Building Quality Assessment into Online Courses Across the Institution

Building Quality Assessment into Online Courses Across the Institution

Michael L. Rodgers (Southeast Missouri State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-942-7.ch016


This case shows how a long-term, campus-wide effort balanced technological, pedagogical, financial, and political considerations to develop and implement a system for online course quality assessment at a medium-sized public university in the Midwest. The case shows how the need for an assessment system came to be recognized, and how the committee charged with creating the system arrived at a solution which took into account both course design and instructor performance. Thus, the institution now has, for the first time, a tool for improving the quality of its online courses. Moreover, it is hoped that administrators, faculty, and faculty developers will see that the quality assessment system joins a course management software suite development effort and a series of faculty training workshops in a wide-ranging list of tools for enhancing faculty competence as users of technology for teaching and learning.
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The Case

This case study describes the events that led to the development and implementation of a system to assess the quality of online courses offered by a comprehensive, Master’s-granting, public university in the Midwest. The University, which was founded in the 19th Century as a Normal School, enrolled 8000 students by the mid-1990’s; enrollment has since grown to almost 11000, with almost 11% of credit hours now generated from online courses. From 1997 to 2008, the faculty grew from 380 to 400 in number. As the case study reveals, the institution’s regional mission - shaped by sensitivity to the disadvantaged economic condition of much of the region - was a major factor in the development of a strong schedule of online courses.

While implementation of a system for quality assessment of online courses is the ultimate focus of this case study, it is useful to trace the history of online courses at the institution, for it is through the history that we see how the users of the assessment system – faculty and administrators – became educated in the art and science of online teaching by the development process itself. Had that education not occurred, the assessment system would have been impossible to develop, and meaningless to implement. Much like a qualifying exam in a Master’s program, the institution’s quality assessment system serves simultaneously as an indicator of how well the institution responded to the challenge of online teaching, and a predictor of its future success. The process described in the history was not perfect. Rather, it was the product of many faculty, professional staff, and administrators, serving on several committees over many years. The process was shaped by political imperatives, funding levels, and, importantly, the time that the various committee members were able to commit to the effort. Despite the many variables, the institution came to consensus on a system for assessing online course quality. Perhaps because of the many variables, this case study offers its users insight into the complex problem of online course assessment.

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