Quality Matters When Improving Online Student Learning

WITH OVER 5 MILLION STUDENTS ACROSS THE NATION ENROLLING IN AT LEAST ONE DISTANCE EDUCATION COURSE, ONLINE LEARNING IS QUICKLY BECOMING THE NEW NORMAL.

The college is helping educators in Texas and across the world improve the online learning experience through an innovative online training course called the Virtual Instructor Certificate Program (VICP).

VICP teaches educators how to design, develop, and manage online courses for multiple age groups using a rubric of tested guidelines and standards. Under the direction of Director Dr. René Quiroz, VICP is helping educators create state-of- the-art learning opportunities.

“We teach educators fundamental elements of design,” said Dr. Quiroz. “We also teach the concept of alignment through the use of a set rubric and the use of standards and guidelines to grade projects as the course continues.”

All of the design standards offered through the six-week course are consistent with essential standards of the Quality Matters rubric, a national set of standards on quality instruction. Dr. Quiroz’s own research shows that the design of online courses often plays a key role in student learning.

“It is important to recognize that education is changing and that students are changing too,” Dr. Quiroz said. “As faculty members, it helps to present our lessons at a higher quality, because it gives the student more confidence in the course and assures them that they will learn valuable information.”

VICP now offers about six sessions a year and reaches educators who are incorporating online instruction all over the state and even countries across the world including China, Taiwan, Qatar, and India.

“At Texas A&M, there is a strong movement to encourage educators to design courses using best practices,” she said. “We get inquiries from anyone looking to teach online from graduate students to faculty members. The course itself has evolved, and we receive participants from all over the world.”

The program is structured to provide guidelines for higher education, K-12, and continuing education courses. Dr. Quiroz asks specific questions to course designers in advance in order to craft a blueprint of the needs and goals of the designers in each session.

Dr. Quiroz conducted research in 2014 showing that there are many difficulties that instructors face on all levels, whether in K-12 or higher education.

“We found out that overall the course was effective in helping educators apply these skills towards their courses.” Dr. Gwendolyn Webb-Hassan is an associate professor in public school administration who recently participated in VICP training.

“This course has opened my eyes to the importance of universal design as it relates to the use of videos as well as the systematic and systemic efforts that can be made to enliven an online course. I have learned a plethora of strategies to improve my efforts to make my coursework come alive for my students.”