Southeast Receives Quality Matters’ 2018 Making a Difference for Students Award

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Southeast Missouri State University has been recognized by Quality Matters (QM) with a 2018 QM Making a Difference for Students Award.

Southeast was honored in the Outstanding Impact by an Institution category for implementing Quality Assurance in its online programs, establishing faculty training and creating an approach for collaborative course design.

QM is an international, U.S.-based non-profit organization specializing in standards, processes and professional development for quality assurance in online and blended learning. The award will be presented at QM’s 10th Annual Conference, “Gateway to Quality,” Oct. 30-Nov. 2 in St. Louis, Missouri.

“We are honored to be recognized by Quality Matters,” said Chelsea McNeely, director of Southeast Online. “Southeast Online is committed to providing quality distance educational experiences to students across Missouri and beyond. The University faculty and staff are dedicated to fulfilling this commitment, and it is wonderful to have their hard work recognized.”

This fall, Southeast Online is offering nearly 350 online course sections and has more than 1,150 students enrolled in its 30 online degree programs. Currently, 182 Southeast faculty teach online sections.

In 2014, the University dedicated resources and administrative support for an initial mandate to have all online courses at Southeast meet the QM rubric. During the past three years, University faculty and staff have used the rubric to evaluate the structure of online courses. The process was designed to help faculty facilitate student success online. Courses or programs that receive QM Certification Marks means they have met QM Course Design Standards or QM Program Review Criteria in a rigorous review process.

QM review and implementation helped to reinforce Southeast’s established high-quality online programs, and this award recognizes the University’s dedication to its students, said Kris Baranovic, instructional design specialist in Southeast’s Center for Scholarship in Teaching and Learning (CSTL).

“This is an award for the entire online teaching community at Southeast and recognizes the efforts of the 209 faculty that had their courses reviewed and the 39 reviewers that reviewed those courses,” Baranovic said. “Receiving this award after all the work the Southeast community invested into the QM implementation in an honor. Online courses at Southeast are now so good we’re nationally recognized.”

As a result of QM implementation, the Southeast online teaching community has become stronger, he said. CSTL devised a five-hour workshop series that covered the fundamentals of teaching in the online environment—not just how to meet the QM rubric.

“Faculty teach the way they’ve been taught, and for faculty that had never taken an online course, the trainings provided insights to online learning they hadn’t encountered or possibly hadn’t considered before,” Baranovic said.

The workshops also allowed faculty the opportunity to interact with other online faculty.

“Teaching online can be a very solitary practice, as most departments only have one or two faculty teaching fully online courses,” Baranovic said. “There are few peers to interact with, and the QM workshops provided opportunities for interaction and networking.”

Additionally, during this process, 39 Southeast faculty became fully trained Quality Matters reviewers, assessing courses not only for Southeast, but also in national QM reviews.

“That additional access to online courses inspired changes in their own online teaching,” Baranovic said.

Most importantly, the three-year implementation program showed the Southeast online teaching community what’s possible, and provided University faculty and staff the opportunity to study online teaching at Southeast.

“Comparing online courses from 2014 to the same online course taught by the same instructor in 2017, student actions increased on average 20 percent,” Baranovic said. “They were doing more work, while faculty noted anecdotally a reduction in emails from students. Courses meeting the QM rubric caused students to be more self-sufficient.”

Additionally, after QM implementation, the number of A grades awarded increased and the number of B grades and C grades decreased, indicating that the better designed online courses allowed Southeast students to be more successful.

The data will allow the University to develop more accurate diagnostic tools for faculty to further optimize their online teaching and better target professional development and provide faculty a more accurate means of self-assessment, said Baranovic.

With online courses built on a strong foundation from the ground up, students can continue to expect their online experiences to be comprehensive and dynamic.

Student success continues to be the priority of Southeast Online and the CSTL, which continues to offer professional development cohorts and opportunities to further hone the skills of faculty teaching online courses.