Quality Matters (QM) is an internationally-recognized program aimed at providing quality assurance for online courses across the world and is used at the University of Arizona to ensure the quality of our online courses.
Quality Matters (QM) is an internationally-recognized program aimed at providing quality assurance for online courses across the world. QM began as a grant-funded project led by a group of educators at MarylandOnline, Inc. (MOL) consortium in 2003 who were trying find a way to measure and guarantee the quality of online/blended courses. They developed a rubric of course design standards as well as a peer review process that included training, guidance, and certification. By 2006, QM built enough momentum and presence in universities to become a self-sustaining program within MOL, and by 2014, it began operating as a standalone nonprofit organization. Today, QM has over 1500 member institutions across all 50 US states and 32 countries and is considered the gold standard for quality assurance and certification in online/blended courses and programs.
There are four underlying principles that have guided QM since its inception and led to it becoming the leading figure in the quality assurance of online education. These principles are:
The peer review process is not one-time pass/fail evaluation, but is instead a continuous cycle. If a course does not meet expectations on the first round, the Course Representative (i.e., the instructor or course developer) works with the QM Coordinator to make amendments to the course until it meets QM Standards. The entire process is designed to ensure that all courses eventually meet expectations and gain certification. Even when a course has met expectations in the first round, reviewers still provide specific and constructive feedback, encouraging continuous quality improvement.
QM is centered on research, on student learning, and on quality, and all practices and processes revolve around these three elements. The rubric is based on national standards of best practice, research literature, and instructional design principles, and is continuously updated to ensure that it reflects the most current research in all these areas. Both the rubric and the peer review process are designed to promote student learning, And finally, the goal of a review is to meet standards at an 85% level or higher; the focus is not on absolute perfection but on a quality that is better than just “good enough.”
The review process is intended to be diagnostic and collegial, not evaluative and judgmental. Courses are reviewed by current, online instructors, not administrators and academics divorced from teaching. The peer review partners faculty reviewers with the Course Representative in a dialogue about course design, where the course representative still has their own voice and agency in how they amend their course.
From its inception, QM has been collaborative. The initial grant that led to the development of the rubric involved 700 practitioners from 158 different institutions across the country. A QM review is not based on the personal preferences or experiences of an individual reviewer, but rather on rubric-based evidence from the course that is identified collaboratively by the entire review team. The review team is made up of three experienced, online instructors who have been certified by QM to review courses and the Course Representative. The review team remains in communication with the Course Representative throughout the process and ultimately the review is flexible, with many ways to meet each standard.