As educational institutes move towards digital learning, they are now focusing more and more on producing quality content for learners and educators. Producing quality content is one of the most valuable investments for educational institutes in today’s era. As more and more educational institutions are moving towards online learning, the need for creating high-quality content is increasing. There are multiple factors that contribute to quality education such as academic loafing, unawareness, non-participation, and dissatisfaction (Verma & et. al, 2021). However, this blog focuses on tools and standards from various institutions that are helping in creating high-quality online content and enhanced education: the rubrics from Quality Matters (QM), the Scorecard from Online Learning Consortium (OLC), and other regulations from accreditation.
It's important to note that while various education organizations and accreditation institutes may share certain values and operate in similar spaces, they should be viewed separately and uniquely.
A rubric helps students to understand what is expected from a certain assignment; it enlists the requirements and explains each level of quality from novice to expert (Reddy & Andrade, 2010). Moreover, rubrics help both students and educators with peer and self-review to enhance their learning (Sanger & Gleason, 2020). The main purpose of rubrics is to bring transparency in formative and summative assessments. Reddy and Andrade (2010) defined three essential factors that can help educators and other professionals create good quality rubrics. First, define a scoring strategy with minimum and maximum marks the learner will achieve in each evaluative criterion. Second, clearly list evaluation criteria, which includes clearly defining what the learners will be marked on, what factors will be judged, i.e., quality, preciseness, accuracy, etc. This will clearly explain what will be considered for the quality of the work. Third, the definition of grades should explain to students the path to show proficiency or skills to achieve a specific level of achievement.
Quality Matters and Rubric Standards
Quality Matters (QM) is a non-profit quality assurance organization that facilitates education providers and institutes. Its goal is to help educators to create quality instructions (courses or programs in online or hybrid settings) that are constantly reviewed to maintain high-quality education for students. Since Fall 2002 when some educators from the community of Maryland distance learning worked on regional accreditation teams visits, QM has grown in been recognized by 1500 colleges and universities to be a framework to ensure high quality, resolving issues associated with quality learning in academics (Quality Matters, 2021).
QM provides Rubric Standards to ensure that the final results comply with the quality standards. There are 8 eight focus areas of rubric standards – Course Overview, Learning Objectives, Assessment and Measurement, Instructional Materials, Learning Activities and Learner Interaction, Course Technology, Learner Support, Accessibility and Usability – and 43 specific standards in the Rubric Standards of QM. To be a qualified quality course design, a course needs to obtain a score of 85% from 3 QM peer reviewers (Quality Matters, 2021). This requires educators to evaluate the effectiveness of their online material (Naim, 2021). Since 2021, QM has been used by more than 60,000 education professionals on online course design standards (Quality Matters, 2021).
Meeting QM standards is a rigorous process that most educators need assistance with to apply all standards in their courses. QM offers training from designing courses for faculty members to professional development for educators, administrators, instructional designers to acquire expertise: The Pathway to learn QM is to start with the certificate Applying the Quality Matters Rubric (APPQMR).
QM provides educators with a practical checklist and course design guide that contains actionable strategies and important things to consider to offer a comprehensive education for students for Higher Ed, K-12 and K-12 Companion for IEP & 504 Plans. Digital Learning can be challenging, but a practical checklist can help to design teaching and learning in online or hybrid settings. To get started, educators can attend a conference of QM, signup for their Newsletter, choose a course that fits best your need, start with an individual membership with QM, or attend a webinar on QM from our Kritik’s co-founder, Caring Marette, who took her First QM Certificate in 2021. Furthermore, a playbook for Faculty guides thinking and designing strategic opportunities that embed technologies with learning outcomes to amplify the effectiveness of student learning experiences, especially for minoritized students” (Gunder, Vignare, Adams, McGuire, & Rafferty, 2021). If your strategy is based on performance assessment, CBL, Kritik is a great solution. Kritik also offers its educators a large repository of customizable rubrics where they can easily create customized activities for students and conduct online peer reviews to enhance remote collaboration, ensure timely feedback, improve critical thinking skills and accuracy of peer assessments.
Online Learning Consortium (OLC) and Quality Scorecard
Online learning consortium (OLC) provides training opportunities for online educators. It offered five pillars to achieve quality in e-learning, which includes learning effectiveness, faculty satisfaction, student satisfaction, scale, access (Moore, 2010). They act as building blocks to provide successful online learning and faculty satisfaction when institutions commit to investing in faculty's professional and personal growth. Since the conferences of OLC in 1995, the platform for online learning innovators provides research with best practices each year in Special Issue (Moskal et al., 2021). Since 2021, OLC has been recognized by 49 U.S states and global partnerships in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America to be a framework to promote online learning with quality education to learners (OLC, 2021).
