Revisiting Quality Online Instruction

When the pandemic hit in 2020, many institutions of higher education rushed to move their classes online. While my university had been working to prepare faculty to teach online for close to a decade prior to the pandemic, not everyone had participated in the professional development opportunities that had been offered. Some felt they didn’t need to know how to teach online since they didn’t really expect to teach in that format. Others doubted the effectiveness of online instruction and didn’t want to teach that way.

But then the pandemic hit. Although the majority of my colleagues had some background with online teaching prior to the move online, suddenly everyone became an online teacher, even those that had no formal training or prior interest in online pedagogy or instructional design. In the first weeks and months of the pandemic, my institution offered tons of workshops and trainings to help faculty develop the skills needed for effective online instruction. While it wasn’t an ideal setting for developing new instructional skills or teaching strategies, my colleagues and I learned a lot to weather the rapid move to online instruction.

Now, three years later, we have a bunch of faculty who are teaching online with a broad skill set and with diverse backgrounds and expertise. Some (like me) have taken online trainings and led professional development efforts on campus. Others have learned how to teach online by navigating the pandemic and through their own hard work and determination. As we emerge from the pandemic, however, the administration is now faced with a difficult decision of determining which faculty should teach online. They recognize that teaching online is hard work and requires a complex mix of pedagogical knowledge, instructional design background, and online facilitation and assessment ability. But how do they figure out which faculty has that skill set?

Our provost is letting individual colleges pilot their own strategies for assessing faculty members’ online teaching ability. In the College of Education and Human Services, we’ve decided to use a peer review system where faculty assess each other’s courses using the Online Course Quality Review Rubric (OSCQR) which was developed by the State University of New York (SUNY). If you’re not familiar with the tool, OSCQR provides fifty standards across six different categories including: Overview & Information, Technology & Tools, Design & Layout, Content & Activities, Interaction, and Assessment & Feedback. The rubric serves as a scorecard, where individuals can examine different aspects of a course to determine whether a course meets specific standards. If a course doesn’t meet a standard, the rubric also offers different benchmarks to determine how much course revision is necessary. While the rubric itself is an excellent tool for assessing online course construction and facilitation, it also serves as a great professional development experience. For example, each of the standards is hyperlinked to a page which details the research behind the standard and best practices for meeting the standard. Someone interested in revising their course to meet the standard would have a clearer picture of how (and why) to do it. Considering that use, it’s a novel instrument.

While we’re at the beginning stages of our peer review pilot, I’m really enjoying the ability to go back through my online courses and assessing whether I’ve created a quality experience for my online students. So far, I’ve identified a few areas that I need to revise to make my classes more aligned to the OSCQR rubric. Which I totally expected and welcome. Quality teaching isn’t a destination, but a process that requires continuous reflection and refinement.


2 thoughts on “Revisiting Quality Online Instruction

  1. -OSCQR is an excellent tool for assessing online course construction and facilitation
    -It allows for faculty to examine different aspects of a course to determine whether it meets specific standards
    -It’s an excellent experience for faculty to go back through their online courses and assess whether they’ve created a quality experience for their online students

  2. Pingback: A Case for Quality Course Design | The 8 Blog

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