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Quality Matters at the University of Minnesota - Update for Fall 2012

Last spring, three University faculty faculty completed training to be certified facilitators of the introductory Quality Matters course, Applying the Quality Matters Rubric (APPQMR). For the first time, the University of Minnesota sponsored QM trainings that were facilitated by U of M faculty and participants were all from U of M campuses.

A cohort approach
University-facilitated training allowed cohorts of U of M faculty and staff to participate in trainings as a group, building a collegial and shared experience with Quality Matters. Participants have met colleagues from other areas of the University who are working on similar projects; as they move forward in their own course design or redesign, they can reach out to others that they met during the QM training.

A cohort model also helps establish the use of Quality Matters and instructional design best practices within departments and colleges. If one faculty member from a college participates in Quality Matters, it may be difficult to expand the use of QM beyond the courses directly influenced by the one faculty member. If, however, several faculty members participate, their collective efforts can establish a culture or practice of quality design and assurance.

Feedback from Participants

I was very impressed with my course facilitator, the organization of the materials, and the course design. As the design of distance delivery environments evolve, access to this wonderful resource is invaluable. The research embedded in the rubrics helps to facilitate a cycle of continuous improvement in our courses. - Staff Participant

Although, I have taught online for well over a decade, I have never really taken an online course. So, it did help me view a course from a student's perspective and it was clear to me that I need to be more explicit about the instructions in my online courses. It also showed me the importance of instructor feedback and that student's do value and anticipate timely feedback from faculty. It also drilled home the necessity of alignment in online courses. - Faculty Participant

Participate!

Learn more about QM@UM and sign up to participate in an upcoming Quality Matters training.

What's new with Quality Matters

Quality Matters at the University of Minnesota continues to grow. Last year nearly 100 faculty and staff participated in Quality Matters-related training. Faculty and instructional designers find Quality Matters a useful tool in reviewing online courses and in creating new online courses. The rubric serves as a helpful guide in taking a step back from your course and looking at it from a student's perspective.

To learn more about Quality Matters, visit the QM@UM site. From there, you can request training and learn more about available trainings.

Engagement and Wonder

The Chronicle interviewed Michael Wesch of Kansas State University, the famous (at least in my world) and inventive professor who creates engaging, learner-oriented lessons with YouTube, Twitter, Google Docs, and many other types of technology. (See his World Simulation project for just one example.)

The key theme of the article is that it is not technology that makes these lessons amazing; it is the fact that the technology helps create an environment of wonder, exploration, and connectedness. We know this already, from the literature and best practices - students who are engaged with other students and their professor are more likely to be successful (see Quality Matters among many others), students learn better when they can scaffold (Bloom's taxonomy, e.g.) and apply what they learned previously to new situations, etc. But it is an easy point to lose track of in the exciting world of tablets, simulations, and mobile learning.

Good teaching is good teaching. Technology can facilitate good teaching. Technology for technology's sake is not useful and can distract from learning.

Finally, follow Michael Wesch for inspiring uses of technology to create engaged learners.

Questions and Prompts to Facilitate Online Discussions

Online discussions can be difficult to facilitate, especially high-quality, engaging online discussions. Too often, students post the minimum required posts, not engaging with their peers in thoughtful discussion.

The resource, Questions and Prompts to Facilitate Online Discussions, may be a useful tool for instructors in search of discussion prompts that can help lead to deeper discussions.

This resource aims to assist instructors in fostering student engagement in online discussions, one of the elements of the Quality Matters rubric.

Online instructor shares best practices for teaching online

books-on-comp.jpegTeaching a hybrid or online course requires different teaching strategies, in part because instructional methods can feel limited to the technology tools available. Using the tools commonly available in a course management system, like discussion, glossary and wikis to engage students and achieve positive learning results can feel like a major challenge. Choosing the appropriate activities and relevant tools to meet specific learning objectives is especially important in learning environments where face-to-face contact is limited or non-existent.

To provide an example of an instructor's success in creating meaningful learning activities using the tools in Moodle, Digital Campus spoke to Tani Bialek, an online instructor of 6 years. Bialek teaches both online and hybrid courses and has experienced firsthand the benefits of using technology to increase engagement and participation. She shares some of her best practices as well as useful advice to instructors considering teaching online.

Invaluable insights gained from being a peer reviewer

elearning.jpgOnline teaching comes with its own set of challenges for faculty. Even instructors with years of experience teaching online sometimes struggle in specific areas of online instruction, like facilitating high quality online discussions, developing assignments, or assessing how well students met the course learning objectives. The University of Minnesota offers Quality Matters training in part to assist faculty in meeting these challenges.

