At the end of the spring 2009 semester my online ENG102 course was submitted for an official Quality Matters Peer Revier; I failed! Now, thi sis actually not surprising. Most people fail the first time their course is reviewed; however, the process is set up to account for this first round of failure. In other words, the review process allows the course instructor-designer to revise his or her course based on the first round of review. As a person who teaches writing, I appreciate this process. So, my review results were:
Course Overview & Introduction
- 0/3 points: 1.1 Instructions make clear how to get started and where to find various course components.
- 0/3 points: 1.2 A statement introduces the student to the purpose of the course and to its components; in the case of a hybrid course, the statement clarifies the relationship between the face-to-face and online components.
- 0/1 points: 1.3 Etiquette expectations (sometimes called “netiquette” for online discussions, email, and other forms of communication are stated clearly.
- 0/1 points: 1.4 The self-introduction by the instructor is appropriate and available online.
- 1/1 points: 1.5 Students are asked to introduce themselves to the class.
- 1/1 points: 1.6 Minimum student preparation, and, if applicable, prerequisite knowledge in the discipline are clearly stated.
- 1/1 points: 1.7 Minimum technical skills expected of the student are clearly stated.
Learning Objectives (Competencies)
- 3/3 points: 2.1 The course learning objectives describe outcomes that are measurable.
- 3/3 points: 2.2 The module/unit learning objectives describe outcomes that are measurable and consistent with the course-level objectives.
- 3/3 points: 2.3 All learning objectives are stated clearly and written from the students’ perspective.
- 3/3 points: 2.4 Instructions to students on how to meet the learning objectives are adequate and stated clearly.
- 2/2 points: 2.5 The learning objectives are appropriately designed for the level of the course.
Assessment & Measurement
- 3/3 points: 3.1 The types of assessments selected measure the stated learning objectives and are consistent with course activities and resources.
- 3/3 points: 3.2 The course grading policy is stated clearly.
- 2/2 points: 3.3 Specific and descriptive criteria are provided for the evaluation of students’ work and participation.
- 0/3 points: 3.4 The assessment instruments selected are sequenced, varied, and appropriate to the content being assessed.
- 0/3 points: 3.5 “Self-check” or practice assignments are provided, with timely feedback to students.
Resources & Materials
- 3/3 points: 4.1 The instructional materials contribute to the achievement of the stated course and module/unit learning objectives.
- 3/3 points: 4.2 The relationship between the instructional materials and the learning activities is clearly explained to the student.
- 2/2 points: 4.3 The instructional materials have sufficient breadth, depth, and currency for the student to learn the subject.
- 1/1 points: 4.4. All resources and materials used in the course are appropriately cited.
- 5.1 The learning activities promote the achievement of the stated learning objectives.
- 5.2 Learning activities foster instructor-student, content-student, and if appropriate to the course, student-student interaction.
- 5.3 Clear standards are set for instructor responsiveness and availability (turn-around time for email, grade posting, etc.)
- 5.4 The requirements for student interaction are clearly articulated.
- 3/3 points: 6.1 The tools and media support the learning objectives, and are appropriately chosen to deliver the content of the course.
- 3/3 points: 6.2 The tools and media support student engagement and guide the student to become an active learner.
- 0/3 points: 6.3 Navigation throughout the online components of the course is logical, consistent, and efficient.
- 2/2 points: 6.4 Students have ready access to the technologies required in the course.
- 1/1 points: 6.5 The course components are compatible with current standards for delivery modes.
- 0/1 points: 6.6 Instructions on how to access resources at a distance are sufficient and easy to understand.
- 1/1 points: 6.7 The course design takes full advantage of available tools and media.
- 0/2 points: 7.1 The course instructions articulate or link to clear description of the technical support offered.
- 0/2 points: 7.2 Course instructions articulate or link to an explanation of how the institution’s academic support system can assist the student in effectively using the resources provided.
- 0/1 points: 7.3 Course instructions articulate or link to an explanation of how the institution’s student support services can help students reach their educational goals.
- 1/1 points: 7.4 Course instructions answer basic questions related to research, writing, technology, etc., or link to tutorials or other resources that provide the information.
- 3/3 points: 8.1 The course incorporates ADA standards and reflect conformance with institutional policy regarding accessibility in online and hybrid courses.
- 2/2 points: 8.2 Course pages and course materials provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content.
- 0/2 points: 8.3 Course pages have links that are self-describing and meaningful.
- 1/1 points: 8.4 The course ensures screen readability.
Based on my review, I made a chunk of changes, especially with the beginning of the course. I believe that the "getting started" steps and support are a lot stronger due to this process; however, I did not make all the changes requested of me. Two major changes I did not make:
- My peer-review committee thougth that by requiring Animoto for self-introduction videos I was introducing too many new technologies during an already chaotic begin to the course (not that my course was especially chaotic, just that all courses are chaotic). Whereas I agree with not wanting the beginning of an online course to be any more chaotic than necessary, I was/am not willing to give up the Animoto Introduction assignment. In over two years of having this assignment, I’ve never had a student ask for help on how to use Animoto; the application is silly easy! But what is more impressive, the Animoto Introductions are about the only assignment that almost all the students go look at every single other student’s posting. This one assignment has been worth it’s weight in gold in building course community.
- The peer-review committee also didn’t like how I had the due dates for all the assignments in only one location. They wanted dates in multiple locations so that students could easily find them when needed. Again, I understand the desire to make materials easily accessible for students; however, I also know the dangers of having due dates in multiple locations. Susan Miller-Cochran and I did usability testing on earlier versions of our online ENG102 courses and found that if dates are in multiple locations, students may latch on to the wrong area of the course to guide them and then not find the rest of the work that they need to complete. Therefore, unless required by the learing management system (like setting up "assignments" in drop-boxes and such), I give all assignments associations with a deadline number, or now I use the phrase "due date." Then, in the syllabus, I give the list of dates associated with each due date number.
Ultimately, I did not make the "big" changes that my peer-reviewers required for a QM stamp-of-approval. Therefore, I failed!
I know some of my colleagues disagree with my decision to reject "suggestions" by my peer-reviewer colleagues. Maybe my experience as a rhetoric & composition scholar impacts my interpretation of "peer review" as just suggestions. However, I think I was more of stickler because although the QM process is a great for helping faculty improve their online courses, it is still a "peer" review process. I have my students conduct peer-review in writing courses; ulitimately, these reviews are not conducted by the "real" audience. Therefore, my interpretation of the requests made of me, especially the two listed above, I belive that how I have my course designed works better for the real audience of the class...the students.