Overview of Quality Standards in Online Education at NIU

NIU seeks to be a premier provider of quality online programs, so the University has begun the process of adopting quality standards for online courses and programs. The institution has become a Quality Matters member, joining 17 other higher educations institutions in Illinois and more than 700 worldwide. The Office of Online Program Development and Support will provide support to faculty in the development and/or redevelopment of online courses and programs to reflect the best practices reflected in current research.  

Quality Standards

The Quality Matters (QM) researched-based rubric is made up of 43 specific review standards for quality online course design. QM is a continuous and collaborative improvement process that recognizes that courses meeting the standards still have room for continuing improvement and courses that do not meet standards initially will receive useful feedback to guide revision.

The QM standards focus on course design, not content, and include recommendations for learning objectives, assessments, activities, technology, and accessibility, usability, learner support, and the initial student experience, among others. Faculty will be guided and supported each step of the way so they can begin to identify areas for improvement in their own courses as they are developed. Get more detail on the standards

Course Review

Courses and programs will also have the opportunity to be recognized as having meet the NIU Essential Standards for Online Quality, and be listed on the NIU Outreach website. The NIU Essential Standards is a subset of the Quality Matters standards, those deemed most important for online student success by the Office of Online Program Development and Support.

The NIU Online Quality designation is a recognition that will be given to courses that meet a high threshold for quality. These courses will be voluntarily submitted by the faculty for an internal peer review. If the defined standards are met, the courses will be identified as NIU Online Quality courses on the NIUOnline website and will be allowed the use of the NIU Online Quality banner in the course site, in the syllabus, and in marketing materials.

NIU Online Quality Courses can be sponsored by the department or the college for an official Quality Matters review, which requires a formal review team and includes an external peer reviewer. Courses that meet these standards can be called QM Certified, display a QM Certification logo, and are included on the Quality Matters’ national list of officially recognized courses.

Faculty Development for Online Course Quality

Faculty interested in learning more about the Quality Matters rubric and/or becoming a peer reviewer are invited to attend the online workshops in the Quality Online Course Series offered by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. The online workshops will also be recorded and made available after the event as an archive. Faculty who want to engage more deeply with the Peer Review Process are encouraged to attend the day-long Applying the Quality Matter Rubric (APPQMR) workshops which are offered in-person at NIU several times throughout the year, followed by the online Peer Reviewer Course (PRC) offered online by Quality Matters.

Steps to National Recognition of Online Quality

NIU Essentials of Quality

A subset of the most critical standards for quality; embedded in eLearning course design

NIU Online Quality

A higher threshold of quality recognized by an internal peer review process; course will be awarded the NIU Online Quality badge

QM Certified

NIU Online Quality courses can be sponsored for a QM external review; successful courses are listed on a national website and can display the QM Certified badge.