Lately, around Washington DC, around Ohio, and around UC, the word “quality” is being thrown around morethan a baseball at a T-ball game. It was even used by basketball announcers, who separated the first half of the Bearcat season from the second half by referring to only our second half wins as “quality” wins. (Sports analogies are always so useful, don’t you think?)
Of course, you know where I’m headed: nowhere is this issue of quality more debated than in online learning. But without a common definition of what quality is and what it looks like, we get a lot of well-intentioned but meaningless hot air.
One of my most favorite (my tongue is in my cheek here, folks) measures of quality is the insistence to compare online to face-to-face. If students are learning the same stuff (ie, getting the same grades on tests), then we can say the online course is quality. The recent article in the NY Times about online education in K12 schools underscores this unfortunate comparison. But we’re pretty savvy around here, we know “quality” varies greatly in face-to-face classes, just like it does in online learning. Why aren’t we, as researchers of online learning, insisting on seeing the data that prove face-to-face classes are quality, before we go validating our online outcomes against them?
Lucky for us online instructors who are being held to these standards of high quality, there are some measures we can use without resorting to a comparison study.
1. Quality Matters. UC is a member institution and trainings are readily available on applying their rubric to your online course. Some faculty and staff are already being trained as peer reviewers, so we’ll have a cadre of support as we move towards re-development for semesters to ensure our courses are meeting this nationally-accepted definition and indicator of quality.
2. Sloan-C. This international organization has developed a scorecard to supplement QM. It addresses issues like online student support and other important components of an online program.
How are you defining quality? What data are you using to prove it? How is it getting shared with prospective students and decision-makers alike? Maybe it’s time we roll up our sleeves, design a research study, and show the world our online quality!