OLC provides a Quality Scorecard to examine the quality and develop relevant strategies to bring continuous improvement. Launched in 2011, this Scorecard contains seven dimensions with questions for educators and institutes to judge their online teaching – institutional support, technology support, course development & instructional design, course structure, teaching and learning, social and student engagement, and faculty support – and 72 specific quality indicators for higher education in the Quality Scorecard. This Scorecard has been used by over 400 institutions to measure the effectiveness of their online learning programs (OLC, 2021).
OLC has a playbook for Faculty to help convert the face-to-face course to the digital environment. This playbook, “Optimizing High-Quality Digital Learning Experiences: A Playbook for Faculty,” has everything the educators need to enhance and optimize digital learning experiences for the learners (OLC, 2021).
International Quality Initiatives from QM and OLC
QM has put a lot of effort into representing non-English speaking countries and regions, and they have expanded globally. Other than the USA, they have 46 international member institutions in Canada, KSA, Australia, China, Fiji, Japan, and Mexico. QM is a member of the following International Organizations:
- Member of Internal Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE)
- Member of International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE)
OLC is committed to helping institutes develop superior quality educational experiences. Their goal is to improve the US and international field of online education and build an educated workforce, and this results in having mutually-beneficial partnerships with similar-minded organizations.
International Recognition from Accredited Organizations
Accreditation is a written document to approve a specific system in a specific environment granted by Designated Approving Authority (DAA). In higher education, the need for regulations and approval from designated authorities is to ensure standards and policies of providing appropriate and high-quality education. Higher education accreditation is a type of quality assurance process in which institutions need to acquire accreditation from authorities to conduct their educational activities in any given space. There are different higher education accreditation organizations, some are recognized, and some are unrecognized (CHEA, 2021).
While unrecognized higher education accreditation organizations lack appropriate authorization, they are still identified by independent authorities and government authorities in their country, or by the organization themselves. On a contrary, higher education accreditation organizations are recognized by the US Department of Education in the US Regional Accreditor, which is composed of numerous institutional accreditors (US Department of Education, 2021).
Recognized higher education accreditation organizations are all around the world such as Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Switzerland. Most of them are transitioning from regional accreditation to national accreditation. To illustrate, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) provides national accreditation to post-secondary education institutions in the central US. They have five major criteria to provide accreditation, which are mission, ethics, teaching and learning focusing on quality, resources, and support), teaching and learning focusing on evaluation and improvement, and resources, planning and institutional effectiveness (HLC, 2021a). HLC was previously called the North Central Association, it was a regional accreditation until 2001. This shift occurs due to the growth of online learning and satellite learning opportunities in other countries as institutions are becoming present internationally (HLC, 2021b).
The Shift from Accredited Organizations to Institutions
HLC received some major criticism from different commentators about its role and effectiveness. After the rise of digital learning, the criticism is mainly that the traditional system only considers input factors like credentialed faculty and adequate facilities instead of the quality of the school's educational output. Hence, the authorized institutions were asked to create their own standards and regulations such as Institutional Accreditation or Programmatic Accreditation (Kelderman, 2009).
In addition to authorized institutions, the non-profit organization Council for the Accreditation of Correspondence Colleges (DEAC), founded in 1926, operates as an institutional accreditor of distance education institutions. Open and Distance Learning Quality Council (ODLQC) was founded in 1969 as the Council for the Accreditation of Correspondence Colleges (DEAC), becoming the Open and Distance Learning Quality Council in 1995 (ODLQC, 2012). DEAC provides a handbook for institutions to explain the process and standards to accredit distance learning via an application for assessment such as TEFL. In the network of DEAC “distance education association”, various associations such as OLC and Educause have been added (DEAC, 2021). It is optional to participate in Educause or events hosted by these types of associations; However, participation in optional courses (QM, Educause), program accreditation, specialized program accreditor are signs of good online courses to ensure the quality of instruction for student’s performance during universities and student’s success post-graduation (Crews, Bordonada & Wilkinson, 2017).
Badge & Micro-credential from Institution, Bootcamp & Corporate
Micro-credentials are smaller classes, workshops or programs that learners can enroll in to gain knowledge and relevant skills for the current workforce. These are different from their normal credentials, as they are of short period and focus on practical knowledge more. Once a learner earns a mico-credential, they get a digital badge. This digital badge provides a visual representation for the micro-credential earned and can be shared on different platforms (Ellis. et al. 2016).
