Quality Matters Rubric

My UDL Journey, 4/28/2020

How Do We Gauge the Quality of Online Teaching?

4/28/2020 — 5th or 6th Week of Stay-at-Home

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It's been a while since I've posted a UDL Journey article. But here's a reflection on using the Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric:

I'll be honest — at first, I thought the Quality Matters rubric was too complex to be very helpful. Given the number of very specific items listed, I worried that it would be more a distraction rather than a support. However, as I began using the rubric to evaluate the MOOC, I began to understand that the rubric itself also serves as a checklist for best practices — it provides a very comprehensive list of key teaching elements that need to be present for an online course to succeed. The reason I missed this at first is because we take many of these components for granted when we're teaching in an in-person course. Introductions, explanations, and answering questions all seem like "well, duh we're gonna do that!" when you're standing in a classroom in front of a group of students. Online, however, they require more careful planning in order to make sure everything happens.

For me, this planning is definitely the most difficult part of online teaching, especially right now during COVID-19. Between childcare and weekly lesson planning and responding to students, it's so easy to become wrapped up in the minutia of the moment that it's easy to forget how everything fits together. The Quality Matters rubric is helpful, I think, because it can serve as a sort of "pre-flight checklist" for a course — it covers all the key elements that must be present to some degree, and it's open-ended enough to allow me to gauge the degree to which I meet each of those standards. And this is gradient of evaluation is important, I think, because no course is perfect — every course has room to improve. Especially now, as we make trade-offs between teaching, childcare, and the mental toll of being stuck at home. The Quality Matters rubric can be helpful in that is can reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the specific course strategies I'm using, and I can then use the lessons from the ADC course and other resources to "fill in the gaps" I find in my teaching.

In terms of affecting students, a major part of the Quality Matters rubric focuses on the student experience. Something I've noticed as a teacher is that with time, I tend to become so focused on my own side of the classroom equation that it takes a moment to understand what students are seeing. For an in-person classroom, this isn't a huge issue — students are right there to ask questions. Online, though, it helps to have the more explicit reminders about how my activities will get students working together, or whether it's clear where students need to submit assignments. What this helps with is ensuring the foundations of the course are sufficiently clarified for students from the very beginning to encourage full online participation.

For my teaching, the core area I need to work on is teacher presence, particularly since that has such a huge impact on all other elements of the course. I've found that writing up lesson's and descriptions of key skills are fairly straightforward for me, but I tend to be too much of a perfectionist when it comes to posting comments and feedback. The QM metrics can help me set up a scheduled strategy for ensuring all my feedback is timely, and that will push me to give shorter, more encouraging feedback day-to-day rather than trying to give excellent, in-depth feedback for students who might no longer be engaged.

Naturally, this will all be much easier to implement for my summer course, when I've had time to actually construct all the core online materials before everyone is suddenly online-only.