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FIU is No. 1 in the nation for Quality Matters certified online courses

by Monica Smith

Feb 02, 2021, 12:00 PM.

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With 500 QM-certified courses and counting, the significant milestone and top ranking aligns with the Florida Board of Governor’s strategic plan for online education.

Committed to academic excellence, FIU Online achieved a remarkable feat—the university is now No. 1 in the world for Quality Matters certified courses.

“Online is the campus of the future,” says Kenneth G. Furton, FIU’s Provost and Executive Vice President. “FIU has always been committed to quality online instruction and a Quality Matters certified course is the highest recognition of online course design. We made a commitment to support our faculty in designing and redesigning courses to meet Quality Matters standards. This ranking is the result of the hard work of our faculty and our strategic efforts to ensure that all of our students receive an exceptional education.”

More than 1,500 institutions in the U.S. and internationally are Quality Matters partners. Each institution ascribes to the non-profit’s prestigious peer-review quality online course design certification process. Today, FIU leads the list and finds itself in good company with some of the most reputable and well-known educational institutions around the globe from 26 countries across six continents.

“Our Learning Design and Innovation team has been an invaluable resource during this time, going above and beyond in partnership with our faculty,” states Lia Prevolis, interim assistant vice president of FIU Online. “Beyond leading the charge to help maintain academic continuity during the university's emergency response to COVID, the team did not lose sight of quality and worked hard to take FIU to the No. 1 spot for QM-certified courses in the nation.”

Quality Matters

Quality Matters’ faculty-centered, peer-reviewed process helps evaluate, improve and certify online courses through a comprehensive evaluation process. The process analyses best-practices and considers benchmarking rubrics based on a review of current literature.

“Courses with this certification show students they will be able to navigate within a course easily and with more transparency,” offers Karina Ocampo, FIU Online instructional design manager.

QM examines the design of an online course. Courses then undergo a review process with outside third-party faculty trained and certified in the QM process and include a content discipline expert. Reviewers perform a broad evaluation to gauge each course’s features with 43 specific standards—from overview to usability. Courses that achieve an 85 percent level of compliance with the standards receive a “QM-Recognized” seal.

Throughout the review process, instructional designers in partnership with faculty members design and develop the course components to achieve the certification. This is a process that can take up to seven months. To date, close to 100 percent of FIU Online courses submitted for QM review have achieved certification, affirms Ocampo.

Quest for quality

The university launched the FIU Online Achieving Panther High-Quality Course Design in March 2019 in support of the Florida Board of Governors’ online course quality mandate. The initiative advances the university vision of learning-centered, evidence-based, and culturally responsive teaching. At the same time, the QM process helps fulfill the FIU Online mission to connect FIU students and lifelong learners to the highest quality online educational experience—anytime, anywhere, highlights Prevolis.

Gabriela Alvarez, director of learning design and innovation for FIU Online adds that as online learning grows across the nation, the QM distinction will help students find the best value and quality education.

“This distinction recognizes the effectiveness of our faculty, our instructional designers and the courses we offer,” says Alvarez.

To date, FIU maintains more than 500 QM-certified online courses and is on a path to ensure that a majority of all online courses achieve this distinguished certification by 2025.

The vision is to design all new online learning courses with the QM framework as our standard, says Alvarez, and work with FIU instructors who would like to redesign their current courses to achieve the designation.

“The FIU Online Learning Design and Innovation team is an essential element because we serve as active consultants and skilled pedagogical experts who support the FIU faculty in teaching from a foundation of exemplary courseware,” she explains. “While we’re No. 1, we will continue to strive for greater student engagement and continuous innovation in course design and delivery.”

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