Quality Matters is is a nationally recognized, faculty-centered, peer review process designed to improve and certify the quality of online course design. Faculty at colleges and universities across the country use the QM rubric in developing, maintaining and reviewing their online courses.
Faculty and instructors can participate in QM training and become certified to serve on a review team for online courses offered from other institutions. To learn more about QM at the University, please read here.
Below, Michelle Everson writes about serving on a review team and the improvements she made to her online course design after the review process:
I completed the necessary training to become a QM peer reviewer last fall, and since that time, I've been asked to take part in one review. I'm hoping more reviews will come my way because I really enjoyed the process and learned a lot! The review I did took place right before spring break, in March of 2011. I was asked to review a course called "Healthcare Statistics and Research" that is offered at Tacoma Community College in Washington.
I thought the review process itself went rather smoothly--much more smoothly than I had anticipated! Four of us (the two peer reviewers, the lead reviewer, and the course instructor) had a conference call to talk about the process and to learn more about the course. This was a short call--perhaps 30 to 45 minutes--and we agreed that we would try to complete the review within three weeks of that phone call. The course instructor did not provide us with more information prior to the phone call other than access to her course site nor did she complete the "instructor worksheet" that is in the back of the QM Rubric Handbook. However, she did answer the questions we had going into the review, and the instructor worksheet served as a good guide to me about the kinds of information that would be helpful to know during the review process. In order to avoid the instructor getting bombarded with questions and comments from each of us, the leader reviewer encouraged us to direct our questions about the course to him, and he would then pass them along to the instructor. I had no questions along the way as I completed my review.
I would say that my own review took at least 10 hours. It was more time consuming than I thought it would be, but it was fairly straightforward, and I felt well prepared for it after the QM training. I assumed that maybe we would have another conference call after all the reviews were submitted to talk about any discrepancies, but that never happened. The lead reviewer simply compiled the final review and submitted that, and then sent me an e-mail thanking me for my participation in the process. The course was very well-designed and I assume that we all gave positive reviews (thus there was no need for a follow-up conversation).
Ideas to improve course
I think for me personally, what I enjoyed most about the process (and about the QM training in general) is that it has given me so many good ideas for how to improve my own courses. I have put a great deal of thought into the online courses I teach, and I was happy when I started QM training to see that a lot of what I already do is reflected in the rubric and the QM standards. However, I've gotten new ideas along the way, and I can't help but feel that I will continue to get new ideas as I review other courses and see what other people are doing. One example is that before QM training, I never had a "start here" link on my course sites to clearly direct students so that they will have a better understanding of how to get started and where to go first. I didn't think I needed that simply because my syllabus is very detailed and I send out a detailed letter to students before the course officially begins with instructions about how to get started. Initially I thought that would suffice but I now see how valuable a "start here" section on the course site can be, even if it ends up being somewhat redundant with other things I already have in place to help students get started with the course. I also found, when reviewing the Healthcare Statistics and Research course, that I was getting good ideas about how to word different things and how to present information about different assignments to students (and even how I might grade things like participation in discussions). I also noticed great links to information about netiquette that I had not previously been aware of. In my own course, I tell students that I expect them to be respectful of one another when engaging in discussion but I feel that I could do more in terms of laying down ground rules for discussion. Hence, this link will be useful in future courses when I am presenting guidelines for group discussion.
I now feel strongly that anyone who is considering designing an online or a hybrid course should know about the QM standards and the QM rubric because I think these resources can provide many good examples of how to structure a quality online (or hybrid) course. In my mind, the QM standards are almost like a road map to follow during the process of course development.
About the author
Michelle Everson is a lecturer in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota. She teaches introductory and intermediate statistics courses at the University of Minnesota and played a large role in developing online versions of the introductory and intermediate statistic courses, which she currently teaches. Recently, she has begun to explore how to best structure the online statistic course, particularly the ways in which active learning can be fostered in the online environment. Michelle is also a monthly columnist at eLearn Magazine and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org