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By Toni DiMella

You have probably heard the staff of the Center for Academic Innovation and Faculty Support (CAIFS) refer to QM in meetings, webinars, and trainings.  Over the past year, USC Upstate has been transitioning from using the Online Course Quality Review Rubric from the State University of New York (SUNY) system to assess the quality of online courses and programs to Quality Matters or QM. You might be wondering What is QM? Where did they come from? How does it work? Why should I use it? Let’s explore!

What is QM?

In some ways, the name says it all: Quality Matters. This means that the quality of online course design and organization matters to ensure student learning and to promote student retention and success. The Quality Matters global organization is the leading professional development and certification institution, providing “quality assurance in online and innovative digital teaching and learning environments” (QM’s Vision). Its mission is to “promote and improve the quality of online education and student learning nationally and internationally through:

  • Development of current, research-supported, and practice-based quality standards and appropriate evaluation tools and procedures.
  • Recognition of expertise in online education quality assurance and evaluation.
  • Fostering a culture of continuous improvement by integrating QM Standards and processes into organizational plans to improve the quality of online education.
  • Providing professional development in the use of rubrics, tools, and practices to improve the quality of online education.
  • Peer review and certification of quality in online education.” (QM’s Mission)

It does this through a thorough course review process guided by the use of detailed rubrics and trained reviewers.

Where did it come from?

QM stands for Quality Matters. A small group of colleagues in the MarylandOnline, Inc. (MOL) consortium were trying to solve a common problem in education: how do we measure and guarantee the quality of a course? They developed a process for course quality assurance. They then applied for and were awarded a 3-year Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) Grant in 2003. After the grant ended, it continued as a nonprofit part of MOL until it formed its own 501 (c)(3) non-profit in 2014. Since then, QM has grown into an internationally recognized program with more than 1500 colleges and universities throughout the world joining the QM community. Thousands of online and blended courses have completed the certification process and trained more than 60,000 people. Read more here!

How does it work?

For a course to earn the QM Certification Mark it must successfully undergo an Official Course Review. A review team of three QM-trained reviewers collaborates with an institution’s certified QM Coordinator and course representative to gain access to a fully developed course (resources, instructional materials, assessments, and assignments—everything!). The review team has three weeks to examine the course and assess its design, delivery, content, use of technology, support, and overall user experience using a rubric. The review team provides feedback and an overall score. If the course meets the scoring requirements, it will earn the certification mark. If it doesn’t and the course representative still wishes to earn certification, the course representative has two additional course revision attempts, over a maximum of 14 weeks, to update their course using the reviewers’ feedback and the rubric as a guide. Each revision is reviewed again, but only by the lead reviewer (called the Master Reviewer). Read more here!

Why should I bother with QM?

“A well-designed course is more likely to engage learners and positively affect their performance.” Using the QM Higher Education Rubric (QMHER) during the design phase and as an assessment tool after it is built helps to ensure your course is transparent, well-aligned, and accessible which reduces barriers and increases student learning. If they don’t know how to navigate the course, how will they access the information? If they’re not sure how two pieces of information are related, how can they make connections? If they open/see/hear the information, how can they learn it? The QMHER creates a robust checklist to use during the course development process and the course review helps you identify areas for improvement. Read more here!

Now that you know a bit more about QM, CAIFS hopes to see you at webinars and trainings during the academic year so you can learn about using the QM standards to help guide and improve your overall course design!

Want to meet one on one? Book an appointment using your USC Upstate credentials through the Bookings App!