20. December 2023, Miscellaneous

ISTE Seal: The Seal of Approval for Digital Learning Tools

Seals of quality are familiar to us from very trivial everyday situations – like the AMA quality seal on egg cartons or the Blue Angel on a bucket of wall paint. They assure us that we can be confident in the quality of the product. It’s not surprising, then, that these certifications also exist for digital learning programs. Just like the ISTE Seal from the USA, for example. During the EdTech Talk with Erin Dowd, the program manager at ISTE, we discussed the criteria that make a good learning software.

The Absence of International Standards

Behind ISTE stands the “International Society for Technology in Education.” Here, educators can connect with providers of digital learning tools to discuss current industry topics. On the other hand, ISTE offers the acquisition of their Seal of Approval, which is also intended to contribute to international quality assurance. This creates a genuine win-win situation – teachers can more easily find high-quality products, and entrepreneurs can boast the ISTE Seal to better position themselves in the market.

But what exactly defines good quality here? “We strongly emphasize user-friendliness and a pedagogically valuable presentation of learning content,” says Erin. Currently, there are no universally accepted quality standards for digital learning programs.

The five dimensions of good quality

So, it’s time to introduce standards. ISTE accomplished this through an extensive, scientifically grounded development phase. Eventually, five dimensions for evaluation emerged:

  • User Interface & Agency
  • Learning Design
  • Digital Pedagogy
  • Inclusivity
  • Assessment & Data
Erin Dowd spoke about the ISTE Seal during the EdTech Talk in November 2023. Photo: Erin Dowd

These evaluation criteria consist of 36 indicators upon which learning programs are assessed. Successful evaluation against these criteria results in the awarding of the ISTE Seal.

However, Erin explains that the entire process hinges on the first dimension. One of the indicators, for instance, pertains to usability: it starts with the initial interaction, such as how easily users can log in. “This might sound like a simple thing, but the software developers need to empathize with educators and students to understand their experience during the login process.”

Another indicator is support. “I need to quickly find what I’m looking for and not have to read through lengthy documents. Again, it’s about understanding the user experience and reflecting on what kind of support is needed,” says Erin. Another standard required for earning the ISTE Seal is Accessibility: an accessible learning program requires incorporating components such as color contrasts or speed controls. “Ideally, we should see a product that everyone can use easily,” Erin emphasizes.

Through Evaluation to the Best Product Version

Upon completion of the assessment, applicants receive the results with detailed feedback and insights from experts. If the evaluation yields negative results, there is a six-month grace period for improvements. Therein lies significant added value – the chance to address any shortcomings that might have been overlooked during the product’s development. “Not immediately receiving the Seal isn’t necessarily bad. Our evaluation process is essentially its own learning system. Companies can identify areas they still need to work on,” Erin explains. This presents an opportunity not just to get the best out of the product but also to aim for the greatest success.

Once all the high-quality standards are met and rewarded with the ISTE Seal, companies can use the seal for all their media appearances. Additionally, they receive a platform on the ISTE website to showcase their outstanding learning program and opportunities to connect with educators and industry leaders within the network. However, the costs associated with submitting for the ISTE Seal, including evaluation and licensing upon successful acquisition, amount to around $8,000 USD – a significant investment. Nevertheless, we wish everyone embarking on this exciting journey all the best!

Eve hat sich nach der Kommunikationsarbeit in der Salzburger Innovationsszene als Texterin in Wien selbstständig gemacht. Der Funke ist über die Distanz aber nicht erloschen: Nach wie vor schreibt sie am liebsten über innovative Unternehmer:innen und ihre spannenden Ideen. Dafür geht ihr im EdTech Bereich sicherlich nicht so schnell der Stoff aus.

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