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The Story of a Quality Matters Certified Course


Date Posted Jul 20, 2017

The instructional design team is pleased to announce a Political Science course we have supported has received official Quality Matters recognition!  This is only the third course at Rutgers to do so, and the first within the School of Arts & Sciences! (We featured the course’s instructor, Dan Herman in a video featurette.)

How does a course get Quality Matter recognition?  Here’s the story.

Getting Started

In 2015, Dan was brand new to Rutgers and needed to get started with a learning management system (LMS).  He came to the instructional design team for help.

I trained Dan on how to use a LMS, and get his course content set up, including quizzes and lecture videos.  With limited time before the course launch, we prioritized LMS training and specific aspects of the course development. I continued providing support for Dan throughout the semester.  When he had trouble embedding videos, I helped him work through it. When one of his students required additional time on quizzes, I helped him with that too.

After this experience, Dan was inspired to attend one of my Quality Matters sessions at a conference.  Quality Matters (QM) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of online courses.  They offer professional development opportunities, conferences focusing on innovations in course design and technology, and course reviews.  Dan was so impressed with the QM official course review process that he wanted to submit his course right then and there!  

The First Pass

Unfortunately, the official course review process costs money. I proposed he take advantage of the internal course review process offered by the team. Although our process does not lead to an official QM seal, internal reviews provide much of the same feedback as the same rubric is used.  In Dan’s case, the review team included me as the instructional designer, my manager, and the Undergraduate Program Director in Political Science, William Field.

Once the internal review was over, the real work began: implementing the recommendations, the most important part of any review! For instance, the review team found a lack of student-student interaction in the course, so I worked with Dan to add a multi-stage team project to the course.  We also updated the module objectives to align better with the overall course objectives and assessments.

Taking the Course to QM

After all of this hard work, Dan was still interested in submitting the course for official QM review. We secured funding from the Political Science department’s chair, Rick Lau, and submitted the course.

A few weeks later, the QM review team found that the course had not yet met expectations, and provided additional recommendations for improvement.  Dan and I met the following week, implemented the necessary changes, and documented our changes for the review team.  Upon re-review later that day, the course received official Quality Matters certification!

(Most courses, including Dan’s, do not meet expectations the first time around.  QM provides up to 20 weeks to make amendments to the course, which allows most courses to meet expectations after a follow-up review.)

Getting Recognition

The official QM certification was a big accomplishment for Dan and the Political Science department!  It was great to witness the evolution of the course.  The external recognition of Dan’s dedication to his teaching and his student is well deserved. 

I hope our story inspires other faculty to discover what can be possible with the support of an instructional designer.  Instructional designers (such as myself) can help you at any stage of the course design process— brainstorming ideas for activities, building the initial course structure, assisting with technical tasks, and more.  

Be sure to check out the resources available for faculty looking to improve their courses:  online or in-person workshops, 1-on-1 appointments for course design or educational technology, or send an email to oid@docs.rutgers.edu.


Ismael "Izzy" Lara is a Senior Instructional Designer at Rutgers University. He has a Master's degree in Computer Science (currently working towards his Doctorate in Education), is an adjunct instructor teaching online and face-to-face programming courses, and has obtained the Master Reviewer Certification from Quality Matters. In his spare time, he enjoys playing video games.



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