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How Faculty Drive Quality Assurance at the University of Southern Indiana

Here at the University of Southern Indiana, it’s our faculty that drives the quality assurance process. We recognize that our faculty spend a significant amount of time designing and developing their courses — that effort deserves recognition. So how do we do that? Through QM-Managed Official Course Reviews, which provide faculty with the internationally-recognized symbol of course quality for display in their classes and tenure folders. 

The First Step 

In 2015, the University piloted the Online Course Development Program (OCDP). The-stipend based initiative was established to encourage and to accelerate the development of quality online courses and programs that align with the University’s strategic priorities. The OCDP is facilitated by the University’s team of instructional designers and delivered in an online format that places faculty in the student role as an online learner. Throughout the program, faculty are guided through the process of developing an online course that: 

  1. Adheres to the research-supported best practices found in the Quality Matters (QM) Rubric 
  2. Provides an outstanding online educational experience for our students 

The Big Step 

Since its inception, the capstone of this program was a peer review. Initially, there was an internal review process to benchmark courses that went through the OCDP.  After several years of following this process and seeing significant improvement in our online offerings, we recognized that it was time to wade further into the quality assurance process. In the summer of 2018, we dove into QM-Managed Official Course Review, providing faculty who complete the OCDP with the opportunity to have their courses officially reviewed and, if Standards are met, to receive the QM Certification Mark.  

All the Steps In Between 

So how do we get from there to here — from an undesigned course to one that is QM-Certified? As I mentioned, the Online Course Development Program plays a huge role. Here’s how: 

  1. Faculty are introduced to each Standard through nine modules.  
  2. Each module provides faculty with practical suggestions and advice on how to implement the featured Standard into their course design. 
  3. In module three, our internal course template is introduced to faculty. If faculty choose this template, and follow our guidelines, they are almost guaranteed 33 of the 100 available points during a QM review. 
  4. The template and all nine modules are continuously updated to reflect current best practices. 
  5. Once all of the OCDP modules are completed, the instructional designer and faculty member complete a QM Self Review using the Course Review Management System. 
  6. Feedback from the review is incorporated into the course. 
  7. The course is submitted for official review. 

The Next Step 

Once a course meets Standards in an official review, it’s time to spread the news. First, we add the QM Certification Mark to the online course. Then, we send an email to the faculty member and their Chair when the course is publicly listed on QM’s website. Finally, we print off the QM certificate and frame it for the faculty member. The framed certificate is delivered by a student worker. It is nice to see the faculty display the certificates next to their diplomas in their offices.  

A Step Ahead 

Going through the entire process, including the OCDP and official QM reviews, puts us a step ahead and provides many benefits to our faculty and students.   

  • Faculty have a stronger understanding of alignment. In fact, we’ve heard faculty say that making a course map assists them in other courses, even face-to-face courses!  
  • Faculty start the semester with a fully developed course, allowing them to focus on teaching without the stress of designing and developing a course while it is being taught.  
  • Faculty who achieve QM Certification take pride in their accomplishment. It’s very rewarding for them to know that they developed a course that received national recognition!  
  • Students get a really well-designed course that multiple sets of eyes checked— making sure there is alignment between objectives, assessments, and instructional materials, which helps set students up for success.  
  • Students get a course whose kinks were worked out. Since we put our courses through the QM review process BEFORE the courses begin, we have the chance to update minor things that may have been missed, such as linking documents.  
  • Students get a course that was looked at from the student perspective! Getting feedback on navigation and tutorials, for example, is incredibly useful and allows us to tweak the course especially for our first time-online learning students. 

In Closing 

The feedback and recommendations from the reviewers genuinely benefit our online classes. The official reviews also save our staff time too since we no longer manage the coordination of external reviewers and the course review process. And these are just some of the positives, and we are so happy with the hard work of our faculty that these courses truly deliver a wonderful online learning experience for our students here at USI.  

Article by Larissa Cremeens, Senior Instructional Designer, University of Southern Indiana 

Larissa is a Senior Instructional Designer at the University of Southern Indiana (USI) in Online Learning. She assists faculty in addressing complex teaching and learning issues related to teaching methods, assessment, and the use of instructional technology in their online courses. Prior to coming to USI, she worked in secondary education.  Larissa holds a Bachelor's Degree in Family and Consumer Science Education and a Master of Science in Education Degree in Learning Design and Technology, both from Purdue University.