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Penn State Quality Assurance e-Learning Design Standards


The Quality Assurance e-Learning Design Standards are intended to provide a measure of quality assurance for online courses in order to serve the needs of Penn State students. These standards are directed to departments and colleges that wish to share online courses with other campuses or with students external to a Penn State geographic location via Penn State’s World Campus or the Digital Learning Cooperative.


This document specifies 12 quality assurance standards for Penn State online courses.

  1. Navigation
    The course has a consistent and intuitive navigation system enabling students to quickly locate course information and materials.
  2. Student Orientation
    A course orientation is used to familiarize the students with the course.
  3. Syllabus
    Students have easy access to a course syllabus which contains crucial course information and requirements they need to know about the course prior to starting.
  4. Instructor Response and Availability
    Instructor response time and availability is clearly communicated to the students.
  5. Course Resource Requirements
    Hardware, software, or specialized resources required are clearly communicated to the students.
  6. Technical Support
    Information regarding access to technical support is clearly communicated to the students.
  7. Accessibility Requirements
    The course adheres to University policies and guidelines regarding accessibility.
  8. Learning Objectives
    The course contains learning goals and objectives.
  9. Learning Activities and Assessment
    The course learning activities and assessment serve to stimulate student interactions with the course content and determine how well student performance achieves the course goals and learning objectives.
  10. Copyright Requirements
    The online course adheres to the current University policies for the use of third-party copyrighted material or is able to provide evidence of appropriate copyright clearance.
  11. Course Functionality
    All aspects of the course perform properly and support student progress.
  12. Student Input for Course Improvements
    Opportunities are provided to gather input from students on an on-going basis in order to inform course improvements.

Each standard is described in detail, including required evidence of how a standard is met. Suggested best practices and resources for additional information are also included.


  1. The standards outlined in this document were designed for those courses that have a WEB classification. These standards may also apply to courses delivered via face-to-face format with online components.
  2. Although students may connect to the online course via a variety of bandwidths, the minimum technology-connection considered for these standards is cable modem or high speed LAN connection.
  3. Students participating in online courses may be geographically dispersed and may not have access to a local Penn State campus.


At a minimum, the Penn State Quality Assurance e-Learning Design Standards are to be used to review online courses that are to be delivered via Penn State World Campus or the Digital Learning Cooperative. The academic unit providing each course will be responsible for assuring that their online course meets all 12 standards. It is up to that academic unit to determine how they wish to implement these standards for their online courses.

These standards will be reviewed and adjusted annually.

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