Assuring the quality of online learning in higher education: Adaptations in design and implementation




distance education, online learning, learning design principles, quality of online courses, mixed-methods research


In higher education, designing online courses aligned with students’ preferences impacts learning effectiveness. Our research aimed to investigate which learning design elements can affect the quality of online learning. To achieve this, we followed a systematic literature review, identified current trends and conducted an online survey outlining university students’ opinions. The results revealed that students’ preferences agree with universal learning design principles, acting as course quality determinants. These elements relate to the structure, appearance, content, interactivity of the course and support in the online setting. We recommend that courses are well organised and include authentic resources, activities and assessments, divided consistently into smaller, topic-based chunks that resemble experiences drawn from real life. The objectives need to be communicated while the expected behaviours are known to students. The respective workload must be equally distributed across the course spectrum in an environment that balances collaborative and self-paced learning. Students must be familiar with the technology, which is also an easy-to-access gate. Lastly, it is suggested that technical and pedagogical support is constantly present so that participants efficiently work in the online context.

Implications for practice or policy:

  • In collaboration with educators, instructional designers can use the quality indicators that emerged through the study when designing and evaluating higher education courses.
  • Instructional designers and educators may prioritise learners' autonomy, aligning course requirements with students' sense of control.
  • Instructional designers and educators can distribute students’ workload equally throughout the course, without strict deadlines, to improve the learning experience.
  • Educators may promote collaborative assignments but moderately balance them with an individual-based assessment mode.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Athina Konstantinidou, University of Nicosia, CARDET

Athina Konstantinidou is a Ph.D. Student in Educational Technology, at the Department of Education, University  of  Nicosia.  She holds a MEd in Educational Technology from the  Department of Education, University of Nicosia and a BA in English Language and Literature from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. She has participated in Erasmus+ programs in Hungary and Spain, with full scholarships, as a student and intern. Her research interests include gamification, personalisation, learning design and evaluation of online distance learning environments. She participates as a Project Researcher and Learning Designer in research projects in the respective fields.

Dr. Efi A. Nisiforou, University of Nicosia, CARDET

Dr. Efi A. Nisiforou is a Lecturer in Distance Education, at the Department of Education, at the University of Nicosia. Dr. Nisiforou holds a Ph.D. in Educational Technology from the Cyprus University of Technology, an MEd in Education by the University of Manchester, a PGCert in Technology Enhanced Learning by the University of Wales, and a BEd in Educational Sciences by the University of Athens. Her research interests include implications of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Educational Neuroscience for the design and development of online environments and the integration of emerging technologies in all levels of education. She has published papers in international conferences  and in refereed journal and has received EU research funding. Dr. Nisiforou also serves as an External Evaluator in various research projects in the EU and beyond.




How to Cite

Konstantinidou, A., & Nisiforou, E. (2022). Assuring the quality of online learning in higher education: Adaptations in design and implementation. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 38(4), 127–142.