Quality MattersTM: A Case of Collaboration and Continuous Improvement for Online Courses

Quality MattersTM: A Case of Collaboration and Continuous Improvement for Online Courses

Kay Shattuck (Quality Matters and The Pennsylvania State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-111-9.ch010


Finally, by following the threads of collaboration and continuous improvement, the chapter ends with highlighting the growth of, some emerging data from, and some challenges and recommendations for Quality Matters.
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Setting The Stage

Survey reports from the SLOAN Consortium of Institutions and Originations Committed to Quality Online Education document online education growth in the U.S. from an opportunity to be “sized” in 2002 (Allen & Seaman, 2003) to a reality “entering the mainstream” in 2004 (Allen & Seaman, 2004) to an arrived position of growth patterns that surpass general enrollments in higher education in 2008 (Allen & Seaman, 2008). The growth of online distance education over the past decade raised the discussion of quality assurance within and outside of the academe.

Inglis, Ling, and Joosten (1999) suggested that quality assurance is a term that moved into education from industry more than a half century ago. Best practices and benchmarking are important concepts. Best practices are, “The adoption of work practices which, when effectively linked together, can be expected to lead to sustainable world-class outcomes in quality, customer satisfaction, flexibility, timeliness, innovation and cost-competiveness” (p. 198). Benchmarking, as defined by Inglis, Ling and Joosten is, “the on-going systematic process of measuring and comparing the work processes of one organization with those of another. The purpose of benchmarking is to provide a point of reference for evaluating the improvement in a process” (p. 197). Quality in education generally focuses either on a process or on outcomes. Thompson and Irele (2007) pointed out the confusion of words like “quality”, a term “generally used to refer to program characteristics and processes (technological infrastructure, student services, etc), and “effectiveness” as the term while “effectiveness” more usually refers to outcomes (learning outcomes, participant satisfaction, etc).

Moore and Kearsley (2005) provided a widely cited definition of distance education that frames the breadth and multi-levels of quality assurance issues from a systems perspective: “Distance education is planned learning that normally occurs in a different place from teaching, requiring special course design and instruction techniques, communication through various technologies, and special organizational and administrative arrangements” (p. 2). From this broader systems view of distance education, Sherry (2003) highlighted three viewpoints of quality – from the institutional level, from an instructor level, and from a learner’s perspective. Ruhe and Zumbo (2009) noted other stakeholders such as accreditation organizations and funders. The issue of quality assurance gathered focused energy as online distance education came to be seen as a serious challenge the accepted standard bearer – traditional, classroom-based education. Therefore, faculty and administrators invested in a culture of traditional, classroom-based education can be identified in the list of stakeholders.

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