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Saturday, Oct 25, 2014

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Deb Gearhart

Deb Gearhart, vice provost for eLearning and Strategic Partnerships

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OHIO online courses to adapt to new Quality Matters rubric


Ohio University faculty who are in the process of obtaining Quality Matters recognition for a course taught online will need to ensure their courses meet the new Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric that will be released Aug. 1.

Deb Gearhart, vice provost for eLearning and Strategic Partnerships, is monitoring the changes and planning to offer training on the new rubric in the fall. Gearhart created a pilot program for faculty to have course design peer reviewed internally before submitting an application to Quality Matters to have a course evaluated at the national level.

“I’ve started an internal process at every institution I’ve been to since Quality Matters came out,” Gearhart said. Gearhart is a master reviewer for Quality Matters, and she was in the first master reviewer class Quality Matters offered.

Gearhart said the provost, college deans, and faculty were all concerned with the quality of online courses when she came to Ohio University in 2012. The pilot program is an integrated process that sets standards and guidelines for faculty and online course developers to follow.

“We hope to have a lot more nationally recognized courses. The first step is to do the internal review process we are piloting,” Gearhart said.

The first Quality Matters nationally recognized course at Ohio University was EMGT 6100 Probabilistic Systems Analysis, developed by Diana Schwerha, an associate professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology. Schwerha’s course received the Quality Matters recognition in January.

“Quality Matters means you have had your peers review your course for the quality of the course from a user perspective,” Schwerha said. The Quality Matters recognition is for course design rather than the nature of the content. Schwerha said the rubric looks at accessibility, consistency, and navigation, as well as ensuring students have everything they need as they go through the course.

Schwerha credited David Koonce, the associate dean of the Graduate College, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering and founding director of the online Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program, and Russ Professor Bob Judd, the chair of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, with introducing her to Quality Matters. Schwerha said Koonce knew about Quality Matters from the beginning of the online MEM program, and Judd wants to have Quality Matters recognition for all 10 courses in the program.

Since Schwerha’s course received Quality Matters recognition, she and Vice Provost Gearhart participated in a panel discussion at the Institute of Industrial Engineers conference on June 2 in Montreal, and they presented at the Ohio Quality Matters Consortium’s annual meeting May 14 at Columbus State Community College. Gearhart said Ohio Quality Matters is planning to have its annual meeting on Ohio University’s campus next May. The meeting will include an Applying the Quality Matters Rubric (APPQMR) training the first day, and the meeting will take place the next day.

Ohio University faculty who are interested in becoming a peer reviewer for the University’s Quality Matters pilot program can contact Kia Stone, the Quality Matters coordinator and coordinator of compliance and quality assurance for eLearning. Peer reviewers must complete the APPQMR course, and they do receive a small stipend for courses they review. Stone is hoping to coordinate an APPQMR training on Ohio University’s Athens Campus in the fall and to offer the training on a regional campus in the spring.

Faculty who want to have a course reviewed by Quality Matters can contact Stone to get started. After a course is reviewed internally by two Ohio University peer reviewers, and the course passes the review, then the faculty member can submit an application to Quality Matters at the national level where it will be evaluated by a panel of three peer reviewers. The process is outlined in more detail at https://www.qualitymatters.org/reviews. Stone said the course review process is not difficult.

“The most difficult part is waiting to get the results. If there’s something that needs to be fixed, that could be time consuming,” she said.

Schwerha said the course review process was not cumbersome for her. It took about 2-4 weeks for the internal review and then making changes to the course. After the course was submitted to Quality Matters nationally, it took about 4-6 weeks for the review to be complete.

“Quality Matters is a rigorous process, but it’s doable and it’s worth it,” Schwerha said.