HE: How One University is Leading by Example

“The review team made some valuable recommendations that improved the clarity and consistency of learning activity instructions.”Peter Berryman, Instructional Designer

At a time when many provosts feel there is not enough training or support for faculty who teach online, Georgia Southern University is being proactive — taking steps to ensure its faculty is prepared to deliver on its online promise.

Georgia Southern developed a Teaching Online Courses Program, a one-semester, multi-step program that faculty must complete in order to design and deliver online courses at the University. One component of the program is their Teaching Online Courses Workshop, a seven-week, fully online course facilitated by the instructional design staff at the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE).

Recently, the Teaching Online Courses Workshop, itself, received QM Certification, a process that was over a year in the making as explained by CTE Director Nancy Remler, “The incentive to design and certify the workshop began with the consolidation of two universities within the University System of Georgia — Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia, and Armstrong State University, Savannah, Georgia.” CTE staff from each campus met together for the first time during the Spring 2017 semester to address the challenge of designing and delivering a unified online faculty training program. But, said Remler, “Since Georgia Southern and Armstrong were Quality Matters subscribers prior to consolidation, expectations for quality course design were already in place.”

Using QM Standards as a guide, the team set out to develop a training program that carefully considered faculty workloads each semester – especially since completion of the training program could no longer be incentivized by stipends. Their initial efforts resulted in the Teaching Online Courses Workshop, which was well-received by faculty. But as instructional designer Kandi Odom-Cooper shared, the positive feedback was only part of the puzzle, “While the Workshop received very favorable feedback from participating faculty during the Fall 2018 semester, the decision was made to pursue QM Certification in order to substantiate and advertise the CTE’s claim that courses designed with QM quality in mind support higher retention rates and learner satisfaction.” In other words, they wanted faculty, while in the role of students, to experience the difference that a well-designed course can make.

Mission accomplished according to Assistant Professor Dr. Beverly Miller who said of the course design, “From a student perspective, the structure is helpful. It is nice to not have to search for what you want us to do per session. I also like that you give clear instructions on how to maneuver to the Assignment Dropbox and now the Reflection Journal. This is helpful to me because it helps me to see what my students want from my instructions. They want those clear instructions from me. This is where I need improvement.”

One module of the Workshop focuses on Quality Matters, specifically how the University’s online course template supports QM Standards. The module also describes the institution’s support of QM's continuous improvement philosophy, including member-facilitated sections of the QM Improving Your Online Course workshop and encouraging official QM Reviews for course design.

Due to the unique design of the Workshop, with its strong focus on engagement and the student experience, Georgia Southern chose to have the course reviewed using the Higher Education Rubric, Sixth Edition, instead of the Continuing and Professional Education Rubric, Second Edition, which is tailored to assist in the design and review of non-credit bearing courses — the majority of professional development courses.

So what did the team learn from the review process? “The CTE learned that the Teaching Online Courses Workshop was well-prepared for QM review because the University’s online course template, as well as the content of the Workshop, were designed in accordance with QM Standards,” said instructional designer Peter Berryman. “It also validated the team’s ability to successfully interpret and apply QM Standards to the design of an online course.”

That doesn’t mean there wasn’t room for improvement, though. As Berryman shared, “The review team made some valuable recommendations that improved the clarity and consistency of learning activity instructions.”

The Teaching Online Courses Workshop is the first step in completing Georgia Southern’s Teaching Online Courses Program, and having the Workshop QM-Certified was a first step for Georgia Southern as well. The Center for Teaching Excellence plans to have the second component of the program — the Teaching Online Courses Design Practicum — QM-Certified too, with “the goal of having all of its online training courses, including a web accessibility workshop, QM-Certified to demonstrate the value of consistent course design standards at the University.”

Quality Matters certification of Georgia Southern University’s Teaching Online Courses Workshop would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of its CTE Director Nancy Remler and instructional design staff: Peter Berryman, Julie Carter, Louise Fechter, Stephen Hufsmith, Laura Lowe-Reefer, and Kandi Odom-Cooper.

The QM Certification Mark is the symbol for quality in online and blended learning. Find out how you can earn the QM Certification Mark and make your own course stand out with an official QM Review for course design.