Understanding the QM Rubric

people talking over a desk

FIU Online’s monthly Faculty Webinar series explores relevant instructional strategies and effective ways to use technology in an online classroom. The recent Understanding the QM Rubric webinar offered a crash course on Quality Matters. It included an explanation of the underlying principles behind the QM Rubric and the critical elements of the QM quality assurance process.

Instant Replay: Understanding the QM Rubric

Presenters Jessica Rodriguez and Mimi Lezcano from the FIU Online Quality Assurance Team showcased all you need to know about why and how you should get a QM certification for your course. If you missed this webinar, you can view the recording or read some of the key takeaways below. 

Why Does Quality Matter?  

Decorative Image

Quality matters to all the stakeholders in a course. This primarily includes students and faculty, but also extends to administrators, the university as a whole, accreditation agencies, and legislators.  Quality online courses, above all, improve student learning outcomes and retention rates. They also promote learner engagement and lifelong learning. Quality constitutes a framework based on the four pillars of: curriculum; learning design; course content; and delivery process. Maintaining quality is an ongoing continuous process that requires reevaluation of course content at all times.  

What is Quality Matters?

Quality Matters Logo

Quality Matters is an international, US-based, non-profit organization specializing in standards, processes and professional development for quality assurance in online and blended learning.  Quality Matters Certification, then, is a faculty-centered peer reviewed process to certify the quality of online courses and its components. It uses a set of standards (based on national standards of best practices,  research literature, and instructional design principles) for designing and reviewing course content.

A course that successfully completes the process earns a QM Certification Mark. This indicates, then, that the course has met the QM Course Design Standards in a rigorous review process. FIU currently has over 415 certified courses. This makes us the #1 university in Florida and #2 public university in the nation in terms of certified courses.  

QM Rubric

The eight general standards that constitute the Quality Matters rubric are:

  1. Course Overview and Introduction
  2. Learning Objectives
  3. Assessment and Measurement
  4. Instructional Materials
  5. Learner Activities and Interaction
  6. Course Technology
  7. Learner Support
  8. Accessibility and Usability

Within those eight standards are forty-two specific standards. Twenty-three of those specific standards are categorized as Essential, so these standards must be met to achieve QM certification. In addition, there are 12 very important and seven important standards that are still vital considerations when designing and developing courses.

The 6 alignment standards represented as a structure supporting a roof.

Six of the Essential Standards concern the concept of Alignment, the heart and soul of the Quality Matters Framework. In other words, these are the standards that relate to the course elements that work together to ensure that students achieve desired learning outcomes. Standards 2.1 and 2.2 concern Learning Objectives, which serves as the foundation of the course’s alignment structure. Standard 3.1 represents the desired measurability between course objectives and assessments. Supplemental resources make that happen, including instructional materials, learning activities, and course tools. These elements, above all, support the alignment between course objectives and assessments and ensure that students are being evaluated in the correct way.  

The QM Process

At FIU Online, a course goes through a general seven step QM Course review. First, the course undergoes two internal reviews to make sure it meets quality before progressing to the external review with the Official QM Review team. But throughout the process, the FIU Online team supports our faculty, with the Instructional Designer acting as a partner in preparing the course for the Quality Assurance team internal review and final submission to the Official QM Review.  

Flowchart of the 7 step QM process

QM Rubric Review Process

  1. An Instructional Designer reviews the course using the QM rubric. They prepare an analysis on course improvements to meet the standards of the QM rubric. 
  2. The Instructional Designer then meets with the instructor to share their analysis and together they create an action plan to make the needed changes within the course. 
  3. Identified improvements are then implemented to the course.
  4. Afterwards, the Instructional Designer works with their instructor through the process of submitting the course for a second internal review.
  5. The Quality Assurance team will then conduct a review using the QM rubric and assess the course’s accessibility. The instructional designer addresses any revisions and consults with the instructor as needed.
  6. Then the course is submitted to the Official QM Review. This is an external review with the Peer Review team from Quality Matters, who will make the final determination if the course meets the standards for QM certification. The QM Peer Review team consists of non-FIU instructors. The instructor completes a set of questions that will serve as a guide for the external review team. Additionally, there will be a shared 10-15 minute conference call between the instructor and the QM Peer Review Team to provide more general information about the course. Also, the external reviewers may reach out to the instructor with further questions during this period.
  7. The external reviewers provide their decision.  But if the course does not meet the criteria to achieve certification, faculty will receive a report with feedback and suggested revisions. Then the instructor can collaborate with their Instructional Designer to update the course and resubmit with an amendment form.

It’s important to remember that courses submitted for QM certification do not have to be perfect. QM scores the achievement of the 42 standards on a 100 point scale. As long as the 23 Essential Standards are “Met” and the course earns a minimum of 85 points, it can achieve QM certification. Many of the courses submitted by FIU achieve close to 100 points because of our internal review process.  

What’s Next?

While preparing a course for QM requires dedication and work, the benefits to instructors and learners is enormous. QM courses improve student learning, reduce redundant procedural questions from learners, and lets faculty spend more time on teaching and building their learning presence.  Because of this, learners get a boost to their learner motivation and performance, and helps them understand course expectations and their level of performance. Remember, FIU Online staff partner with faculty every step of the way to make the QM process as smooth as can be. 

Interested in working toward your course achieving Quality Matters certification? Reach out to your Instructional Designer today. Learn more about aspects related to achieving QM certification for your course.

Charles Roig is an instructional designer with the Learning Design team at FIU Online. His work includes researching new tools and collaborating with faculty to foster engagement in online learning.

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