Quality Indicators of Virtual Education: A Meta-Synthesis of Approaches, Criteria, and Standards


Azam Esfijani 1 , *

1 Ph.D. in Virtual Education, Assistant Professor, Department of Education, School of Education and Psychology, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran, Iran

How to Cite: Esfijani A . Quality Indicators of Virtual Education: A Meta-Synthesis of Approaches, Criteria, and Standards, Strides Dev Med Educ. 2015 ; 12(S1):e59448.


Strides in Development of Medical Education: 12 (S1); e59448
Published Online: March 28, 2015
Article Type: Research Article
Received: August 05, 2017
Accepted: February 21, 2015




Background & Objective: Due to the remarkable advantages of virtual education, the increasing development of online education institutions has been approved by education and training authorities all around the world. In spite of their remarkable growth, online education institutions are facing significant challenges such as lack of trust from the society. These challenges are mainly associated with the uncertainties regarding the quality of online teaching and learning. Therefore, it seems essential to pay especial attention to the concept of quality in virtual learning institutions and its measurement for which a comprehensive framework of quality criteria and indicators is required. The main purpose of this study was to extract the indicators and attributes of quality evaluation in virtual education from the existing literature to facilitate the development of a holistic quality evaluation framework for online learning in higher education.
Methods: In this qualitative research, meta-synthesis method based on the Walsh and Downe approach was employed. The research method comprises of 6 steps (including goal definition, systematic search for related papers, evaluation of documents, extracting related content, content analyses, and interpretation of findings). From the total number of 438 potentially related academic documents, 41 were selected and analyzed.
Results: Through the six step method, 12 quality indicators of online education have been extracted in 4 aspects which include 47 attributes. The extracted indicators for quality evaluation, considering the variety of approaches presented in the literature, provide a comprehensive framework in which the target population, such as online learners, instructors, and employers, has been considered.
Conclusion: The main indicators for evaluating the quality of virtual education comprised of students, instructors, courseware/content, learning management system, unit/course structure, technological infrastructure, teaching, learning, support services, professional development programs, evaluation and assessment, and graduates. In the developed quality evaluation framework, the measurement attributes of each indicator have been extracted from the literature.


Virtual education Quality indicators Measurement criteria Meta-synthesis

© 2015, Medical Education Development Center. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits copy and redistribute the material just in noncommercial usages, provided the original work is properly cited.



Full text is available in pdf




  • 1.

    Reference is available in pdf