Liftoff! Reimagining, Retooling, and Relaunching Quality Assurance 

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Brief Abstract

Online learning administrators from a public university system in the southeastern United States will share their experiences planning and implementing quality assurance in online education at their respective campuses. Join this panel discussion to learn about challenges faced and methods for success, including strategies to engage stakeholders and increase faculty buy-in.


Dr. Jennifer Gramling is Director of Online Programs in Teaching and Learning Innovation. Prior to returning to her Alma mater in May 2013, she held a Project Manager position in the Office of Distance Learning at FSU and served as the Associate Director of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning at South College. Jennifer has been working in faculty development and online learning administration for over fifteen years. She holds Bachelor's degrees in English and History from the University of North Florida, and a Master's in Secondary Education and a Ph. D. in Education from the University of Tennessee. In her role as Director of Online Programs, Jennifer oversees the development of policies and procedures related to online and hybrid teaching and learning; and collaborates with faculty and academic administrators to identify and facilitate opportunities for online and hybrid educational and faculty support initiatives.
Wilson holds a Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi, has served as the Director of UT Martin Online Programs for over six years and has an additional twelve years of experience as a faculty member for the Department of History and Philosophy teaching American History via in-person, online, hybrid, and synchronous distance learning modalities. He has presented on distance learning best practices at annual conferences for the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), Online Learning Consortium (OLC), North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA), and the University of Tennessee System Symposium in addition to serving on panels during annual conferences for Canvas learning management system (LMS). Wilson has been recognized for his work with the Tennessee governor’s Online Innovation Initiatives, a collaboration between University of Tennessee system schools to host an online teaching and quality course development best practice symposium for faculty, and received along with online directors at the other system schools a One UT Grant for collaboration of online faculty across the system to share sound practices for distance learning pedagogy, student engagement, and software tools in online and hybrid courses. Additionally, Wilson has published a monograph, African American Officers of World War I: A Vanguard of Equality in War and Beyond, along with numerous encyclopedia and journal articles. He has presented his historical scholarship at the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, Discovery Park of America, the Ohio Valley History Conference, and multiple Civil Rights conferences while also serving twice as a consultant for the PBS Series Finding Your Roots.
Jennifer Glaab earned her Master of Science in Education (Instructional Technology) at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville and her Master of Science in Recreation (Management of Leisure Services) and Bachelor of Science in Education (Recreation Education K-12) from the State University of New York College at Cortland. Currently, she works as a Senior Instructional Designer at the Walker Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga where she also serves as the Quality Matters Course Review Manager, a Quality Matters Coordinator, and a Quality Matters Peer Reviewer. Jennifer has over 12 years of experience teaching online and hybrid classes and 10 years of experience with the quality assurance of online course design.

Extended Abstract

As Henry Ford eloquently said years ago, “Coming together is a beginning; Keeping together is progress; working together is succuss.” In this presentation, colleagues from a large public university system in the Southeastern United States propose sharing their experiences in reimagining, retooling, and rethinking quality assurance in online courses at their respective institutions.

Presented as an interactive panel, representatives are able to connect with conference participants through lenses of implementing innovation at research one and mid-to-small regional institutions. This panel discussion will be moderated by a system project director who has experience with large statewide initiatives from concept idea through liftoff and sustainability. Each campus representative will discuss the specific approach taken on their campus, including but not limited to reimagining quality standards laser focused on student-centered success, retooling course design rubrics in partnership with faculty to create buy-in, and relaunching successful quality assurance programs post pandemic while reflecting the mission, vision, and culture of the campus.

The mission of the state university system is to serve the citizens of the state and beyond through education, discovery and outreach that enables strong economic, social, and environmental well-being. As the higher education landscape has changed, even prior to COVID-19, System leaders committed to exploring enhanced quality online offerings. In late 2019, campus provosts appointed members to a systemwide RFP committee to solicit bids for a provider who could deliver the technology to host a cost-effective platform that would allow campuses to share vacant seats in online courses being offered. A 24-member intercampus Online Consortium Steering Committee begin work to develop a platform that increases access and affordability by allowing students to take online courses across the various campuses in the state.

