High Impact Techniques for Quality Course Design


FIU Online’s Insider Instructor Webinar series explores relevant instructional strategies and effective uses of technology for the online environment. #QualityGoals: HIIT – High Impact Imperative Techniques for Online Quality Course Design reviewed the Panther Quality Course Design Initiative, the general standards of the QM Rubric, and the critical elements of the QM quality assurance process.

Instant Replay: #QualityGoals: HIIT – High Impact Imperative Techniques for Online Quality Course Design

You may have heard that you can reap amazing benefits from incorporating HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) into your fitness routine, but there is a different type of HIIT for online learning that will also yield substantial outcomes when incorporated into your course design process. In a recent webinar Jessica Rodriguez, Herminia “Mimi” Lezcano, and Gladys Diaz of FIU Online’s Quality Assurance Team describe High Impact Imperative Techniques (HIIT) for online quality course design as well as the different paths that can be taken to ensure your online course is officially recognized by the state and FIU for meeting these standards. If you missed this webinar, you can view the recording or read some of the key takeaways below.

Achieving Panther Quality Online Course Design

Jessica Rodriguez, Online Quality Manager at FIU Online, began the presentation by explaining that the State University System (SUS) of Florida has outlined a process that ensures courses achieve a certain standard of quality based on the Quality Matters (QM) course design framework. QM is a peer-review program based on national standards and research on best practices in course design.

QM is not new to the FIU community. In fact, FIU Online has been recognized as number one in the nation for having the most active QM certified courses! FIU Online launched Achieving Panther Quality Course Design initiative in the Fall of 2018 to satisfy the SUS mandate while also ensuring that students are provided with the highest quality learning experiences. The goal is that by 2025, all online courses are designed to meet the QM course design framework.

Quality Matters (QM) Certification Vs. High Quality (HQ) Designation

quality matters and high quality online course designations

The SUS 2025 strategic plan identifies two routes for courses to meet the state standards. One route is the Quality Matters (QM) certification, which is a formal process completed by reviewers from external institutions. The other option is to obtain the FIU Panther High Quality (HQ) designation, which has a shorter timeline with a review completed by internal reviewers from FIU. Both of these paths will ensure the course meets all of the QM essential standards and come with support from FIU Online instructional designers. In addition, each designation offers a monetary incentive.

Instructors of existing courses have a choice to opt-in to this redesign process until 2025, but they are expected to automatically design new courses to QM standards. The state defines “new” courses as those which meet one or more of the criteria listed below.

If the course:

  • Is a new offering (never been taught online)
  • Is an existing course, but with a new faculty assignment
  • Hasn’t been offered online in over five years

High Impact Imperative Techniques (HIIT)

person typing for quality online course design

In short, the QM program’s rubric is composed of eight general standards, which contain 42 specific standards for quality online course design. The good news is that the core template for online courses, created by FIU Online, already checks the boxes of 22 out of the 42 QM standards for your course! If you would like a more detailed look into the QM rubric, then check out Understanding the QM Rubric

Listed below are some of the most effective techniques that Rodriguez and her team recommend when working with faculty to develop high-quality, online courses based on the QM general standards.

1. Course Overview and Introduction

Firstly, providing a course overview and introduction are fundamental to establishing an active teaching presence and fostering engagement within your course. Try out some of these ideas:

  • Write a short biography about yourself for students to read.
  • Post a welcome video in your course.
  • Facilitate virtual student introductions.

2. Learning Objectives

Alignment of all other course elements to the objectives is key to helping students succeed. Thus, writing quality learning objectives will set the stage for a quality course.

  • Relate objectives to course activities.
  • Use Bloom’s taxonomy to help write measurable objectives with action-oriented language.

3. Assessment and Measurement

Assessments should be a clear measure of how well students achieved the stated learning objective(s).

  • Make assessments sequenced and varied to provide the learner with multiple opportunities to understand subject matter.
  • Provide specific and descriptive grading criteria for each assessment (e.g., a rubric/standards).

4. Instructional Materials

This standard of the QM rubric seeks to ensure that learning materials are thoughtfully selected and identified for the course.

  • Select current instructional materials, that align with course objectives and demonstrate multiple perspectives.
  • Clearly identify Optional vs. Required resources.

5. Learner Activities and Interaction

Rodriguez shared that the QM program greatly values variety in the types of learning interactions a course offers. Courses should include learner to instructor, learner to content, and learner to learner interactions.

  • Providing office hours and frequent, timely feedback help to create the opportunity for learner to instructor interactions.
  • Critical thinking on content in assignments is one form of learner to content interaction.
  • Peer review and discussion forums are ways of facilitating learner to learner interactions.

6. Course Technology

The chosen course technology should support the learning objectives and the overall goal of the class. Ensure that technology selections are:

  • Obtainable and easily accessible for all learners
  • Current and applicable
  • Meet student privacy needs

7. Learner Support

FIU Online already addresses a majority of the support needs for learners within their core course template. The template includes links to the university’s policies and services for students. In addition, instructors can provide learner support by: 

  • Posting clear and up-to-date information on any resources specific to your course.
  • Addressing student questions or needs on course content.

8. Accessibility and Usability

This standard applies to all students, not only those that need accommodations. There are many ways to ensure your course is designed for all, including:

  • Asking the publishers and representatives for an ADA compliant version of any of their resources that you have chosen to use in your course.
  • Selecting multimedia that already have closed captioning.

QM/HQ Review Process

Mimi Lezcano, Program Manager at FIU Online, emphasizes the fact that FIU Online instructional designers have got your back throughout the certification process. They will work one-on-one with you to develop and execute a detailed plan that ensures the QM standards are satisfied in a way that best suits the unique needs of your course, no matter the route you choose. 

quality matters certification stages for quality online course design

Furthermore, each of the certification stages pictured above has an associated timeline. The total length of the QM timeline is about seven months. On the other hand, the HQ timeline is about three and a half months. The timelines can vary depending on the number of courses that are currently under review.

Quality Goals. Quality Outcomes.

In conclusion, faculty who utilize HIIT in their course design often enjoy improved student learning, reduction in redundant procedural questions, more time teaching, and greater opportunity for building instructor presence. Learners report ease of navigation, increased motivation and performance, active involvement, and a deeper understanding of expectations when enrolled in high-quality online courses. Achieving the considerable goal of the Panther Quality initiative will help keep FIU on the forefront of online education.

Instructor Webinars

If you have any ideas for future webinar topics, we can’t wait to hear them. Contact Christina Schettini (cschetti@fiu.edu) to share your ideas for future webinar topics.

If you enjoyed this article, review some of our other most recent Insider articles.

Brooke was an Instructional Design Consultant on the HyFlex team at FIU Online. She holds a Master’s in Instructional Technology and a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University (FAU). Brooke brings the skills she acquired through her past experience as a public elementary school teacher, professional development facilitator, and corporate instructional designer into her design work. She focuses on collaborating with faculty to create intuitive, research-backed learning experiences that motivate students.

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