Online Course Quality by Design: Quality Matters Training and Course Outcomes in an Introductory Biology Course

Concurrent Session 6

Brief Abstract

A STEM faculty learning community was created at North Carolina Central University to assess online science course offerings and instruction. This presentation describes the impact of Quality Matters training and the application of Rubric Standards on the design and student outcomes for an Introductory Biology course over four terms.



Dr. Racheal Brooks is the Coordinator of the Office of e-Learning and a Spanish and graduate-level research methods instructor at North Carolina Central University. She also serves as Co-Chair for the University of North Carolina System Quality Matters Council. Dr. Brooks is a member of the NCCU Distance Education Advisory Council, NCCU Quality Matters (QM) Coordinator, QM Master Reviewer, QM Program Reviewer, Course Review Manager, Face-to-Face and Online Facilitator of the Applying the Quality Matters Rubric (APPQMR) workshop, Face-to-Face Facilitator of the Improving Your Online Course (IYOC) workshop, iQM Association member (Spanish), and member of the QM Instructional Designers Association. She also established a series of learning communities on NCCU's campus that assist faculty in certifying their courses with the QM program. Her research interests include online instruction, online curriculum development, digital accessibility, instructional technology, qualitative research methods in education, Spanish language acquisition at HBCUs, second language learner beliefs, and minorities in Spanish language studies. Her recent publications include "Course Design, Quality Matters Training, and Student Outcomes" published in the American Journal of Distance Education and “Online Counselor Education: Creative Approaches and Best Practices in Online Learning Environments” published in Research on Education and Psychology. Dr. Brooks earned a BA in Spanish from North Carolina Central University, an MA in Spanish Literature from Georgia State University, and a PhD in Educational Research and Policy Analysis with a specialization in Higher Education Administration from North Carolina State University.

Extended Abstract

As published in the QM-focused 2017 edition of the American Journal of Distance Education, North Carolina Central University (NCCU) recognized the need to address the increasing rates of Ds, Fs, and Withdrawal by students matriculating in online courses. Led by two science faculty, a faculty learning community in partnership with the NCCU Division of Extended Studies was created to assess online science course offerings and instruction. Faculty within this learning community completed the Quality Matters (QM) "Applying the Quality Matters Rubric" (APPQMR) course. This online training course, coupled with services provided by the NCCU Division of Extended Studies, offered the faculty learning community a variety of pedagogical strategies to meet their instructional needs. All faculty participating in this learning community completed the online training course, and all faculty indicated that they implemented changes in their subsequent online course offerings. 

This presentation describes the impact of that training and the application of quality course design standards from the QM Rubric on the design and student outcomes for an Introductory Biology course over four terms. The central research question for this study was How does Quality Matters training and implementation of the QM Rubric impact student outcomes as defined by final exam scores and overall course averages? Our hypothesis was that there would be a positive correlation between the course QM review scores and final exam scores as well as between QM review scores and students’ final grades.

To measure the impact of QM training on online course design, the Introductory Biology course underwent informal QM Reviews for six sections taught before and after the instructor completed the APPQMR online training course. The informal reviews were performed by an experienced online faculty member and e-learning administrator who completed the Master Reviewer Certification, an advanced-level QM professional development course. Additionally, the researchers alligned select questions from the end-of-course Student Rating of Instruction with QM Rubric Standards for a more holistic evaluation. 

The results of a Pearson correlation demonstrated that QM informal review scores were significantly correlated with final exam performance and overall course averages. This suggested that as QM Review scores improved, so did these parameters, thus underscoring the importance of faculty professional development. As faculty learning communities are broadly utilized, it is anticipated that this presentation may present an effective strategy to increase the quality and quantity of online science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses.

This session will allow participants to explore the motivations leading to the use of QM training for NCCU STEM faculty. Furthermore, we will discuss the impact of QM training on course design and student outcomes in an Intro Biology course. Participants will also be provided an opportunity to develop strategies for integrating the QM Rubric in the design of online STEM courses.