Celebrating Online Course Quality: From Self-assessment to Institutional Recognition

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

During this session, presenters will outline the reasons for streamlining the institutional process for reviewing and recognizing online courses for quality. With the accelerated growth of today’s online education landscape, presenters will share their process, results and lessons learned for implementing a scalable quality online course review process.


Tracy Miller is the Assistant Director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at Northern Illinois University. At NIU she is responsible for operations, quality assurance, and compliance process and reporting for the center.
Jason Rhode, Ph.D. is Associate Vice Provost for Teaching, Learning, and Digital Education at Northern Illinois University (NIU). In his role he serves as chief online learning officer, oversees NIU's Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, oversees university-wide accreditation, and provides strategic leadership for the design and delivery of high quality digital learning.
Megan offers programs and consultations to faculty, teaching staff and teaching assistants on effective online teaching and learning, integration of digital learning tools and techniques, and application of quality standards. She assists in planning, coordination, and implementation of online teaching professional development activities and large-scale digital course materials accessibility programs and initiatives. Megan is also enrolled in NIU's Instructional Technology PhD program.

Extended Abstract

How can we scale the number of online courses recognized for quality using research-based standards? That was the question we were asking ourselves. The presentation will begin with a brief history of our efforts to support quality online course design. In 2014, this public institution adopted standards for quality course design. Between 2014 and 2020, we implemented a strategy focused on educational awareness of and support for researched-based best practices and standards for quality online course design. The strategy included a vetted set of quality essential recommendations and an informal review process. A small audience of course developers were highly engaged in improving online courses. Momentum was gaining and faculty did begin to request informal reviews of their courses.

Later the university’s teaching and learning center also provided opportunities to engage in an “Improving the Quality of Online Course Design” partnership. While informal review efforts were gaining momentum there was only a small number of faculty developing online courses and teaching online. The previous course review process was disjointed, and it was difficult for faculty to clearly see the path before them.  

In the next part of the presentation, the presenters will recount how the pandemic changed our trajectory in reviewing online courses for quality. The audience of online course developers and quality believers grew. By 2021 more and more faculty had a taste of teaching in an emergency remote environment, without the benefit of systematic training on what constitutes a quality online course. The quality stakes are now even higher and student success has never been more important. To overcome complex barriers to having courses reviewed and recognized, in the fall of 2022 we have actively streamlined the online course review process. We now have the capacity and the tools to support faculty through a process of self-assessing their courses, transitioning the self-assessment to an internal course review, and recognizing the courses as quality. With a Quality Essentials credential, course developers can confidentially seek out even higher levels of recognition for their courses.

We will discuss our solution to scale the quantity and feasibility for conducting course reviews. Session participants will be introduced to the streamlined solution which still allows for self-review, professional evaluation, and recognition. Presenters will discuss implementing a custom online course review process from how it aligns with institutional priorities to the day-to-day individual support for improving the quality of online course design. Finally, we will share the results of our efforts to date and the lessons learned.