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Defining and Implementing Quality Assurance Standards for Online

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Defining and Implementing
Quality Assurance Standards for
Online Courses
Lawrence C. Ragan, Director, Instructional Design/Development,
The Pennsylvania State University
Christina M. Sax, Professor & Assistant Dean, Social, Behavioral,
Natural, & Mathematical Sciences, University of Maryland
University College
Presentation Agenda
Session Objectives
Participant Activity
QM Overview: Circle and Rubric
Penn State Approach/Status
Story of Convergence
QM Attractive Features
PSU Adoption/Adaptation
QM Opportunities
a. Models
b. Institution/Institute
Session Objective
• Provide an overview of the development,
implementation and administration of an interinstitutional quality assurance system and the
application within a single institution.
Participant Activity
• 2-minute drill
– Turn to person next to you and discuss:
– What characteristics would you use to assess the
quality of the vehicle you may be purchasing?
• Feedback from Teams
• Issues of Definition--single vs group
Quality Matters
Quality does matter to …
accrediting agencies
How do we …
• identify & recognize it?
• motivate & instill it?
• assess & measure it?
• insure it?
• assure it?
Quality Matters:
Inter-Institutional Quality
Assurance in Online Learning
• Grantor: FIPSE
– Grant period: 9/03 – 8/06
– Award: $509,177
• Grantee: MarylandOnline
– Statewide consortium: 14 community colleges, 5
senior institutions
FIPSE Interested Because …
• Quality assurance of online courses is
• Voluntary inter-institutional assurance has
never been done before
• This can serve as a national model
Quality Matters!
Incoming process
• CAO’s
• AR’s
Faculty Course
Faculty Reviewers
Peer Course
Course Meets
Quality Expectations
National Standards &
Research Literature
For Our Purposes, Quality Is…
• More than average; more
than “good enough”
• An attempt to capture
what’s expected in an
effective online course at
about an 85% level
• Based on research and
widely accepted standards
85 %
Major Themes
• develop inter-institutional consensus - criteria &
process online course QA
• assure & improve course quality
• positively impact student learning
• faculty-centered activities
• promote voluntary participation and adoption
• ensure institutional autonomy
• replicable, reliable, and scalable processes
• foster sharing of materials and expertise
• create opportunities for training and professional
What Quality Matters is NOT
• Not about an individual instructor
(it’s about the course design)
• Not about faculty evaluation
(it’s about course quality)
• Not a win/lose, pass/fail test
(it’s about a continuous improvement process in a
supportive environment)
Quality Matters Rubric
• Based on
– research literature
– nationally recognized standards of best practice
– instructional design principles
• Used by review teams to:
– assess course quality in 8 key areas (40 review elements)
– provide feedback to faculty course developer
– provide guidance to instructional design support team
Rubric Scoring
Relative Value
Very Important
Team of three reviewers
One score per standard based on majority
Two criteria to meet quality expectations:
• “Yes” to all 14 Essential Standards
• Receive at least a total of 68 points
Review Teams
• Teams composed of 3 reviewers:
1 from home institution, 2 from others
1 from same discipline, 2 from others
May be either faculty and or ID/IT (practitioners)
mix of CC & 4 yr schools
mix of large & small schools
mix of public & private schools
• Course author--resource for review team
Reviewer Rubric Training
• Focus on:
Application of rubric to course review
Interpretation of review elements
Providing constructive feedback
Course Reviews
• To date, 50% meet expectations on initial review
– Instructional design support provided
• Identified 11 common areas for improvement
– Target for course development/revision, faculty training
instructor's self-introduction
netiquette expectations
learning objectives stated at the module/unit level
self-check/practice activities with feedback
links to school's academic support
ADA issues
What’s In It For Institutions …
External validation process
Strengthens institution’s accreditation package
Raise QA as a priority activity
Gain access to a sustainable, replicable,
scalable QA process
• Inform online course training & practices
• Provide professional development activities
What’s In It For Participants …
improve your online course
instructional design support
external quality assurance
expand professional community
chance to review other courses
gain new ideas for your own course
participation useful for annual evaluations,
promotion applications, professional
development plan/requirements
National Participation
• Scope:
– individuals from 70 different institutions (including the 19
MOL schools) in 14 different states
– Over 250 faculty trained to review online courses using the
– National external partners & advisory board
• Use of QM System:
– online course development, review, and revision, faculty
training, formation of distance learning policies & steering
committees, institutional reaccredidation packages
Awards - 2005
• WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) Award
• USDLA 21st Century Best Practice Award
• Maryland Distance Learning Association
(MDLA) Best Program Award
PSU Approach to Quality Standards
• History: WC started in 1998 with 4 courses
grew to 150 by 2002
• Course design and development initiatives
from units external to WC
• “Some” variability of design and development
• Compromise of “PSU Quality”
• If delivered via WC then held responsible for
ensuring quality
Definition of “Quality”
The user (learner) of a system (educational)
has a reasonable opportunity for success.
PSU Online Quality Standards
• Charge by Provost to eLearning Council to
identify standards of quality for online learning
• Built upon technical standards and pedagogical
guidelines developed by WC
• Forwarded to Provost and accepted as
University policy by the University Web Task
• Distributed to Deans as policy (probably
stopped there)
• Do exist as record somewhere and accessible if
you can find them
• No enforcement “teeth”-- no implementation
system established
• No mechanism for reviewing and updating
• Some may claim “academic freedom” and
standards need not apply
PSU Interest in QM Standards
• PSU eLearning Council examining the
potential of QM model at PSU
• Subcommittee organized to look at various
adaptation options
• Primary points of interest:
Externally validated
Well defined rubric
Established “system”
Research-based criteria
Potential Options
PSU can fully accept and adopt the QM system for quality
• Courses would be submitted to QM for evaluation and ultimately
the QM seal of approval.
2. PSU can adopt the QM system to the PSU environment including
approval of reviewers and QM process.
• PSU would negotiate with the QM board on the adaptation
process in order to maintain the QM seal of approval.
3. PSU can adopt the QM system to the PSU environment including
approval of reviewers and QM process.
• PSU would not seek the QM seal of approval.
4. Penn State would maintain the current model of Technical
Standards and Pedagogical Guidelines.
QM: Looking Ahead
• Adapt rubric & process for other formats
– Hybrid/blended, face-to-face, continuing
education, commercial, professional training
• Adapt rubric & process for specific
institutional needs
• Explore the “QM Institution” concept
• Assess the impact on student learning through
research projects
QM: Looking Ahead
• Diversify Training Program
– Additional review training & train-the-trainer
• Annual rubric update cycle
• Sustainability plan
• Develop partnerships & business opportunities
For more information:
Kay Kane
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