First in Quality Matters at NC State

Members of the first cohort of the Online Course Improvement Program facilitated a panel discussion at Summer Shorts 2018. Pictured left to right: Paul Mulvey, Cheryl Block, Amanda Edwards and Tracy Appling. Not pictured: Marne Coit, Ana Gray and Jill Grifenhagen. The group sits in front of the audience. Tracy Appling is speaking and the other OCIP members are looking at her.

Members of the first cohort of the Online Course Improvement Program facilitated a panel discussion at Summer Shorts 2018. Pictured left to right: Paul Mulvey, Cheryl Block, Amanda Edwards and Tracy Appling. Not pictured: Marne Coit, Ana Gray and Jill Grifenhagen. Photo by Katie Harris.

Since NC State began offering online and distance education programs and courses, a main focus has always been on quality.

Seven faculty members have recently taken this commitment to quality to the next level by being the first at NC State to have online courses certified by the nationally recognized Quality Matters (QM) organization — making them leaders in online quality assurance.

“As students continue to expect quality in their online courses and the competition for attracting students into online program increases, it is more important than ever to provide students with well-conceived and high-quality online courses,” said Associate Vice Provost for Academic Technology Innovation Donna Petherbridge.

DELTA recognized that importance and created the Online Course Improvement Program (OCIP) which launched in a pilot phase in spring 2018. During the program, faculty members work collaboratively with DELTA staff to make improvements to their courses to meet QM standards.

QM is both a rubric and a process that is specific to higher education, backed by research, and is nationally recognized as a means to improve course design.

Tracy Appling, Cheryl Block, Marne Coit, Amanda Edwards, Ana Gray, Jill Grifenhagen and Paul Mulvey completed the rigorous program and submitted their courses for an official QM course review resulting in their online courses becoming QM certified.

The first six Quality Matters-certified courses at NC State:

Introduction to Leadership in the Public Sector – LPS 200
Dr. Tracy Appling
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Agricultural Law – ARE 306
Dr. Marne Coit
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Law and Justice in the American Political Process – PS 305
Dr. Amanda Edwards
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Teachers as Leaders – ECI 508
Dr. Jill Grifenhagen
College of Education

Human Resource Management – MIE 330
Dr. Paul Mulvey
Poole College of Management

Spanish for Health Professionals – FLS 201
Dr. Cheryl Block and Ana Gray
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

The official QM course review is faculty driven where a three-person team from across the nation conducts a peer review of the course. The extensive eight-week process provides faculty with not only a QM certification but rich feedback on how to continuously improve the course.

This first group of faculty who received QM certifications paved the way for online quality assurance at NC State.

“A QM-certified course acknowledges the fact that the faculty member has spent extensive time in creating a meaningful, well-designed experience for the online learner to ensure that learner has the opportunity for both achieving mastery of course content and connecting with other students in their online course community,” said Petherbridge.

“The faculty that take the time to pursue this certification are caring, engaging and knowledgeable instructors that want to create a positive online experience for students. I commend them for putting in considerable time to ensure their courses are of the highest quality.”

The collaborative OCIP effort is facilitated by QM Coordinator and Lead Instructional Designer Bethanne Tobey along with DELTA staff members Christopher Beeson, Arlene Mendoza-Moran, Rebecca Sanchez and Bethany Smith.

Petherbridge commended these staff members for their commitment to creating the best learning experience possible for students. “They are true partners with the faculty in this process, respecting the faculty member’s subject matter expertise while assisting them in ensuring their courses meet the rigorous standards for certification,” she added.

Facilitating Student Success

For Teaching Assistant Professor Tracy Appling, participating in OCIP and going through the QM certification process helped her course become organized and interactive where the goals and objectives are clearly aligned with the assignments.

“The QM certification training provided an opportunity to be the student in an online environment. I now have a better understanding of what it feels like when students cannot locate information on the classroom site, the frustrations with learning new technology, and how communications is key to feeling like you are not alone in the course,” said Appling.

Lecturer in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics Marne Coit also noted the importance of the QM certification in ensuring her course is easy to navigate for students, which allows students to focus on the coursework.

Coit added, “I am honored to have been a part of DELTA’s pilot Online Course Improvement Program and to have the first known course at NC State that is Quality Matters certified.”

Coit began teaching her QM-certified Agricultural Law course in fall 2018 where the improvements have already begun impacting students.

Luke Wise, a student in the course, said, “Overall, I feel as though this class is very well-rounded and provides great information for us as students to better understand the field of agriculture as well as the relation to law and how the two intertwine. This is a very intriguing and informative class that will help us as we further our knowledge as well as later into our careers.”
Wise also commented on the format of the class saying it works well for the success of students, where the amount of work is neither overwhelming nor too little.

ARE 306 student, Savannah Boyd, said, “This class has clear structure and organization. I know what to expect from this course each week, which allows me to plan ahead how much time I will need to allow to get the assignments done.”

Students in Coit’s course are experiencing a QM-certified class where the results are directly impacting their learning.

Another student, Bella Davies said of Coit and the course, “I love how organized everything is, and how your class expectations are so clear. You make it very easy to get the work done.”

Looking Ahead

As one of the early adopters of QM across the UNC System, DELTA plans to continue this initiative and provide NC State faculty with the necessary resources to have their courses QM certified.

With the vital feedback from the pilot group in mind, DELTA has kicked off the second OCIP group with hopes of adding six more QM-certified courses to NC State’s list.

“Having courses QM-certified is a testament to NC State’s commitment to providing quality online and distance education programs and courses to students everywhere. As more courses receive recognition and certification, it will result in an expansion of support to faculty in the design and development of online and blended courses of the highest quality,” said Tobey.

To learn more about Quality Matters at NC State, visit go.ncsu.edu/qualitymatters.

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