Using the OLC Quality Scorecard to Drive Innovation and Change in Distance Education Programs

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

The OLC Quality Scorecard self-study process broke down barriers between organizational divisions and drives continuing innovation in Texas State University's distance education programs.


Joshua Book is the Assistant Director of the Office of Distance and Extended Learning at Texas State University. A former high school teacher, he has worked in distance education course and program development at Texas State since 2003. He is an active member of statewide and national distance learning organizations, including the Online Learning Consortium. Joshua was part of a 16-member team that implemented the OLC Quality Scorecard at Texas State in 2012-2013. He co-presented at OLC's International Conference in 2014 and 2015, and he was involved in distance learning initiatives for which Texas State received OLC Effective Practice awards in 2013 and 2014. He received the OLC Advanced Online Teaching Certificate in 2014 and participated in the 2014 Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning.
I'm a seasoned online instructor and chair of Texas State University's Distance and Extended Learning Steering Committee. As an associate professor of occupational, workforce, and leadership studies, one of my research interests is online learning in adulthood and for the workforce. I am currently collaborating on a number of projects related to learner readiness for online learning and welcome more collaboration. Also I'm interested in organizational change efforts related to online learning and online learning in countries/regions with emerging/newly developed economic systems.

Extended Abstract

Context and Background:
Prior to 2012, distance education at Texas State University was in need of greater strategic direction and vision. With the university's upcoming Fifth-Year Interim Report to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the university also needed a respected approach to assess the quality of its online programs. In addition, the assessment process would necessarily bring together different units and stakeholders in the common endeavor of ensuring the improvement and ongoing quality of distance education at the university. At Texas State, the Division of Academic Affairs is responsible for academic oversight of distance education, while another division, Information Technology, is responsible for technical support and provides on-campus training for online faculty, and the academic department chairs and faculty are directly responsible for individual online and hybrid course offerings. Thus, the assessment of the university's online courses and programs would require cooperation between units and among faculty, staff, and administrators.

The university selected the research-based and respected OLC Quality Scorecard (QS) self-study as the tool to best assess online programs and courses using a collaborative approach. A team of nine program administrators, faculty, academic chairs, and staff completed the self-study in 2012-2013 and made 193 recommendations for improvement. Recommendations were then aggregated by similarity, aligned with SACSCOC expectations, and presented to the the Distance and Extended Learning Steering Committee, which is comprised of 16 faculty, staff, and administrators. The Steering Committee prioritized specific recommendations and began implementing changes and improvements to follow those priorities in 2013-2014 and each year thereafter.

Results of the 2012-2013 QS self-study and of subsequent actions to meet the prioritized recommendations include improvements to distance learning program administration, structural innovations, and collaboration that values the unique perspectives of faculty, staff, administrators, and different units. Texas State has stronger distance learning programs and an improved institutional structure because of the QS self-study. Faculty, staff, and administrators continue to work together with a shared vision for distance learning and ongoing improvement.

QS Self-Study Recommendations In Action:
Recommendations from the QS self-study that have been followed or realized since 2013 include the following. These initiatives align with the OLC pillars of quality, as noted in parentheses.

ï The university has adopted Faculty Development Requirements for Online Teaching (, which are training requirements for online faculty; faculty have a number of different training options, including a self-documentation option for faculty who can demonstrate competence to teach online. (faculty satisfaction)
ï University policy (Policy and Procedure Statement 4.05 -- now stipulates faculty training requirements to teach online. (learning effectiveness, student satisfaction)
ï The university provides funding for third-party training, including teaching certificates through OLC and workshops through Quality Matters. (faculty satisfaction, scale)
ï The university provides faculty stipends and course releases for training offered though the instructional technologies unit. (faculty satisfaction)
ï The university has provided additional funding to support the instructional design unit, thereby increasing faculty training capacity. (scale)
ï The university implemented the Best Practices Checklist (, a self-study for online and hybrid courses based on established quality measures, which is now required of all faculty who teach online and hybrid courses. (scale, learning effectiveness)
ï Revised university policy (Policy and Procedure Statement 2.16 -- specifically governs online and hybrid courses and includes expectations of online faculty performance (learning effectiveness, scale).
ï The newly implemented Student Online Learning Readiness Self-Assessment ( provides online and hybrid students with a self-assessment and customized recommendations for success; students are linked to this self-assessment at the time they view an online or hybrid class in the Schedule of Classes. (student satisfaction, learning effectiveness)
ï The Help Desk, which provides distance learning students with technical and other support, now offers 24-hour support. (student satisfaction)
ï The Student and Faculty sections of the distance learning website ( are now much more robust, to provide distance education students and faculty with centralized resources and more comprehensive information. (student satisfaction, faculty satisfaction)
ï The university is piloting a remote exam proctoring service. (access, scale, learning effectiveness)
ï The university instituted the annual Award for Excellence in Online Teaching (; 2016 will be the third year for the award. (faculty satisfaction)
ï The University Bookstore website ( now allows students to order textbooks and course materials online. (student satisfaction)

Continuing Implementation:
A reward of the QS process continues to be collaboration among divisions and individuals from separate units who share responsibility for distance education at Texas State. At a recent Steering Committee meeting, members reviewed the initial recommendations from the QS self-study that have been achieved. The next steps are for the Steering Committee to consider other QS recommendations from the original self-study and prioritize unrealized recommendations for further action. Innovations and improvements to distance education, which are the outcomes of the QS, and which are achieved through collaboration, will thus continue.

Session Outcomes
After this session participants will be able to do the following:

ï Describe the process of implementing the QS self-study
ï Use the QS Scoring Rubric to score out one quality indicator
ï Explain the effectiveness of collaboration in driving institutional change and improvement
ï Identify the strengths and weaknesses of Texas State's process for ensuring quality in online and hybrid education
ï Assess programs at their own institutions that may be benefit from self-assessment.

Presentation Session
This session will be interactive, while explaining Texas State's multi-year process for using the QS to drive innovation and change. We will also provide session attendees with the opportunity to try out the QS Scoring Rubric for one quality indicator. In addition, we will invite contributions from session attendees about effective processes at their own institutions. We will welcome questions and look forward to receiving suggestions and feedback from our colleagues in the field.

Materials to be Provided
ï Chart demonstrating QS recommendations alongside achievements and next steps
ï QS quality indicator practice handout