Seven Tips for First-Rate E-Learning Quality Assurance Testing
Great e-learning requires many things: project management, strong instructional design, excellent programming skills, expertise in graphic design, talented voice actors, and a skilled editor. If the team has done all these things well, a robust quality assurance (QA) process can deliver flawless e-learning that works well under all conditions.
Here are seven tips for ensuring high‑quality testing.
- Make sure the requirements are clear. QA testing serves to confirm that specific learning requirements are being met. However, if it isn’t clear what the requirements are, QA testing can’t fulfill its purpose. It’s best to identify the computer and/or device specifications (browsers, screen size, connection speed, etc.) up front before design starts, and then development and testing can be done to these specifications.
- Divide testing by role. A QA Tester should make sure the functionality always works properly under all circumstances stated in the requirements. While the QA Tester may be able to catch some content and grammar items, that’s not his/her primary role. The instructional designer is the person who’s in the best position to check the content for accuracy, and the editor role is best at checking the grammar and punctuation. The QA Tester role is focused on ensuring quality related to functional requirements.
- Make sure you have an exhaustive checklist. A typical course has a tremendous number of things to check. Even if the QA Tester is very experienced, it doesn’t serve anyone well for him/her to try to remember all the things that need to be reviewed. It’s better to start with an exhaustive list and rule out any items that don’t need to be looked at on a project-by-project basis. And make sure it’s clear that the QA Tester should check every item on the list… no spot checking. If the QA Tester only spot checks, some issues may slip through the cracks.
- Use the source files. It’s much harder for QA Testers to catch issues when looking at a published course without being able to see what’s in the authoring tool (or the HTML code, if no authoring tool is used).
- Use tools to test under conditions a “real” learner would experience. Given QA Testers can’t own every device on the market, consider a tool like BrowserStack to allow testing many different operating systems and browsers without using the actual devices. QA Testers can also use Chrome DevTools (or similar tools in other browsers) to adjust the download speed as if they’re testing from a slower connection. If a QA Tester needs to check functionality in a learning management system (LMS) before the course is delivered to the real LMS, you might want to consider a tool like SCORM Cloud (which is capable of testing AICC, xAPI, and cmi5, in addition to SCORM).
- Fixing issues immediately when they’re found improves efficiency. Though this approach requires the QA Tester to be skilled at using the authoring tool, it’s very helpful when one person can both find and fix items. If the job of finding the issues is separated from fixing them, a log is needed to document where all the issues occur. Often the time it takes to make this log specific enough (so the fixer knows where the issue is, and how to understand what needs to be done to fix it), takes more time than it would for the QA Tester to just fix the issue from the start.
- Think like a learner while testing. No two learners go through a course in the same way at the same speed. The QA Tester should keep these things in mind:
- Watch out for places where the instructions aren’t clear, and try to avoid instructions that are only in audio or only on the screen. It’s best to have instructions in both places.
- Assume learners won’t do things in order. Make sure the functionality works regardless of the order a learner attempts interactions within a page. Assume some learners may go slow and wait for all content to finish before moving along, while others may try to go faster and move forward before programmed content has finished playing. If they do this, programmed content such as audio shouldn’t overlap.
An experienced and qualified QA Tester is key to achieving superior QA testing. However, that alone is not sufficient. The QA Tester’s efficiency and effectiveness will likely improve greatly if you employ some of the tips above. Good QA testing helps make e-learning score a high quality grade. Do your courses pass the test?