Two online courses recognized nationally for quality

February 20, 2015 | Features, UToday
By Samantha Watson

With an ever-growing list of online course offerings, The University of Toledo is striving to make each a high-quality learning experience for every student.

QMRecognized_2014aTwo online courses are the first at UT to be recognized by Quality Matters, a peer review process designed to certify the excellence of online and blended courses. One of these courses is Grief and Bereavement Issues in Older Adulthood, developed by Dr. Barbara Kopp Miller, associate provost for online education, and designed by Christopher Prevette, instructional designer.

The other course is the Learning Ventures Online Teaching Certificate, developed by Phoebe Ballard, senior instructional designer and coordinator of special projects, and Dr. Mingli Xiao, senior instructional designer. Xiao and Ballard also were winners of a Blackboard Catalyst Award for Exemplary Course last summer for this class.

“We work so closely with faculty in helping them to build their online courses,” Ballard said. “By participating in the Quality Matters certification process as faculty, we are able to communicate the value of that process more effectively.”

In the last decade, the numbers of online classes at UT have more than doubled. Just this semester, there are more than 12,700 enrollments in 531 different online courses. It’s no doubt there is quantity, but Quality Matters allows UT to focus on the value of these courses.

“Our goal in adopting Quality Matters was to make sure that we’re hitting key benchmarks in the development of quality online learning experiences for students,” Ballard said. “Ultimately, it comes down to the student.”

There are more than 800 institutions affiliated with the Quality Matters program, and Ohio has the largest statewide consortium with 65 member institutions. UT became a part of the Ohio Learning Network’s Ohio Quality Matters Consortium in 2011.

The review process through Quality Matters begins with a look at Course Overview and Introduction, Learning Objectives, Assessment and Measurement, Instructional Materials, Course Activities and Learner Interaction, Course Technology, Learner Support, and Accessibility and Usability. Within these eight standards are 43 specific standards that further break down what an online course needs to be effective.

“The rubric was developed using literature on online learning,” said Peter You, director of instructional design and development. “It’s supported by that literature and research.”

Each standard is worth a certain number of points based on how thoroughly the course meets those requirements. The total amount of points possible is 99, which is the score both UT courses received.

“Even though I received 99 out of 99 points, the review that I got back was phenomenal,” Kopp Miller said. “We still went back and made a lot of changes and enhancements.”

Kopp Miller said she’s hoping to have five to seven courses peer-reviewed this semester. Faculty who wish to have their courses reviewed can either use the Quality Matters self-review system or submit their courses for official review.

“From an instructor and designer point of view, it’s a good starting point to use Quality Matters,” Xiao said. “Using the Quality Matters standards helps create a successful student learning experience.”

Priority is given to courses that are recognized as general education classes, large enrollment courses, master classes, required courses of fully online programs and to faculty who have completed Quality Matters training.

Those who wish to be trained as a Quality Matters peer reviewer or have their online courses reviewed can do so by contacting their instructional designer. UT currently has 14 certified peer reviewers.

If you are unsure who your instructional designer is, click here.

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