Course Quality Control

This past semester I was invited to join the university’s Blending/Distance Learning Advisory Committee. I attended my first meeting of the committee a couple weeks ago, and it was very interesting on a number of levels. As the new guy, I mostly stayed quiet and listened.

The committee is drafting a process for developing a university-sanctioned online course. A significant piece of the process is quality control, and early on the course developer is asked several questions about their qualifications for teaching an online course and how the course design leads to effective learning.

One of the group asked, “How come we have to answer these questions about online courses, when the Curriculum Committee doesn’t ask them of courses offered in the traditional face-to-face manner?” We went into a predictable discussion about how the reality is that online courses, as something relatively new and nontraditional, are suspect in quality and that we need to explicitly address those concerns in our online course development process if we hope to give the process validity among the UMW faculty. In the middle of the discussion, it occurred to me that a more profound response would be to imagine a time when we would ask those questions of all course proposals.

Could our work on this committee lead to more deliberate thinking on course design and course quality by all our faculty at UMW? If we get sufficient buy-in from this online course development process, perhaps the curriculum committee would consider adopting aspects of our process for theirs.

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5 Responses to Course Quality Control

  1. jmcclurken says:

    Having recently had to justify aspects of a course change to the Curriculum Committee, I would argue that they are already asking many questions about quality and effective teaching.

  2. Robert S Rycroft says:

    Thanks, Jeff. I would only add the Curriculum Committee already has a full plate. Virtually every meeting goes 2 hours as it is. If we added more expectations, they would have to start paying us overtime.

  3. Steve says:

    @Jeff – Was the course you were asked to justify something outside of the traditional curriculum? If so, I’m not surprised you were asked many questions. I remember the first blended course I proposed, and a member of the CC suggested that the course would be accepted if I would reduce the credit hours requested since some of the course content was presented online instead of in the classroom. Anyway, if you were proposing something traditional, say 19th American History, I wonder if you would have been grilled as much.

    @Bob – I’m not trying to criticize the Curriculum Committee. One interesting aspect of this story is that online courses, if they don’t already exist in traditional formats, still have to go thru the curriculum committee in addition to the online course proposal process. I haven’t submitted a new course proposal in a while, so I was basing my observations strictly on your new course proposal form. My impression was that the CC examines course content more than delivery and assessment methods, which is the opposite of the proposed online course proposal. If I’m right, it might be useful for the CC to take a look at the online questions when they become public.

  4. jmcclurken says:

    No, I wouldn’t say it was outside the traditional curriculum at all. They had a number of questions about how the course met the goals of the department and discipline and how it addressed the needs of the students.

  5. Since the Teaching Resources Center at UC Davis oversees the approval of all first-year seminars, we have assembled a faculty toolkit for instructors who wish to teach a FYS. You might check it out (PDF). I find the table of expectations on page 4 to be especially cheering. Certainly not all courses on campus could or should follow this rubric, as not all courses share the goals of our FYS program. But it does make me wonder what the approval process is within the Faculty Senate’s Committee on Courses. . .

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