Commitment to Quality Matters Program Ensures Best Practices in Online Education
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (May 30, 2013) – Technology may make college courses more accessible and convenient, but a growing number of faculty members and academic units at the University of Central Missouri are taking the extra step to incorporate strict national standards for quality assurance into their online curriculum.
UCM’s College of Education recently became the first college to announce its plan to implement the nationally known Quality Matters standards in all of its online and blended courses. This is a three-year endeavor that will enable COE’s faculty to systematically design, build and evaluate Web-based courses, using data-driven research and best practices nationwide.
“Previously, this has been a voluntary process on campus, but faculty members have been encouraged to participate in Quality Matters,” said Odin Jurkowski, professor and chair of the Department of Career and Technology Education. “The College of Education wants to be at the forefront of this, and we have established an implementation plan with goals we want to accomplish through the program.”
“The College of Education cares deeply about quality instruction, both in our own classrooms and in K-12 classrooms. We aspire to model best practices in all we do,” said Mike Wright, college dean. “I applaud the faculty in the college for voluntarily striving to meet this high standard. Our focus on quality in online instruction is consistent with decades of practice in face-to-face classes on campus.”
According to Barb Carder, institutional representative for Quality Matters, faculty members who want to implement the program are required to take the Quality Matters Rubric course offered through Extended Studies to learn how to align their course with program standards. This covers areas related to learning objectives, assessment and measurement, instructional materials, learner interaction and engagement, course technology, learner support and accessibility. Extended Studies covers the cost for training.
“Once a faculty member completes this course, they are eligible to go on and become a Peer Reviewer, which means that they can review courses at any college or university in the country that is part of this program,” Carder said. She added that there is another course needed to achieve the Peer Reviewer designation.
When a course is submitted for peer review, it is scored according to how well it meets specific Quality Matters standards, Carder noted. If it aligns with those standards, the course is awarded the Quality Matters seal which can be attached to the course for five years. After that, additional review is needed to ensure the course maintains its quality assurance designation.
Jurkowski is among three individuals in COE who have attained Master Reviewer certification through advanced study required under the Quality Matters program. These individuals serve as team chairs on official course reviews. In addition to those who have achieved Master Reviewer designation, 68 COE faculty members have trained in the use of the rubric, eight are peer reviewers, and one individual has attached trainer certification. At least 17 online courses have been reviewed.
“Our college goal is also to get adjunct faculty to go through Quality Matters training, in addition to full-time faculty,” Jurkowski said.
He believes it is important for anyone who is going to teach an online course to participate in the program. It is possible, he said, that an effective teacher in the classroom may not be as effective online, unless they understand best practices in the design, development and delivery of online courses. The Quality Matters program, therefore, is essential to the university’s development successful online courses.
As Jurkowski puts it, “The end result is worth it because it directly benefits our students.”
To learn more about Quality Matters, visit the Web at qualitymatters.org.