Monday, April 14, 2008

Quality Matters

Today I am at the Quality Matters training at Green River Community College. Quality Matters is a rubric for assessing distance learning courses. It reviews the course, not the teaching or student learning.

The rubric is based on the research, designed to promote student learning and is based on the idea of continuous quality improvement. It is used at 130 institutions nationwide. Several statewide systems, like our own, have adopted Quality Matters as a way of determining course quality.

The Quality Matters rubric is generally designed for mature online courses that have been around for a while. This is because the first few times that a course is offered may not be the best. Courses should improve with time.

A team of 3 experienced and trained online instructors will apply the Quality Matters rubric to the course. If the course meets the quality expectations, it is eligible to bear the Quality Matters logo. It is logged and monitored by the Quality Matters organization.

If the course does not meet the expectations, then the course goes into a period of revision. After the period of revision, the course is reevaluated. The process is designed with the expectation that all courses will meet expectations eventually.

The feedback from the rubric review gives the instructor a detailed course plan for improvement.

About 50% for the courses meet quality expectations the first time through. The review is rigorous. It is designed to set a high bar, better than "just good enough". 85% or better.

There are many things that impact the quality of a course. Quality Matters, at this point, looks primarily at course design.

What Quality Matters is not:
  • It is not about evaluating the instructor, it is not about tenure and promotion
  • It is not about winning and losing or passing and failing. It is about continuous improvement.

It is challenging to separate design from delivery, but Quality Matters tries hard to focus on the design, not the delivery of instruction or faculty performance.

Quality Matters is part of the peer review team. There are 3 faculty peer reviewer:

  • Everyone on the team must be an experienced online instructor (insures people know what they're seeing and also prevents non teaching administrators from turning this into a faculty evaluation process)
  • Must attend quality matters training (this is what I'm doing now)
  • One of the people on the team must be external to the institution (adds objectivity, better able to reflect the interest of the student)
  • One must be a subject matter expert (the subject matter expert could also be the external reviewer)

A 4th member of the review team is the course designer/instructor.


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