UToledo a National Leader in Online Quality Matters Certified Courses

August 4, 2020 | News, UToday, Engineering, Nursing, University College
By Tyrel Linkhorn

The University of Toledo continues to be a leader among U.S. institutions of higher education for the number of online and hybrid courses that have been awarded Quality Matters certification through the rigorous QM peer review process.

UToledo currently has 108 courses certified by the nonprofit organization, the seventh most out of 344 U.S. institutions with QM-certified courses. Eleven UToledo courses have been certified so far in 2020, with additional certifications pending.

“The University of Toledo has placed a significant emphasis on developing online and blended course offerings that meet the highest educational standards,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Our faculty and instructional designers deserve a lot of credit for the work they’ve done to ensure our students receive a top-tier education.”

Quality Matters is the gold standard for benchmarking quality of online and hybrid courses. The organization’s nationally recognized, faculty-driven peer-review process examines a course’s overall design, learning objectives, instructional materials, and student interaction and support.

Dr. Colleen Quinlan, associate professor in the College of Nursing and one of UToledo’s QM-certified peer reviewers, said the certification is an important way to show a course’s added value.

“It’s not enough to say, ‘this is a quality course,’” Quinlan said. “What is the evidence to support this claim? QM certification is the distinction that sets the course apart in a marketplace where students have lots of choices.”

Another benefit of QM certification is that it helps to foster a predictable structure across courses, reducing anxiety about how to participate and interact with the online materials.

“Certified courses should look familiar to students no matter what the subject matter, providing them a sense of security so they can concentrate on learning and achievement,” Quinlan said.

Dr. Barbara Kopp Miller, dean of University College, said getting more faculty familiar with the Quality Matters standards and more courses QM certified has been a consistent priority for UToledo — and has become even more important recently.

“We’ve really ramped up our training for faculty since the pandemic hit. When we were forced to move all instruction online this spring, we were doing the best we could to meet our student’s expectations, but not every course is created with online components in mind,” Kopp Miller said. “These QM-certified courses are specifically designed to follow nationally recognized standards that provide a quality experience for our students.”

Dr. Carmen Cioc, associate professor in the College of Engineering who teaches a pair of QM-certified courses, said she has found the program to improve not only the experience for students, but for instructors as well.

“The benefits for students include the accessibility of online learning while maintaining the same student-centered focus on content they’ve come to expect from in-person education,” Cioc said. “Experience with QM-certified courses has been extremely positive for both me and my students, especially during the required online-learning transition as a result of the ongoing crisis.”

The value of high-quality online learning is becoming increasingly important as new modalities of education are explored amid the pandemic. UToledo also was recently included among the top colleges in the state by Educate to Career in its list of the Best Colleges for Career Planning Curriculum, which used robust software and systems to support distance learning and faculty experience with teaching online among its criteria.

In addition to the 108 courses that have been formally QM certified, UToledo has had 85 additional courses informally meet QM standards through internal review that have not been officially evaluated for certification.

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