Quality Matters Certifies First Online U of A Course, While Others Are Pending Review

Quality Matters Certifies First Online U of A Course, While Others Are Pending Review
Courtesy of Quality Matters

The first of three online courses submitted by the University of Arkansas to Quality Matters, a national leader in quality assurance, has been certified as meeting all quality standards. Other U of A courses are in line for review.

Hilda Benton, an instructor for the World Languages, Literature and Cultures Department in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, can now post a Quality Matters certification badge on her Intermediate Spanish I course in Blackboard Learn, letting students know her course met the quality standards.

"The QM certification of this course marks a milestone in a strategic, ongoing process designed to validate the quality of U of A online courses, which further enhances the reputation of the University of Arkansas," said Donald Judges, interim vice provost for distance education.

Quality Matters is a faculty-centered, peer-review process designed to certify the quality of online and blended courses. It has received national recognition for its scalable, peer-based approach and continuous improvement in online education and student learning.

"I have always been interested in improving the quality of my courses," said Benton, who began teaching for Fulbright College in 2009. "I thought (QM) would change my course in a lot of ways, and it did. I think that I can offer a better organized and more engaging course."

Benton said her department chair, Steve Bell, encouraged her throughout the process. She also received an Instructional Enhancement Grant from the provost's office to travel from her home in Maine to the Fayetteville campus to offer a presentation about her Quality Matters review experience.

Fulbright College has two more courses currently under Quality Matters review: Finite Math and Film Lecture (communication). The Global Campus is working with faculty to send the next group of online courses to QM for review.

"Fulbright College takes great pride in providing high-quality courses to all of its students, including those who study online," said Todd Shields, Dean of Fulbright College. "We are pleased that the first online course sent to Quality Matters for review has met all standards and set a precedence for the next courses being reviewed."

Quality Matters review process

The U of A adopted Quality Matters standards in 2012, and all online courses developed through the Global Campus since then adhere to them. The Quality Matters rubric measures 43 standards: 21 essential, 14 very important and 8 important standards. The rubric measures course components like learning objectives, assessment, measurement, learner interaction, accessibility and usability. Quality Matters updates the rubric every two to three years, based on extensive literature review and surveys.

So far, 81 U of A faculty and instructors have learned how to employ the Quality Matters rubric by attending workshops taught by Quality Matters experts and hosted by the Global Campus. Twelve of those faculty and instructors have taken an additional online class to become certified Quality Matters peer reviewers, qualifying them to review online and blended courses at institutions nationwide.

Hilda Benton participated in the Quality Matters workshop and is now a certified QM peer reviewer. She worked with Ken Muessig, a Global Campus instructional designer, during the QM review and revision process.

"I would not have earned this certification without Ken Muessig and Erik Watkins from the U of A Blackboard Help Desk," Benton said. "It's teamwork."

During the course review process, a three-person QM team assesses each course, and then sends suggested changes back to the faculty member. The faculty member revises the course and sends it back to Quality Matters for a final review.

"Reviewers explained exactly what needed to be corrected," Benton said. "My course received 99 points, which is the maximum."

Participate in online quality assurance

To qualify for QM review, a U of A course must have been developed in collaboration with the Global Campus after spring 2012 and must have been taught for at least three terms. The Global Campus pays the QM review cost for courses.

Information about Quality Matters, workshops in Fayetteville, and instructions about how to become a QM peer reviewer are available on the Global Campus website.

Faculty and instructors interested in submitting their courses for QM review should contact Lindsay Turner at lindsayt@uark.edu.


Kay Murphy, director of communications
Global Campus
479-575-6489, ksmurphy@uark.edu


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