Online Course Quality
As the demand for online courses in higher education continues to increase, so has the concern for the quality of online education and the impact on student success. While many components of online education can impact student success, the most standardized and least subjective component has to do with the design and structure of the online course. Just as brick-and-mortar construction standards are used to build traditional face-to-face classrooms, online courses are now similarly built using rigorous, research-based standards for quality course design and format. The result is increased quality and accessibility of online education and reduced barriers to student success.
The Florida Board of Governor's Online Education 2025 Strategic Plan identifies several strategic goals focused on quality practices. The system goal is to increase the number of online courses in the State University System that have completed a course design quality review.
To increase the number of online courses with a Quality designation, UNF Online implements the Quality Matters (QM) standards for the review of online course design and systematically builds and evaluates online courses based on QMs rigorous, research-based standards. The QM Standards specifically focus on course design rather than on course delivery or academic content and assure that the online structure of these courses promotes learner engagement and provides students with the tools and information they need to be successful learners.
Course Design Quality
Quality course reviews of online courses at UNF can result in a Quality (Q) or High Quality (HQ) designation. Both quality designations rely on the QM Rubric and Standards. The main differences between the two quality designations are the number of course reviewers and the number of QM standards that courses must meet. A Quality designation is a significant accomplishment that means an online course has met rigorous, research-based standards of course design in the following areas:
- Course Overview and Introduction
- Learning Objectives (Competencies)
- Assessment and Measurement
- Instructional Materials
- Learning Activities and Learner Interaction
- Course Technology
- Learner Support
- Accessibility and Usability
Quality Online Instruction
In addition to meeting rigorous standards in quality course design, online courses at UNF are delivered by instructors committed to excellence in online teaching. One of the cornerstones of UNF’s quality online course initiative is a rigorous 8-week Teaching Online (TOL) Foundation Course where instructors learn about pedagogy, course design, instructional strategies, communication strategies, and online assessment involved in the development and delivery of high-quality blended and fully online courses. Upon completing the course, online instructors at UNF are better prepared to implement innovative online learning strategies and promote active learning in their online courses with demonstrable student success.
Many of our online instructors also participate in distance learning committees or other technology-centered committees with an advisory capacity for online learning at UNF, facilitating institution-wide communication and collaboration efforts among primary stakeholders tasked with promoting student success.
Beyond quality design and excellence in online teaching, UNF online courses also undergo continuous improvements in design, delivery, and technology innovations to ensure both students and instructors have a high-quality online experience. Through a campus-wide collaborative effort, online courses are continuously being improved with new technology integrations and support services that provide students with everything they need to succeed in their online courses.
As part of UNF’s online course continuous improvement program, UNF’s Instructional Design Team is available to consult on instructional design best practices, assist in the conversion of traditional course materials to the online learning format, and provide training and development related to the practical and pedagogical skills necessary for developing and delivering interactive and engaging courses.