Continuous Improvement: Recognizing Quality Online Course Design with Badging
Concurrent Session 7
Molloy University’s membership with Quality Matters supports a culture of continuous improvement. Taking a sub-set of Quality Matters standards led to an abbreviated quality checklist that is now applied to online courses. Learn about how this program was planned, piloted, revised, and fully launched as the first faculty badge program.
The Office of Blended and Online Learning (BOL) is charged with upholding quality design standards for hybrid and online courses at Molloy University (MU). Through MU’s membership with Quality Matters (QM), the Office supports a culture of continuous improvement. QM provides objective, evidence-based, and flexible ways to review the components of hybrid and online course design. The focus on quality course design is an essential piece to ensure students can easily navigate the course, understand expectations, and focus on meeting the stated learning objectives. This new initiative celebrates and recognizes faculty for their development of quality online courses that are intentionally designed to support diverse students in achieving their learning objectives. That is where QM’s research-supported Rubrics and Standards really shine.
Molloy, like many higher education institutions during the pandemic, transitioned to remote instruction with little time and preparation. As we reflect on the lasting effects of the pandemic, we continue to see increased student demand and increased faculty willingness to transform traditional courses to online formats. As a result of this shift, BOL transformed the way they delivered its faculty development offerings, including consultations, workshops, and courses. According to Kuntz, Davis & Fleming (2022), “numerous institutions reported that during the initial shift to remote instruction, workshops were offered in a variety of ways: remote one-on-one consultations, small virtual groups, and large Zoom or Microsoft Teams webinars.” BOL was leveraging these strategies as well to reach as many faculty members as possible.
Molloy had no formal way of recognizing quality online courses and faculty who design them with an instructional designer. While BOL does not have any formal authority over the quality of online course designs, the Office does promote best practices through a variety of faculty development programs. Launching a quality course design program came with its initial challenges. There was resistance to launching such an initiative based on such factors as managing instructional designers’ workload and anticipation of low faculty participation rates. However, the Dean of Innovative Delivery Methods forged ahead and presented the concept to academic leadership and received a warm welcome. The program is now experiencing significant interest beyond initial expectations and the presenters will share participation rates during the presentation.
Internal Professional Development
Before we could launch an internal badging program, training a team of instructional designers was the priority. The team can apply the QM Rubric and start an internal peer review process at the University if they all successfully completed the QM training. BOL requires the Applying the QM Rubric and Peer Review certificates of completion for the instructional designers prior to working with faculty on their online course design for the badging program. After completing the necessary training, the BOL team took a sub-set of QM standards which led to an abbreviated quality checklist that is now applied to online courses. It was important to include accessibility standards in the checklist, as accessibility professional development resides within the BOL office. Once the checklist was established, then the instructional designer outreach began during the Spring of 2022, with the first badges awarded during the summer of 2022 as part of the pilot program. Reflections from the course instructional designers, faculty participants, and peer reviews were collected and discussed so that changes could be made to the program.
When evaluating the awarded credential, BOL looked beyond the basic certificate that was already in use for identifying faculty achievements at the University. In addition to providing a visual record of achievement, digital badges can be shared through social media and professional networking sites, added to a digital portfolio, and many can be printed off and added to a physical portfolio (Dyjur & Lindstrom, 2017). “Digital credentialing platform Credly reports that the number of organizations issuing industry and workforce credentials is up 83 percent since the pandemic (Gallagher & Zanville, 2021). Leaders in education have experimented with personalization through the creation of and investment in accessible and relevant professional development (Hunt, Carter, Zhang & Yang (2020). The Quality Online Course Design Badge is relevant and provides personalized professional development during the design phase and peer review feedback.
Faculty Development and Process
To participate in Molloy’s program, faculty are trained in applying the QM Standards and then collaborate with a highly qualified and QM-certified instructional designer to achieve the quality designation for their course. The course is reviewed by a peer faculty and another instructional designer from BOL. To receive the Quality Online Course Design badge (the first faculty badge of its kind issued by the University), the course will meet the selected standards of Molloy’s Abbreviated Quality Checklist. Applying quality online course design best practices and building an online learning community allowed this program to grow in its first year. During this session, learn about how this program was planned, piloted, revised, and is now fully launched by BOL. Defining the issues, incorporating accessibility, identifying resources, forging new partnerships, creating new administrative processes, and reflecting to make improvements will also be shared during this session.
When reviewing our pilot there were several key takeaways. Some of our key takeaways are as follows:
- The importance of building the relationship and developing a partnership with each faculty beginning with the first meeting.
- Recognition of both the faculty member and the course instructional designer publicly.
- Revise the Abbreviated Checklist to include standards that were not listed as QM Essential Standards (e.g., accessibility standards).
- Keeping our recommendations congenial and specific, as this reinforced the Quality Matters mindset for continuous improvement.
Audience members will be asked to respond to a series of online polling questions throughout the presentation based on their own institution’s quality course design initiatives. Challenges and leadership strategies will also be shared and discussed with the audience to help launch quality assurance programs at their own institutions.
Dyjur, & Lindstrom, G. (2017). Perceptions and Uses of Digital Badges for Professional Learning Development in Higher Education. TechTrends, 61(4), 386–392. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-017-0168-2.
Kuntz, Davis & Fleming (2022). 7 Ways the Pandemic Changed Faculty Development. Educause Teaching and Learning. Retrieved at https://er.educause.edu/articles/2022/5/7-ways-the-pandemic-changed-faculty-development.
Gallagher, S., & Zanville, H. (2021, March 25). More employers are awarding credentials. Is a parallel higher education system emerging? EdSurge. Retrieved at https://www.edsurge.com/news/2021-03-25-more-employers-are-awardingcredentials-is-a-parallel-higher-education-system-emerging.
Hunt T, Carter R, Zhang L, Yang S. Micro-credentials: The potential of personalized professional development. Development and Learning in Organizations. 2020;34(2):33-35. https://doi.org/10.1108/DLO-09-2019-0215.