Quality Matters: Is My Course Ready for QM?

Quality Matters. Well, yes it does, but how does it apply to courses—namely yours?

If you are not familiar with it, the Quality Matters program is a faculty-driven, collaborative, peer review process designed to improve online and blended courses. Courses are measured against a set of eight standards (a.k.a. The QM Rubric) which focus heavily on student learning outcomes. These standards include course design, learning objectives, measurements of assessment, instructional materials, learner interaction and engagement, course technologies, learner support, and accessibility.

Each of these eight standards are further segmented into a number of sub-standards with assigned values that range from 1 to 3 points. A course must meet all of the 3 point standards in order to pass the review process. This research-supported rubric promotes the best practices in course design and is updated every three years to reflect the latest methods and technologies.

In 2011, FIU Online adopted Quality Matters as part of the continuous effort to improve the quality of courses offered. Since then, over 220 courses have successfully completed the program and achieve certification.

Quality Matters Evaluation

Now let’s take a peek at the QM rubric.


Deciphering the rubric and objectively assessing your own course can be daunting–even overwhelming. It is not surprising to find faculty attempt to evaluate their course only to become frustrated and give up. Quality Matters is not meant to be painful. If the right approach is taken, it can have a greater impact beyond just getting a stamp of approval. Research has shown that QM has a positive influence on student retention, performance, and satisfaction. Because QM heavily focuses on alignment between learning outcomes and assessments, students have a better idea of how to succeed. They are able to focus more on learning and less on navigating a course.

Redesigning a course for QM review can be difficult if it is not approached correctly. One of the most prevalent mistakes is lacking clear, measurable course and unit-level objectives from the start of development. In this case, objectives will often be added to a course after it has been completely designed. The objectives likely won’t describe learners’ goals in specific, measurable terms. Furthermore, the objectives might lack a clear connection with the course activities and assessments. This lack of alignment makes it difficult to measure the level of mastery of the material.  

Another common mistake stems from insufficient or absent descriptive criteria which would be used to evaluate the learner’s performance in a course. Commonly found in the form of rubrics, the criteria should clearly and easily explain the instructor’s expectations for students’ performance. A well-designed rubric should provide structure and consistency in grading such that multiple instructors using the same rubric would provide the same score for any student’s performance.

Applying Best Practices of Course Design

The good news is that these and other obstacles are easy to overcome by following the QM rubric. However, the rubric has a lot to digest if you try to tackle it all at once. We will be taking a step-by-step approach to QM readiness in this series of articles as we focus on what to look for, what to avoid, and reliable strategies for designing a Quality Matters certified course.. We will

  • Discuss learning outcomes and provide tips on developing clear, measurable objectives at the course and unit level.  
  • Highlight the connection between the alignment of learning outcomes and activities and assessments within a course.
  • Showcase different types of meaningful instructional materials that instructors can use to promote student learning.
  • Show you how to evaluate the assessments in your course.
  • Discuss learner interaction and engagement within a course and how it contributes to student success.
  • Touch upon the importance of meeting accessibility standards and how they align with FIU Online’s “All-In” approach to course design.

However, there is no need to wait! Your instructional designer has already completed the QM training workshop and is familiar with the process. Set up a meeting today and get the conversation started.  

Senior Instructional Designer with FIU Online and guest contributor to the FIU Insider.

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