Why is it so important to test e-learning platforms?

Image credit: Stéfan

In recent years, the concept of e-learning platforms has risen considerably with students accessing the courses as per their ease and comfort (we're currently working on e-learning / adaptive learning projects with Cambridge University Press and Pearson). This has meant that the students should be able to access the course content, submit exercises, take assessments and keep track of their progress. From an administration point of view, the institutions use the e-learning platform to create courses, enrol students, and track their individual scores and progress. This level of demand from e-learning platforms requires immense flexibility, reliability, scalability, and secure interface which can be assured through a thorough testing.

E-learning platforms can be of various types:

  • Flash-based e-learning applications
  • Web-based learning courses, some of them use SCORM (shareable content object reference model)
  • Content assessment of web-based learning courses
  • CD-ROM based learning courses
  • Server-based learning management systems

The importance of testing

The most effective aspect of testing an e-learning platform should be as to how learnable the course is for the students. This will ensure the effectiveness of the platform. Having said that the other areas of testing still hold good in terms of ensuring smooth functionality, usability and without any bugs.

As these courses would be used by students across the globe, the aim of testing these e-learning platforms is to ensure that the product can be used without any hindrance.

To ensure that any obstacles that hinder the learnability are spotted and removed, can be achieved by focussing on the types of testing as given below:

  • Functionality testing
  • Usability testing
  • Browser / platform testing
  • Performance testing
  • Security testing

Testing types

Functional testing will ensure that the product is working as per the specifications. Some of the areas in e-learning platform which could be tested are:

  • Course Creation by Teachers
  • Registration
  • Course consumption by students
  • Course assignments
  • Assessment, scores and progress
  • Teacher and admin reporting

Below are some of the content types which need thorough testing before it is released to the intended audience.

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    Usability testing in e-learning platforms is generally performed to ensure that the application navigation is intuitive. The user should not face challenges in achieving the desired outcome. The content should be error free and easy to use.

    Browser / platform compatibility testing: With the wide range of users accessing e-learning platforms both in terms of devices and hardware used as well as the Software/Operating Systems/Browsers used, it becomes more important to test the compatibility with different hardware and software, to ensure smooth access of these e-learning platforms.

    Performance testing: As there could potentially be a large number of users accessing an e-learning platform, maybe at the same time, the performance testing should be carried out so that there is no noticeable impact on the user experience in terms of accessing the platform or loading of various sections/contents.

    Security testing plays an important role in these platforms as is the case with any other application. With the vulnerabilities on the rise, there can be unauthorised access to the platform with a malevolent intent. Hence there has to be a complete testing from security standpoint to ensure the integrity and protection of the data, and the platform functionality itself.

    To conclude, with this range of e-learning platforms available and an extensive user base, testing becomes important for these products. The testing areas or strategies may vary but the underlying intent remains the same, which is the learning should not be impacted.