QOLTivating Best Practices for Blended-Online Learning

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

Sharing extensive information and resources regarding the CSU Quality Assurance program to support, develop, and feature innovative and exemplary blended-online instructors and courses.

Extended Abstract

The CSU continues to pursue the national, accelerating trend of significant growth in online teaching and learning. As CSU campuses offer additional online courses, it is critical to define quality online teaching and learning, as well as to determine how to assess courses and make suggested improvements. It is necessary to support faculty, staff, and administrator efforts to design and deliver online courses with our students achieving academic standards and graduating in a timely manner. The State of California Assembly Bill 386 requires the CSU to provide its students access to all fully online CSU courses across our 23 campuses. With the prospect of significantly larger numbers of fully online courses being available, the CSU is working to establish, promote, and implement quality assurance practices to support faculty in implementing exemplary online instructional practices, thereby more students completing these courses successfully.

This session will describe and demonstrate efforts in place to support campuses in building a culture of quality and continuous improvement in online course offerings through cross-campus collaboration and recognition of courses that successfully meet CSU Quality Online Learning & Teaching (QOLT) objectives and/or national Quality Matters standards. These efforts include three primary components: a) Development of the CSU Quality Online Learning & Teaching (QOLT) instrument to help faculty develop quality hybrid-online courses; b) Providing support for faculty to engage in quality assurance activities and training in the use of technologies and "exemplary practice" teaching methods for online instruction, and; c) Recognition of faculty who demonstrate their commitment and competence to develop and deliver quality online courses.
The first component includes creation and adoption of a useful evaluation tool to assist faculty in more effectively (re)designing blended and online courses. In 2011, CSU Academic Technology Services developed the CSU Quality Online Learning & Teaching (qolt.csuprojects.org) instrument, which includes 10 sections with 58 objectives, providing guidance to instructors in the design and delivery of online courses. The program is in its fifth year of implementation in the CSU, with 18 campuses using the QOLT assessment instrument. In 2015, the CSU launched two free fully-online QOLT training courses that are now used extensively by CSU faculty and staff: "Introduction to Teaching Online Using QOLT" and "Reviewing Courses Using the QOLT Instrument." Additionally, a systemwide subscription with Quality Matters provides interested campuses with discounted training through Quality Matters.

The second component includes support for campuses to build and sustain communities of faculty and staff engaged in and leading their campus quality assurance activities and providing training in the use of technologies and "exemplary practice" teaching methods for online instruction. Support for campuses includes implementation of an annual RFP Program to develop local Quality Assurance activities. The QA Program is in its fifth year of impacting campus efforts by providing funding, resources, and support to CSU faculty and staff designing and assessing quality online courses, with an average of 20 campuses funded per year. Additionally, at the system level, training for faculty and staff has been developed and provided to complement campus training opportunities. To date, over 2,000 CSU faculty and staff have received training to apply the CSU QOLT (Quality Online Learning & Teaching) instrument and/or the Quality Matters (QM) rubric to guide them in the development or revision of a blended-online course.

The third component to support campus efforts is the recognition of exemplary courses that successfully meet CSU Quality Online Learning & Teaching (QOLT) objectives. Since 2011, CSU campuses have participated in an annual QOLT Awards & Recognition program that reviews blended-online courses. Approximately 18 campuses participate yearly, impacting 1,000+ instructors across the CSU. Those campuses reviewed and considered exemplary are featured through multiple systemwide communications and presentations, such as online webinar and narrated coursecasts. This has also led to the development of an online repository of QOLT-indexed exemplars (QOLTies) that are available for viewing and repurposing by anyone through a Creative Commons license. A demonstration of the repository, along with access, will be given to all attendees. In addition, the Chancellor's Office has launched a process for "Formal Course Review" of online courses across the 23-campus system. A team approach of three certified reviewers (cross-collaboration of peer-reviewers across the system) review the course from the student perspective and apply the instrument to the course, providing affirmation of excellence and feedback for course improvement. Courses meeting the CSU QOLT certification or Quality Matters certification receive a certification mark placed inside their course and are recognized on various campus and systemwide websites. To date, 10 CSU campuses have participated in this 2015-2016 pilot. Data from the pilot (instructors and reviewers) will be shared in the session.

This conference is an ideal setting for engaging higher education faculty, developers, and administrators through discussion of these quality assurance components. Session attendees will be invited to participate in discussions/polling related to each of the above structural components: a) evaluation instruments; b) support and training, and; c) recognition and dissemination strategies. Discussions will be documented in Google docs available to all participants. Goals of the session include participants gaining familiarity with and discussing evaluation instruments that can be used to assist faculty design and delivery of online and blended courses. Participants will also be able to identify the structural supports used to establish cross-campus collaboration for training and formal course reviews (recognition) across a system. Lastly, participants will also be able to view the QOLT Instrument, QOLT repository of exemplars, and publication of campus QA ePortfolios which document the evidence of the campus quality assurance activities. All of the above CSU resources are available through CC BY-NC-SA license.