Quality Matters and Accessibility: An Update

By Rhonda Gregory, Director of Distributed Education

Distance Learning Reviews

Last year, we introduced a plan for helping ensure quality and accessibility in distance education at Vol State. The plan includes a three-year review cycle of all online and hybrid master courses at Vol State. Courses that are high enrollment (deemed the “top 30”) are being given priority in the review schedule to aid compliance with TBR’s accessibility initiative.

Each master course undergoes a team-based review and uses the Quality Matters Rubric the as a set of minimum standards. Thanks to the hard work of many faculty members, we have successfully reviewed and refined eleven new and existing master courses using the new review process and standards. We’ve also made the courses more accessible than ever before.

Here is a PDF document listing our progress to date and the courses scheduled for review through the end of 2016: DE Master Course Review Cycle through Fall 2016.

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:

  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 REQUIRED to pass the review.
  • 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-pointers 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 (see schedule).
  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 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.

End Goal: Achieve Minimum Standards & Improve Quality of Design

Accessibility Initiative at Vol State

Accessibility is both a legal requirement and an ethical responsibility that faculty must address in course design. Because web accessibility can be improved by standard design practices, this is not an impossible task. Training is available (in many forms) to help faculty learn the skills they need to create accessible electronic documents. To date, Vol State has trained over 140 faculty and staff on the proper way to make documents accessible! Media Production Services provides assistance with getting videos closed-captioned.

All new distance education courses and new course materials added to existing online and hybrid courses must be created to meet accessibility standards. Courses undergoing review as part of the 3-year cycle will be expected to meet accessibility standards by the time they are reviewed, and this is measured as part of the Quality Matters standards. QM standards 7.2 and 8.1-8.5 are used to evaluate accessibility compliance.

Beginning fall 2016, every course syllabus at Vol State should be created following accessibility guidelines. This includes online, hybrid, blended, and on-ground delivery methods. The Vol State Accessibility Task Force is working on additional goals and timelines for helping ensure that the entire campus become more accessible.

Training and Resources