Digital Campus spoke with Tani Bialek, an online instructor of 6 years, about the overall benefits she experienced from participating in the Quality Matters (QM) training and being a peer reviewer.

Benefits of Quality Matters

Quality Matters (QM) is a nationally recognized, faculty-centered, peer review process designed to certify the quality of online and blended courses. QM is a leader in quality assurance for online education, whose standards are supported by best practices and relevant research. The QM rubric is kept up to date with literature review conducted for each new rubric edition. Since QM was founded, it has trained over 8,000 faculty and instructional design staff from colleges and universities across the country.

The University of Minnesota is a member of Quality Matters. There are many benefits to faculty, units and to the University in participating in QM.


Benefits to faculty:


  • Ongoing faculty professional development and national certification for faculty teaching online

  • Opportunity to be trained as a QM Peer Reviewer

  • Development of critical assessment skills for examining online courses and materials

  • A road map to follow during the process of course development.

  • Exposure to instructional design and new ideas for improving online courses

  • Support to redesign existing online course to ensure the development and delivery of quality courses

Benefits to University:


  • Improved student learning outcomes and retention in online courses

  • National recognition for University courses that meet Quality Matters standards

  • Supports the University's commitment to excellence in teaching

To learn more about what Quality Matters is, how it is applied as well as hear the experiences of other instructors who have used QM in their online courses, watch our video on Why Quality Matters.

Read what other online instructors have to say about the benefits of Quality Matters:

"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... 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." - Michelle Everson, Department of Educational Psychology. Read full article.

"The Quality Matters training provided me with information regarding how to design a solid, high-quality course in an academic setting. I also feel more confident in my ability to make good decisions regarding what technology(s) to incorporate into a course. As using technology in the higher education has become a permanent "trend", high-quality courses and instruction will keep our students coming back versus trying to win them back after a negative experience." - Tani Bialek, online instructor. Read full article.

Why Quality Matters

How do you ensure that your online course is as good as it should be? Greta Cummingham from the Vice Provost Office for Distributed Ed. And Instr. Tech explains the why, how, what and what it is not of Quality Matters. Also hear what other instructors have to say about their experiences using QM in their online courses.

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Experience as an external peer reviewer

EversonM-2007.jpgQuality 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.

Quality Matters at the University of Minnesota - An Update

The University of Minnesota piloted Quality Matters in the fall of 2009. Since then, nearly 100 faculty and staff from four campuses have participated in Quality Matters trainings, and several have served as peer reviewers of online courses at other institutions.

The Quality Matters rubric is based on best practices and research on instructional design and student experiences in online courses. Aspects of the rubric will be familiar to people who have some experience with instructional design practice and theory. Even people who are familiar with instructional design have found the QM rubric helpful. As a rubric, it provides an easy-to-use tool to review aspects of an online course that directly effect student engagement and learner outcomes.

The rubric is also flexible: faculty who want to address specific aspects of the student experience in their online course can focus on the standards in the rubric that relate to those areas.

An updated Quality Matters rubric will be released in June 2011. In the meantime, if you would like to participate in a training or learn more about Quality Matters, contact Amanda Rondeau at amanda@umn.edu or 612-624-5732.

Quality Matters at the University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities recently partnered to purchase a license to Quality Matters, a program that offers training for faculty to assess the quality of an online course. Quality Matters was developed from a FIPSE grant at the University of Maryland. The University of Maryland was trying to solve the problem of ensuring the quality of online courses to encourage cross-institutional sharing of courses.

The Quality Matters assessment rubric is based on recent research and best practices in instructional design. It is updated as new research becomes available. The rubric addresses course design, student learning, and assessment and feedback processes. The Quality Matters program is both a tool set and a process. Key elements of the Quality Matters program are:
a) Faculty-driven
b) Collaborative
c) Collegial
d) Continuous improvement
e) Developed from research
f) Centered on student learning

The Quality Matters rubric does not address faculty evaluation, course content, or an assessment of the course management system.

The University of Minnesota has been using Quality Matters since fall 2009. Faculty and departments are using Quality Matters to informally guide course revisions. For more information on the Quality Matters Rubric, download this pdf of the abbreviated standards.

Additional training for faculty, instructors, and instructional designers will be offered in summer 2010 and during the 2010-2011 academic year. Participation is open to all campuses at the University. Please contact Amanda Rondeau if you are interested in participating in Quality Matters or have additional questions (amanda@umn.edu or 612-624-5732).

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