Quality Matters and Accessibility: Update, Take 2

By Rhonda Gregory, Director of Distributed Education

“Content [alone], or subject matter, does not make a course. In a course, the content is organized into a carefully designed structure that is intended to make it as easy as possible …for the student to learn” (Moore & Kearsley, 2012, p. 14)

A long time ago in a galaxy far-far away (you remember—2015), Vol State adopted Quality Matters™ as our rubric of choice to evaluate the instructional design of Distributed Education courses. My last update was almost a year ago, and I wanted to share about our progress. We’ve worked hard since 2015 providing workshops, holding one-to-one consultations, and reviewing and revising master courses. In fact, through fall 2016, we have reviewed 49 of the 152 online or hybrid master courses currently in our inventory. That’s 32%! We couldn’t have done this without faculty engagement with the process. Over 30 faculty members have completed at least 1 QM review for a peer. Thank you!

Well done!


Quality Matters


The Quality Matters Rubric for Higher Education, Fifth Edition (PDF) provides a set of standards to evaluate the design of online and blended courses. The Rubric, developed from reviews of the research literature and best practices in course design, is supported by detailed annotations that explain the application of the standards and the relationship among them. A scoring system and set of online tools facilitate the evaluation by a team of three reviewers. Review teams consist of three individuals: one faculty peer; one department chair or division dean (or their designee); and one Distributed Education team member who manages the review process as team chair.


The Rubric includes eight General Standards and 43 individual standards within these areas. The General Standards are as follows:

  1. Course Overview and Introduction
  2. Learning Objectives (Competencies)
  3. Assessment and Measurement
  4. Instructional Materials
  5. Course Activities and Learner Interaction
  6. Course Technology
  7. Learner Support
  8. Accessibility and Usability

Rubric Scoring:

Reviewers determine if standards are sufficiently “Met” or “Not Met” (at least 85% as rule of thumb) and do not award or subtract points. Points are automatically awarded in the system based on majority rules.

  • All three (3) point standards are mandatory
  • 2-point standards are important
  • 1-point standards are recommended

Overall, a course must earn at least 84 points (an 85%) and meet all 3-point standards to pass. Distributed Education reserves the right to hold any course review until standards and accessibility are sufficiently met.

The General QM Process at Vol State:

  1. Developers attend a QM informational meeting and identify peer reviewers.
  2. Distributed Education (DE) initiates a course review in the MyQM system.
  3. Developers complete and submit a course information worksheet in MyQM.
  4. DE provides review team access to master course in eLearn and to MyQM.
  5. Review team evaluates the course and collaborates with developer on updates as needed.

The entire process should be formative, collaborative, and supportive. As needed, developers are expected to implement changes during the review based on the feedback of the review team members.

End Goal: Achieve Minimum Standards & Improve Quality of Design

What’s next?

hands raised to volunteer

Let’s keep up the great work! More classes are being reviewed every month, and we need peer evaluators who are experienced and passionate about online learning. As a peer evaluator, you can help shape the educational experience of DE classes for Vol State students for years to come. If you’re not already involved, but would like to be, contact me.

The office of Institutional, Effectiveness, Research, Planning, and Assessment (IERPA) will be asking faculty to complete a survey this semester on our behalf. We’re open to your feedback, suggestions, and ideas for improving the process. After all, student success is goal #1 – and well-designed courses help support that mission. Please be sure to complete and return that survey when it comes to your inbox.

Need more information?

Start with the Standards for Online Course Development and Instruction – our special webpage dedicated to this topic for a full copy of the QM Rubric, expectations for master courses, syllabus templates, accessibility resources and more.

When ready, contact me or any of us in Distributed Education about training and professional development options available to faculty. 

Email: eLearn@volstate.edu