Strongly recommended by the Steering Committee was an internal mechanism for ensuring the quality of courses offered via the new online Consortium. Two of the campuses already used Quality Matters (QM) and encouraged consideration by the group. This discussion resulted in unanimous agreement that a systemwide contract with QM would benefit both the Consortium as well as each campus and be much more cost-effective compared to implementing individual agreements for each campus.

As the work moved forward, each campus took a unique approach to planning and implementing online course quality standards. One campus had already established a system for managing online course reviews in 2015. First, reviews were conducted internally and later externally using the Quality Matters Rubric. A program to incentivize faculty to redesign courses using the QM quality assurance standards and to complete the QM review process through course certification was launched. Prior to the pandemic, all instructors teaching online and hybrid as well as new faculty at the university were required to complete the Quality Matter’s Applying the Quality Matters Rubric (APPQMR) workshop.  During the pandemic, this requirement was not enforced, however, faculty were still incentivized to complete the QM review process through course certification.  Numbers dramatically decreased in both attendance at the QM APPQMR workshop as well as in the number of courses being sent to QM review and receiving certification. Conversely, post-pandemic, the number of online courses has dramatically increased at the University and new fully online/hybrid programs are now being created.

Challenges and questions faced by this institution include:

How do we re-launch interest in the quality assurance process for online and hybrid courses? How do we train faculty to become effective online teachers after practicing emergency remote teaching?  How do we develop new policies for the development of online courses and programs?  In addition, if policies are established, who should be responsible for enforcing those policies and how will they do so?

Another campus launched a program called the Engaged Online Course Initiative (EOCI) with the goal of developing an internal rubric for quality course design that would serve as a tool for both evaluation and continuous improvement of online courses. Standards from the QM rubric, the SUNY Online Course Quality Review Rubric (OSCQR), and others were leveraged during the creation of a new rubric and internal review process. A cohort of experienced faculty and staff representing a variety of departments met bi-weekly to collaborate on the development.

Challenges and questions faced by this institution include:

How do we engage stakeholders across campus to begin implementing quality assurance principles? How do we elicit faculty buy-in? How do we create a process that limits barriers and facilitates utilization within departments?

After the pandemic hit, the newest addition to the state university system began integrating online pedagogical techniques into instruction and this was uncharted territory for many of the faculty. The institution became part of the state system, and focus shifted from technology-centered to learner-centered. As part of that shift, the campus will utilize an online course rubric to structure a self-review process for online courses. In an effort to provide a well-rounded approach to online quality assurance, the institution continues to expand their instructional and technological knowledge base in order to provide resources to faculty and students so they may be successful in these new educational environments. These resources include how-to videos and articles for instructional technology, better onboarding resources, and small-group workshops.

Challenges and questions faced by this institution include:

How do we continue to build on the student-centered approach to quality assurance? How can we meaningfully engage faculty in discussions about quality in online teaching and learning without overwhelming or intimidating new instructors?

While each campus has a taken a unique approach, they have faced similar challenges along the way. Many of those challenges may be familiar to others in online learning and higher education. A main goal of the panel discussion is to provide attendees an opportunity to share their own stories of promoting quality standards in online courses and to learn from one another in the process. This session is designed to help attendees plan for and launch a successful quality assurance program at their home institutions, regardless of the size of the school or their history with online education.

Plan for Engagement and Interactivity:

At the start of the session, attendees will answer a few poll questions to help inform the conversation. After providing overviews and slides of individual institutional strategies developed at the various campuses, panelists will engage the audience in the following ways:

The panel moderator will actively pose questions and solicit answers from the audience, including:

What are the challenges your institution is currently experiencing and what steps are being taken to ensure the quality of online courses? How have you engaged stakeholders to begin implementing quality assurance principals at your institution? What barriers have you experienced during the process?

The panel moderator will also facilitate the development of a Quality Assurance Planning Template in Google docs that all attendees will have access to edit and save. 

Takeaways: Attendees will leave with strategies for engaging /re-engaging stakeholders, including specific examples of how to gain faculty buy-in and support, and a planning template they can edit and use at their respective institutions.