Evaluating Online Learning: Challenges and Strategies for Success
July 2008

Evaluation Methods and Tools

Institute of Education Sciences

In 2002, the Education Sciences Reform Act created the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) as an institute dedicated to conducting and providing research, evaluation, and statistics in the education field. IES maintains a registry of evaluators and has published the two guides described below. The Regional Educational Laboratory Program is also housed within IES.

Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported by Rigorous Evidence: A User Friendly Guide

Published by the U.S. Department of Education, this guide is meant to help practitioners understand the meaning of "rigorous evidence" and important research and evaluation terms, such as "randomized controlled trials." Understanding these terms and the different types of evidence in the education field can help when designing an internal evaluation or working with an external agency.

Random Assignment in Program Evaluation and Intervention Research: Questions and Answers

This document, published by the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education, discusses the purpose of education program evaluation generally, and answers specific questions about studies that use random assignment to determine program effectiveness.

Regional Educational Laboratory Program

The Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Program is a network of 10 applied research laboratories that serve the education needs of the states within a designated region by providing access to scientifically valid research, studies, and other related technical assistance services. The labs employ researchers experienced in scientific evaluations who can provide technical assistance on evaluation design. The REL Web site provides contact information for each of the labs.

Local School System Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation Guide

This guide from Maryland Virtual Learning Opportunities is a useful resource when considering program implementation. Planning considerations are divided into a three-part checklist of planning, implementation, and evaluation. Additionally, suggested roles and responsibilities are provided for both district- and school-based personnel. The guide can be found online at the following URL, using the link on the left-hand side for the "Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation Guide."

Online Program Perceiver Instrument

The Online Program Perceiver Instrument (OPPI) was designed by the staff at Appleton eSchool in Wisconsin, as an online evaluation tool to be used by Wisconsin's network of virtual schools. The tool is featured as an internal evaluation process in this guide and is currently available for all online learning programs across the country to use. The Web site provides information about the framework and an overview of how the instrument works, as well as contact information and directions on how to become a member of the OPPI network.

Program Evaluation Standards

This document is a 1994 publication of the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation, a coalition of professional associations concerned with the quality of evaluation. The standards address utility, feasibility, proprietary, and accuracy issues, and are intended for use in checking the design and operation of an evaluation.

2005 SETDA National Leadership Institute Toolkit on Virtual Learning

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) was developed to provide national leadership and facilitate collaboration between states on education technology issues. Each year, SETDA hosts a National Leadership Institute and develops toolkits intended to help educators effectively use virtual learning. The 2004-05 toolkit includes a lengthy section on program evaluation.

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Last Modified: 10/20/2009