Relevant Case Studies
Here are some relevant case studies regarding QM and OLC programs and how they were implemented into different course designs and learning experiences.
Integrating QM Into Hybrid Course Design: A Principles of Marketing Case Study
This case study focuses on how a hybrid principle of marketing course implemented the QM program for a comprehensive redesign of the learning content and teaching methods. They wanted to enhance their online and hybrid course designs using a faculty-centered peer-review process, so they opted to take the design principles from the QM program. After the redesigning, they found that the learners received this course in a better way. Moreover, the faculty was also able to deliver it efficiently and showed equivalence in the direct measures of students learning (Young, 2014).
Attaining QM Certification for a Registered Nurse–Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program
Another case study shows how QM certifications bring a lot of importance for a nurse enrolled in a BS in Nursing Program. Since there was a lack of structural design and standardization in online learning, it immensely affected students' satisfaction and outcomes. Therefore, the faculty decided to seek QM certification for the registered nurses in the program, specifically the ones enrolled in the online program (Bryan, et al. 2021)
DCCCD’s Strategic Plan for Online Learning Programs
The Quality Scorecard of OLC is implemented in many universities and colleges across the US; one of them is Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD). They have adopted the quality scorecard internally to offer customized programs to their colleges according to their diverse and large needs. This helped them understand what improvements they need to make and how to address the issues by using the scorecard's recommendations. (OLC, 2021).
Kritik & Its Contribution to Quality Education
Private organizations can support quality education such as Kritik. Kritik is an ultimate platform that offers peer-to-peer solutions to enhance students’ critical thinking and learning in online and in-person classes. They have contributed immensely in facilitating digital learning by developing high-quality content courses. This platform lets the educators and institutes curate courses by using insights from the students and keeping the high quality as a priority.
One of the main goals of Kritik is to create critical thinkers. Most of the time, educators expect the students to have critical thinking and self-reflective skills. However, Kritik promotes the thinking that educators should focus on, enabling them to become critical thinkers by offering them tools to develop analytical skills. This platform relies heavily on feedback from both learners and educators. By using the feedback, the educators can enhance their learning course and designs, and the students get to work on their skills. Overall this creates a very interactive and engaging learning environment that promotes high-quality learning and motivation.
In the article “Improving Student Success and Teaching Effectiveness through the TEACH Model”, the T.E.A.C.H Model explained the importance of giving quality feedback during the learning process. The T.E.A.C.H Model focuses on giving feedback on ‘Time’ that is ‘Explicit’ focusing on students’ improvement areas and ‘Appropriate’ for the learner considering their course level, ‘Considerate’ feedback using sensitive language, including ‘Helpful’ actions to improve their future learning.
QM offers many benefits for educational institutes to nurture their students in the best way possible. It offers them a consistent structure and ensures high-quality standards in all courses and programs. However, it can also bring some challenges if the educators are not well-versed with the QM program. It can be time-consuming to gain relevant skills and knowledge, and some administrators might not even encourage it (Budden & Budden, 2013).
The OLC has benefitted online educational institutes to establish a loose version of the rubrics, but some researchers have found that the consortium can hamper growth (Adams, 2007). Therefore, each institute should do thorough research about what best practices to adopt and what to avoid according to their respective objectives.
Private organizations that provide peer feedback are also another way to provide quality education as students are at the center of education and are the ones who need to succeed post-graduation. Feedback is another great way to understand the needs and preferences of students and creates a positive learning environment that Kritik provides. To illustrate, with Kritik’s team-based learning feature, students work in teams and solve problems together. When they are together, they share their unique ideas that widen their intellect level and offer each other adequate feedback needed to improve. It enhances their engagement and cognitive abilities.
In conclusion, educators and institutions need to realize their responsibility and do their research to understand what practices suit their needs the best.
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Quality Matters. (2021). QM Emergency Remote Instruction Checklist. Quality Matters. Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vRzSgvQZDAbu9iG3Cxnq3D2hlxiUZrzwVRj94MGPVDvY9exqxiSgOkuhKxkexPSxb12cb3QNqDTWSIc/pub.
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Verma, A., Singh, A., Lughofer, E., Cheng, X., & Abualsaud, K. (2021). Multilayered-quality education ecosystem (MQEE): an intelligent education modal for sustainable quality education. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 1-29.
Young, M. R. (2014). Integrating Quality Matters into hybrid course design: A principles of the marketing case study. Journal of Marketing Education, 36(3), 233-243.