Sociology 101 is the University of Nevada, Reno's first online course that is certified by Quality Matters, a national program offering design standards for online courses. The course was certified in February, and scored 96 out of 99 possible points on the Fifth Edition, 2014 Higher Education Rubric.
"I am thrilled that 365 Learning chose Sociology 101 as the first course to be submitted for Quality Matters review, not only because we achieved this milestone, but because we substantially improved the course in the process," Marta Elliott, professor and interim chair of the Department of Sociology at the University, said.
The online course was developed by Elliott and 365 Learning's Kathryn Hanselman and Sommer Atchley. The trio put many hours and thoughtful design ideas into developing a course that would not only achieve Quality Matters certification, but would also be the best possible online instruction for an Introduction to Sociology course, which has now instructed nearly 500 students since fall 2013.
"365 Learning's online classes are all developed using best practices in online pedagogy, but having a class officially certified by QM is an impressive accomplishment, and a product of a positive and productive team effort between Dr. Elliott and 365 Learning's Design Team," Kerri Garcia, executive director of the University's 365 Learning program, said.
Quality Matters originated from the need to ensure online course quality across institutions within the Maryland university system, but eventually grew to be recognized nationally as the benchmark for best practices in online course design evaluation.
The Quality Matters program produces a rubric of course design standards that course developers and instructors can use in building new online courses, including outlining and describing effective components that should be taken into consideration.
Quality Matters also offers managed peer reviews of online courses based on this rubric. For these peer reviews, the course developer works with a team of three Quality Matters trained professionals who use the rubric to review every portion of the class. The current Fifth Edition, 2014 Higher Education Rubric is comprised of a set of eight General Standards and 43 Specific Review Standards, and the Quality Matters review team assigns points to each standard based on their investigation of the course. Submitted courses must receive a minimum of 84 out of 99 points to become certified.