Integrating Course Quality within a Community of Practice

Integrating Course Quality within a Community of Practice

Jocelyn Sherman (Capella University, USA), Michelle Yener (Capella University, USA), Casey Price (Capella University, USA), Linda Grant (Capella University, USA), Karla Gable (Capella University, USA) and Nick White (Capella University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5051-0.ch021
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Online institutions continue to seek quality guidelines related to effective course development and quality improvements. The struggle lies in getting support from institutional leaders to implement new ideas. While perseverance and serendipity always play a part when these efforts are successful, a few of Capella’s strategies were vital to their implementation of systematic course quality: 1. Selecting a course quality assurance partner that was a good fit, 2. Piloting the program for fit and to build experienced supporters, 3. Forming a core group that was accountable for the implementation, 4. Building a steering committee of senior leaders from across the institution, 5. Nurturing a community of practice with many avenues for genuine participation, and 6. Establishing and being held accountable for measurable goals. This case study describes Capella University’s implementation of a course quality system through a community of practice (CoP) model that facilitated genuine buy-in rather than top-down implementation.
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Setting The Stage

This case study explains Capella’s university-wide implementation of a course quality assurance system and the factors that contributed to its success. We will describe the process and highlight the components of the implementation that we feel most directly attributed to its success.

We began by selecting a high-quality, nationally-recognized external quality assurance system in the form of Quality Matters; choosing this route allowed Capella to avoid the need to negotiate its own standards internally. Testing the relationship with QM in small pilot projects ensured that QM was a good fit for our needs while simultaneously building a community of supporters for the program within Capella. The development of a Course Quality Committee (CQC) provided a small group of faculty and staff with the opportunity to build their expertise and lead the implementation. The committee was comprised of and primarily led by faculty representing each of the five schools at Capella. This clear faculty ownership was perceived as an important indicator of Capella’s culture, which values the faculty perspective in academic initiatives; the CQC was instrumental in building leadership support for the initiative. Our QM Steering Committee also played an important leadership role in the implementation of QM. The steering committee consisted of leaders who informed decisions and carried important messages to key stakeholders.

Setting and reaching goals was also a key to successful implementation. The initial goals focused on building knowledge and participation throughout the university, and the CQC was responsible for ensuring that these goals were met. As the process developed, the CQC was called on to frequently revise efforts to meet goals, and eventually found approaches that secured participation and buy-in. Finally, the CoP, which organically developed around the implementation of QM, provided an exceptional environment for continued growth.

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