Efficiency and Quality Improvement in Online Course Development

Efficiency and Quality Improvement in Online Course Development

Erick Hilbert (Indiana Wesleyan University, USA) and Kim Mierau (Indiana Wesleyan University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5051-0.ch022

Abstract

This chapter addresses the inefficiencies and quality concerns in online course development at a university and specifically the steps taken by the Instructional Design Team (ID Team) to improve the situation. Initial issues and organizational changes are identified, as well as the effects these had on the ID Team, processes, and overall function. Specifically, this chapter discusses how known issues were attempted to be solved, as well as the incorporation of Quality Matters, the creation of work groups, the standardization of documents and processes, and the promotion and creation of buy-in. Areas of difficulty and setbacks are also discussed. In addition, the chapter provides ideas and insights for organizations that might find themselves in similar situations of needing to improve the quality of online course development from initial offerings while also needing to change systems, procedures, and functionalities to facilitate that improvement.
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Setting The Stage

The course development process has changed greatly from the inception of the online program in 1996 to today. Prior to this, courses were constructed and managed solely by program directors and course writers. This led to many deficiencies and inconsistencies in course design. In 2000 the university hired its first Instructional Designer. The ID was hired to work alongside course writers to insure appropriate online delivery and that learning objectives were met.

Initially course writers were encouraged to create the course learning outcomes first, then to move on to concept mapping and workshop outlining. The mapping and outlining was done in an initial meeting, called a Design Group Meeting. Course writers typically received their contracts five months before the course was needed. IDs would receive course materials 30 days before the due date, allowing them one month to make any revisions or changes. Deadlines, however, were not enforced or upheld. IDs often received courses just a few weeks, days, or even hours before a course was set to open.

Course documents were simplistic, using a basic header over each meaningful section. However, each document contained various components of content. For example, one might contain a workshop introduction, faith and learning section, outcomes, and assignments, while another might only have outcomes and assignments. There were no set standards for font, format, or wording of documents. Writers were encouraged to use the basic document templates with headers, but this was not enforced.

As the process has developed, many changes have occurred. Master Course Outlines (MCO) have been created. The MCO is a guiding document that defines key information such as course description, outcomes, and types of assignments. MCOs are very specific, outlining the program outcomes, course outcomes, workshop outcomes and checking for the alignment between all three outcome levels. It also factors in the course description and basic assessment ideas for the course. MCOs allow the ID, Program Manager, and course writer to see the alignment of a course from both the top-down program level and also the detailed workshop level. Initial meetings still take place and deadlines are created. Deadlines are still sometimes missed, but there is progress in moving toward greater accountability. In addition, specific course document templates have been created that are mandatory for use.

Between 2007 and 2009 a new provost came to the university, as well as a new vice president over the adult and online programs. The provost laid the vision to reorganize the university into colleges and schools. This reorganization led to many changes within CDL, including restructuring and the renaming of the department to the Center for Learning and Innovation (CLI).

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