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Assessing the quality of online learning platforms for professional development of pre-service teachers: development and application of an instrument
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This study aims to contribute to the optimization of online learning platforms for the professional development of teachers and to develop a tool to evaluate the quality of this type of platform in terms of teacher satisfaction. After reliability and validity testing and expert approval, a 27-item instrument was created. Based on the information systems (IS) success model, this instrument was designed to measure teachers’ perceptions of the quality of online learning platforms from three dimensions, namely content quality, technical quality, and service quality. In addition, the developed tool was used to analyze the effects of the National Teacher Education Platform in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic in China. Findings revealed that improvements in platform style, tool functionality, operational efficiency, and teaching methods can improve teachers’ online training experiences.
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Over the years, education reform and teacher education initiatives have worked hard to build and foster scalable and sustainable online communities for education professionals (Schlager and Fusco, 2003). One such community, the online learning platform for teacher professional development (TPD), has gained widespread attention and is growing rapidly for its ability and flexibility to support teachers to continually reflect, learn, and act to expand their practice throughout their teaching career. Online educational platforms enable teacher training and self-development and are more convenient in terms of time and space. A quality online platform for teacher learning is a fundamental guarantee of positive teacher learning outcomes (Pengxi and Guili, 2018). Online technology can help deliver high-quality TPD if properly integrated into the learning platform. However, using online technology as a “quick fix” or integrating it into a platform without clear goals will not lead to the desired changes in teaching and learning outcomes (Cobo Romani et al., 2022). Schlager and Fusco (2003) argued that focusing solely on online technology as a means of delivering training and/or networking puts the cart before the horse, ignoring the greater potential of the Internet to support and strengthen the local communities of practice in which teachers work. Designing and delivering high-quality TPD ensures an understanding of the relevant technology, the resources required and the needs of teachers. Previous research has suggested that to be most effective, professional development should be designed, implemented, and evaluated to meet the needs of specific teachers in specific settings (Guskey, 1994). Thus, teachers’ perception of online learning platforms for TPD has become a very important issue, especially regarding the quality of these platforms. Obtaining and analyzing teachers’ perceptions can help trainers, administrators, platform designers and technologists to better use and improve online learning platforms for TPD, thereby helping teachers acquire knowledge and skills more effectively. As Greenberg (2009, p. 2) noted, “without a programmatic understanding of best practices and methods for anticipating potential obstacles, too many initiatives can falter or fail.”
Although some tools are available to measure users’ perception of online platforms or websites in general, there are few tools that specifically allow teachers to perceive the quality of online training platforms. Without proper measurement, some online learning platforms may not be used effectively to support TPD. To address this significant issue and research gap, this study aims to: (i) develop a scale of teachers’ perceptions of the quality of online learning platforms for TPD; and (ii) use the developed scale to evaluate the Central China National Online Teacher Education Platform.
Overall, this research had two parts, device development and application analysis. As shown in Figure 1 , the first part involved four steps of instrument development: conceptual framework and related work, initial framework, pretest, and empowerment for expert evaluation. The developed tool was then used to verify and evaluate the impact of optimizing the online learning platform for teachers. The second part of this study included the following steps: pre-analysis of data, comparison of platform quality and analysis of the benefits of platform optimization.
One of the main information systems (IS) measurement models is the IS success model, which aims to provide a deep understanding of IS success by clarifying the relationships between critical success factors often considered in IS evaluation. The IS success model was originally developed and later revised by DeLone and McLean, 1992, 2002, 2003, in response to input from other researchers. As shown in Figure 2, in the IS success model, the three quality dimensions (information or content quality, system quality, and service quality) directly affect usage intentions and user satisfaction, and thus net system benefits. Information quality, also known as content quality, refers to the quality of the information or content that a system can store, deliver, or create in terms of completeness, relevance, and consistency. System quality, also known as technical quality, refers to the quality of the system in terms of functionality, usability, efficiency, and portability. Service quality typically refers to the quality of support provided to users, including reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and empathy. Until now, the IS success model was widely used by existing studies to measure various information systems, including online learning systems and websites (Lin, 2007). Table 1 lists some important tools based on one or all of the quality dimensions. Based on the IS success model and previous research, this study develops a tool specifically for teacher professional development in online platforms. Specifically, this study attempts to identify key indicators of technical quality, content quality, and service quality to measure the effectiveness of online learning platforms for teacher professional development in teacher experience.
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Content is at the heart of online learning platforms, including information and resources for learning and practice. Yang and Chan (2008) focused on content quality in the evaluation of English learning websites and prepared a separate evaluation of each website’s general content, professional educational content and exclusive training content, emphasizing the authority and practicality of the content. In addition, Devi and Verma (2018) examined libraries in general, as well as service information and different types of specialized books, and indicated that attention should be paid not only to the quality of the content itself, but also to the design of learning methods and strategies. Desjardins and Bullock (2019) argued that only when teachers experience problem-based learning in online training will their learning remain at a theoretical level without conflict and contradiction. Fuentes and Martínez (2018) analyzed the different evaluation frameworks of English learning platforms and proposed an evaluation checklist, including multimedia, interactive and educational content and communication elements, including the evaluation of educational content, teaching methods and strategies.
With the advancement of teacher online activity, many online learning platforms promote teaching and teacher practice and provide teachers with curriculum research, materials, and resources for their teaching practice. Therefore, the quality of the content of this study refers to the quality of online educational courses and professional resources related to teaching. Regarding the design of specific sub-dimensions, we combined previous studies on the evaluation of teaching content and methodological strategies with the teaching effect proposed by experts. Then, indicators of content quality were constructed from three perspectives: resources, method and efficiency. It should be noted that resource evaluation emphasizes content authority and practicality. The assessment of methods focuses on diversity and individual motivation. Instructional impact assessment emphasizes the impact of instruction on teachers’ instructional practices.
In terms of evaluating the technical quality of the platform, most studies evaluated the two general aspects of functional efficiency and technical aesthetics of online platforms or websites, and then suggested improvements in operational technology and interface design. Improvements in online platforms have been reported to help increase user satisfaction and user app tracking (Ng, 2014; Laperuta et al., 2017; Liu et al., 2017; Manzoor et al., 2018; Mousavilou and Oskouei, 2018). Santos et al. (2016, 2019) followed five principles, namely multimedia quality, content, navigation, access speed and interaction in graphic design, to measure user satisfaction in online learning websites. They found that usability and navigation were the two sub-ratings that users preferred.
The technical quality of the online platform, in addition to the basic aspect of usability, is also the efficiency of operation and the indifference of users in the application process. For example, ÖZkan et al. (2020) focused on the rapid growth of resource searches, evaluating the search quality of academic online learning platforms in terms of performance, design content, meta tags, backlinks, and other indicators. Pant (2015) investigated the website quality of a central research library mainly in terms of effectiveness, satisfaction and accessibility. The evaluation points were the smooth and fast operation of the website, the ease of use of the functions and the reliability and trust of the web services after the application. Hassanzadeh et al. (2012) investigated the success factors of digital learning systems and suggested that user loyalty is a factor influencing the success of the system. Loyalty means the user’s dependence on the platform and willingness to recommend the platform. This study noted that teachers differ in their sensitivity to technical efficiency, interface design, and overall design. From the point of view of evaluating the rationality and efficiency of online technology, we combined the perception of users
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