Staying the Course: Scouting the Trails of an Online Course Quality Initiative

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

How would you build and manage cross-institutional teams to promote the creation of quality online courses and enhancement of online faculty? We will share our experience and top 10  lessons learned from “staying the course” through implementation of an online course quality initiative.


Jaesoon works at the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) of UNC Charlotte. She provides workshops, consultations, and online training in the area of course design and development. She also leads CTL's course development projects with faculty teams and cohorts. Through collaborative projects, CTL's instructional designers help faculty members to integrate learning technologies and best practices like Quality Matters (QM) and National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) into the development of blended/online courses and large enrollment courses.
Lynn Wahl is an Instructional Designer in the Center for Teaching and Learning. She partners with faculty in the redesign or development of blended and online courses. Lynn is passionate about leveraging technology and QM design standards to create innovative and successful student learning experiences. Lynn received her M.Ed in Instructional Technology from Idaho State University and her M.A. in English Literature from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Additional Authors

Kiran Budhrani is the associate director for personalized and adaptive learning at the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Extended Abstract

Large initiatives that leverage cross-institutional teams in order to improve faculty readiness for quality online/blended course development are becoming increasingly necessary as the number of online courses offered at all types of institutions continues to increase.

Beyond working with individual faculty who have their own challenges with workload, readiness, and cultural issues around online education, cross-institutional teams result in a myriad of other challenges that must be navigated in order to provide strategic support for faculty. These cross-institutional relationships demand clear communication, consensus amongst teams, agility in responding to problems, clear budget guidelines, flexibility in working with faculty, and empathy for both faculty and instructional designers.

Beginning in the Summer semester of 2017, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) of a large urban university has been offering the Quality Matters Course Development (QMCD) program in an initiative to facilitate faculty development, readiness, and institutional change in the development of quality online/blended courses and online teaching.

Partnering with diverse campus units on a cross-institutional team including the Office of Distance Education (DE), Audiovisual Integration and Support for Learning Environments Group, the university library, and QM Faculty Fellows, the program engages participating faculty members in 12-week long, cohort-based course development projects.

The program provides a clearly defined project timeline and milestones in three major phases, project spaces in Google Drive and Canvas, and numerous scaffolding resources including templates, guides, tutorials, surveys, a QM course template, and an online workshop on writing learning objectives. Training on QM standards and best practices is also provided in the beginning of the project as a part of the effort to ensure the faculty’s baseline knowledge and readiness for the course development process. The program also facilitates the faculty’s hands-on experience with common online learning technologies including WebEx, Google Drive, video production, and Canvas.

The goals of the QMCD program are 1) creating quality online/blended courses, and 2) developing the faculty’s skills in online course development and online teaching through project-based learning.

One of the most important elements of the QMCD process is the collaborative relationship built between instructional designers and faculty. In QMCD projects, CTL’s instructional designers work together with the faculty as a pair to integrate and implement QM course design standards into the course design and to develop the entire course on Canvas.

A series of individual consultations between instructional designers and faculty members is the backbone of the QMCD process. This element of close collaboration allows for the general project process to be customizable depending on the unique needs of individual faculty and available support capacity of the institution. The QMCD method exemplifies a collaborative and systematic approach to online course development and faculty development while, at the same time, allowing for the flexibility of customization for diverse participants with varying needs and readiness and diverse institutions with varying support capacity.

Once the course is developed through the 12-week QMCD process, the faculty members submit their course for the QM Internal Review process where QM Faculty Fellows review the course design and provide another set of design feedback. At the end of such rigorous development and review processes, the faculty members become prepared for the official course design certificate process of QM and for developing and teaching additional high quality online/blended courses in a self-directed manner in the future.

After providing a brief overview of the QMCD program and methods for context, this session will focus on what the presenters learned after running the program for the initial two years in the format of a top 10 challenges list to prompt discussion and interaction:

  1. Predecessors and the emergence of the program and cross-institutional teams

  2. Building consensus on project methods to ensure common project experience

  3. Ensuring baseline information, knowledge, and skills for project readiness

  4. Evolving participant populations and adjustments to the rainbow of factors

  5. Managing Incompletes, Boomerangs, and the fiscal year

  6. Enabling faculty champions as an ultimate goal to drive strategic change

  7. Letting go of community building as a goal

  8. Going beyond the “cookie cutter” minimum quality course

  9. Managing the explosion of communication needs and emotions

  10. Increasing workload and assurance of instructional designer well-being

Level of Participation:

Electronic polling will be used to determine participant’s current support/approach for online initiatives at their institution. Handouts will be provided to summarize key information of the session and provide resources. Attendees will engage in a pair discussion using the handouts and a list of discussion prompts around the 10 challenges. Then, they will volunteer to report out any comments or questions to the entire group.

Session Goals:

Attendees of this session will be able to describe general milestones and deliverables of a standards-based, collaborative online course development project, describe necessary resources to facilitate multiple projects simultaneously, and identify major stakeholders involved. They will be able to describe issues that are likely to occur in the process of implementing such projects and brainstorm and discuss issues that may arise in their own initiatives, as well as potential solutions.