feedback, Course Management, Technical Support––with basis for evaluating each and room for reviewer’s comments.

Back to top


Peer Evaluation of Online Courses

Online Course Assessment Tool (OCAT) and Peer Assessment Process (Western Carolina University).
A checklist designed to provide constructive peer feedback on the design and instruction of online courses.

Back to top


Administrative Evaluation of Online Courses

Best Practices for Administrative Evaluation of Online Faculty (Thomas J. Tobin, Southern Illinois University).
Presents principles of effective online instruction and instruments for measuring them so that administrators may make informed judgments when assessing online courses.

Back to top


Other Articles or Resource Links

Michigan State University Virtual University Design and Technology (VuDAT).
Provides over 100 articles to guide online course developers, a blog, examples that showcase specific tools or techniques, and links to other resources.

Illinois Online Network.
Offers links to many categories of information on online courses and the online environment.

Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education,” AAHE Bulletin, March 1987.
Summary of Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda Gamson’s seminal article setting out guidelines for good practice in undergraduate education.

Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever,” AAHE Bulletin, October 1996.
The influential article by Arthur W. Chickering and Stephen C. Ehrmann applying Chickering and Gamson’s seven principles of best practice in undergraduate education to the use of technology in teaching.

Seven Principles of Effective Teaching: A Practical Lens for Evaluating Online Courses,” by Charles Graham, Kursat Cagiltay, Byung-Ro Lim, Joni Craner, and Thomas M. Duffy (Indiana University).
This article provides “lessons learned” from four case studies of online courses evaluated using Chickering and Gamson’s seven principles. Offers practical suggestions for the effective application of each principle to online teaching.

10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education.
A free report when you sign up for Faculty Focus, a free e-newsletter for higher education faculty published three times per week by Magna Publications.

Back to top


Online Research

Virtual Center for Online Learning Research.
A consortium dedicated to research and development in online education. Publishes Journal of Interactive Online Learning, a free peer reviewed online journal.

Back to top