Notes from the “QM Program Certification: Is it Worth It?”, presented by Carol Parenteau and Julie Freese, both from University of the Rockies, at the 2015 Quality Matters (QM) conference.
The QM Program certification process is like looking at trees, where the course certification process is evaluating quality of leaves. Program certification efforts must be aligned with institutional mission and the demographics of the institution. Throughout, you must be able to engage in systematic collection of data and analysis for improvement.
Four areas of program review & certification:
- Program Design – course alignment to program outcomes
- Teaching Support – professional development for faculty; do they continue to learn? what do students say faculty need?
- Learner Support – everything at the institution that supports student
- Learner Success – can you demonstrate that students are actually succeeding? Definition of success left to the institution, but must be defined in a robust way
University of the Rockies felt like they were in a good position. 66% of all online courses (and 89% of mature courses) were QM certified, and 130 faculty were trained to use the QM rubric and as peer reviewers. They felt that program certification would give them broader recognition, develop a common language across the university (outside of courses), help them assess programs prior to the accreditation review by the Higher Learning Commission.
Key priorities for online students from Noel Levitz report
- Value of Tuition
- Institutional Reputation
- Academic Services
- Student Support
- Instructional Quality
Was it worth it?
Yes! University of the Rockies found it to be valuable to reflect on their practice, and to examine what they have been doing. They appreciated the external reviewers’ questions and perspectives. For example, when reviewers asked about declines in learner success on a particular outcome, it prompted them to do a further analysis, including a root-cause analysis and faculty engagement.
The program review is more economical than submitting individual courses for a review. In the process, reviewers, look at individual courses, and you need a threshold of courses which are already QM certified.