Quality Infusion! Using the Quality Matters Rubric for Refreshing Online Programs

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

At Northwestern University, the School of Professional Studies Distance Learning department is focused on creating quality online courses. The goal is to improve student engagement and outcomes. After comparing/contrasting the OLC scorecard with the Quality Matters rubric, we decided to use Quality Matters. This workshop will explore this journey and implementation.


Dr. Reba-Anna Lee received her doctorate in Educational Technology in August 2006 from Alliant International University. She completed her Masters and Bachelors at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Prior to joining Northwestern, she was the Associate Director of Academic Technology and eLearning at Marist College in New York. Her background includes K-12 experience, as well as over ten years of higher education administrative and teaching experience. Dr. Lee has experience working with faculty in implementing new technologies into the classroom, whether it is face to face, blended, or completely online.

Extended Abstract

Learning Objectives:

Upon the completion of this presentation, participants will be able to:

1.Analyze the feasibility of instating Quality Matters at their educational institution

2.Compare and contrast the Quality Matters Rubric and the OLC scorecard

3.Apply the Quality Matters phased in approach at their educational institution


There was and is a strong need to infuse quality assurance processes into the online courses offered at Northwestern University School of Professional Studies with the intention to improve student engagement and outcomes. Northwestern University realizes that our position in the online market place is changing. During the course of reviewing the available tools for ascertaining online course quality, we looked at the OLC Scorecard and the Quality matters Higher Education rubric. We found that we needed to focus on the quality of the online courses solely. The administration and infrastructure for the programs being reviewed were already in place. We realized that the OLC scorecard was more widely reaching then we needed as a catalysis to change in the School of Professional Studies.

Working with the Quality Matters program on improving the quality of courses and with the Graduate department, we are able to make a difference to the student online experience. We realize that the distance education consumer is savvier and know how to research a good online program. The online distance education consumer is looking for something fast and flexible. However, by making sure our courses are meeting Quality Matters guidelines, we are ahead of that challenge. Thus, the purpose of distancing ourselves among our competitors, Quality Matters is the way of doing that---plus general all over quality of our online courses.

Conception: Northwestern University has a long history of being a leader in education and has offered online courses since 2001. The University has always been in the forefront of technology and use of it for pedagogical support. After realizing that there was a need for consistency in the design of online courses, the Distance Learning department, along with the SPS Graduate department, decided that more could be done to streamline the quality of the online courses. In the Spring of 2016 we introduced to the Quality Matters program after deciding we needed to ensure that the courses that were exclusively online were up to the same standards as the ones being offered traditionally (face to face). Up until that time, there were no institutional guidelines for creating a quality online course. Thus, the SPS Distance Learning Team sought to find a solution.

Support: Once introduced to Quality Matters, the SPS Distance Learning Department decided to have six team members become peer reviewers and to really become involved in the QM program. Thus, the department had Dr. Reba-Anna Lee undergo peer reviewer training along with five instructional designers, subscribed as institutional members, and also instated Dr. Lee as the Institutional Representative. Once the peer review and IR training was completed, SPS Distance Learning Department became the main support department for Quality Matters for the School of Professional Studies.

Implementation: We implemented Quality Matters in several phases. We first put the necessary infrastructure in place. After the official Quality Matters training was complete, we had to design a format for sharing the information with the faculty. Since we already conducted online trainings for the faculty in our department, we decided to set up the Quality Matters training in an online workshop. The workshop included pre and post internal course reviews for the involved courses and faculty. This has remained the model for this workshop for several years. We have added other formats such as a hybrid version and a completely online version for faculty. We have also added the New Course Design Program (NCDP) for brand new courses being developed. This workshop works with building the course using the Quality Matters rubric from the very first step.

Purpose: The need to instill the Quality Matters rubric into the SPS online courses offered at Northwestern University with the intention to improve student engagement and outcomes. Northwestern University realizes that our position in the online market place is changing. Working with the Quality Matters program on improving the quality of courses and with the Graduate department, we were able to begin to reshape the online experience for students.

Lessons Learned:

  • Key role of Stakeholders
  • Faculty Buy-in
  • Understanding historical challenges
  • Showing by Doing