You have invested a good deal of time and resources in online training and want to be absolutely sure that you are presenting the best possible product. The best method to eliminate errors is also one that is often overlooked in the interest of time and resource: A thorough quality assurance testing cycle.
An entrenched quality assurance program in your course build process will not only catch defects before they get into the final product, but will also raise client confidence in your products, improve work processes, and increase efficiency.
Breaking It Down
Quality Assurance (also known as ‘QA’) is the systematic process of checking to see whether an online training course meets specified requirements. Of particular importance in that definition are the last 3 words; ‘meeting specified requirements’.
Checking to make sure that a course runs correctly is of limited value unless you know how you intended it to run. This speaks to the importance of a sound instructional design and storyboard. Testing against these requirements guarantees the efficacy of your quality assurance cycle.
The document that is created for quality assurance testing is called a ‘Use Case’ document. A use case describes how a user accomplishes a specific goal within a system. For example, a use case goal might be to allow an employee within an organization to use your online training software to modify their user profile. The use case describes each step the user must take followed by the expected response. During quality testing, if the system does not interact as defined in the use case, an error is identified and submitted for fixing and validation.
The end result of your Quality Assurance program should be an online training course experience that engages and educates in a natural and intuitive manner. The user’s attention should be captured by the content, not distracted by the structure or interface.
To assist in achieving that goal, here are a few of the more common questions we have received on the topic of implementing a “quality“ Quality Assurance process.
The QA Q & A
Q. What is a Quality Assurance cycle?
A. A single cycle includes testing, fixing errors, and validating that the fixes have been made.
Q. Who should conduct the quality assurance check? Can the author or coursebuilder do it?
A. Ideally, the testing should be performed by a third party – not the builder or author because of their intimacy with the course. A concise use case document will provide a roadmap for the tester to follow and ensure that all functionality is tested, but a fresh set of eyes will more accurately mirror an actual user on the system.
Q. Is one quality assurance check on completion of the course sufficient?
A. Almost never. In addition to a final QA cycle, there should be testing done at several points during the course build. For example, the instructional design document should be checked for continuity, the storyboard for logic and presentation, and the initial build – before the narration has been added – should be tested for accuracy against the storyboard. Multiple QA cycles will solidify your product by identifying and correcting more issues than from a single QA cycle.
Q. What should be checked during the tests?
A. In a word; Everything! Content, playability, and navigability should be tested. Anywhere that the user interacts with the content or the program should be tested that it is working as designed. If you have mobile-ready courses, the same tests should be performed on multiple devices and operating systems to simulate the variety of platforms that may be used to run the course. Multiple versions of each operating system should be tested as well. Your testing environment can be used to simulate various bandwidths and connection speeds so that you can determine and recommend the optimal requirements to your clients.
Q. I need a tester and a use case document to test a course. Anything else?
A. Yes, a system to track the QA process. As your testers work through the use cases, they will identify bugs (a failed use case) and enhancements (the use case passed but the process could be improved) that are forwarded to a custom online training developer for resolution. A tracking system that can be as simple as a spreadsheet needs to be developed to record the following characteristics:
- Date of test
- Who found the issue: In case the developer has followup questions
- Bug or Enhancement: This helps in prioritizing the importance of each issue.
- Description of issue: A thorough description of the steps taken, the outcome, and potential resolution
- Current Status: e.g. Submitted, In Development, Tested, Resolved, Deferred
A valuable rule of thumb to keep in mind is that your users will always find a different way to do things. Your testing needs to think of them beforehand. Every bug you discover and fix is one more reason for your clients to enjoy a seamless learning experience.
There are a many stages that a course can go through during the development process; from design to delivery. It’s worth your time to ensure that the courses and the processes used to deliver them work correctly. A solid quality assurance process assists in that.
We want to hear from you! Let us know how you get your courses ready for delivery and some of the near misses you encountered. Leave your story in the comments or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.