One of the tools I use when developing an online course is the Quality Matters (QM) rubric. QM is a nationally recognized, faculty-centered, peer review process designed to certify the quality of online course design and online components. A QM rubric can be used by an individual evaluating their own course, or can be used by an institution for an internal or external course review. Four different QM rubrics are available: Higher Education, K-12 Education, Educational Publishing, and Continuing and Professional Education. Courses offered through Extension are primarily Continuing and Professional Education; this rubric can be viewed and printed from http://www.elo.iastate.edu/files/2016/03/qm-rubric.pdf.
The Quality Matters Rubric consists of 43 standards assigned different point values depending on their relative importance. Twenty-two of the standards are considered ESSENTIAL and given a point value of 3. Each standard is evaluated and scored as MET and receives the points for that standard, or NOT MET and receives zero points for that standard. To meet Quality Matters review expectations the course must meet all 3-point essential standards and earn an overall score of 85 out of 100. QM peer reviewers give detailed feedback on each standard to help the instructor or facilitator improve the course.
Even if you never have an online course that goes through a formal Quality Matters review, this rubric is good to use as a checklist of best practices when designing an online course. It can even help improve face-to-face teaching, for example in General Standard 2 you check to see that the course learning objectives are measurable, related to course activities, and suited to the purpose and level of the course – this is a good habit to get into for all of our teaching. I don’t know about you, but I’m usually running in ten different directions, so if I don’t slow down and focus on this for each training opportunity I offer, I may look back at the end and see things that could have been better aligned. It’s much better to design with these standards in mind.
I presented a webinar on this topic on June 10, 2016. Check it out at https://nextgenerationextension.org/2016/05/13/best-practices-when-blazing-the-trail-for-online-learners/. And feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
QM is one tool that I am using in the development my i-Three Issue Corps project, an online course in Urban Food Production for backyard and community gardeners in Eastern Nebraska. The course will cover the basics of growing and raising food in an urban setting, including everything from site evaluation and considerations of zoning regulations to harvest and handling of fresh produce and will provide easy-to-understand, research-based recommendations tailored to Nebraska growing conditions through interactive lessons, short video demonstrations, and links to available web resources. The course is expected to launch in the spring of 2017 at http://campus.extension.org/.
Stack of stones photo source: https://pixabay.com/en/feng-shui-stones-texture-material-1536892/