“The changes that are inspired by QM Program Certification provide further evidence to current and potential online students, district-wide stakeholders and accreditors that each College is committed to delivering premier, quality digital learning experiences to its online students.”Dr. Luke Dowden, Chief Online Learning Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor
Alamo Colleges District — comprised of Northwest Lakeview College, Northwest Vista College, Palo Alto College, St. Philip’s College, and San Antonio College — is going to bat for its students and pursuing the Quality Matters Program Certification for Online Learner Support. The certification recognizes programs that provide all the critical student and academic services needed for learner success and use learner feedback to continuously improve those services. That aligns perfectly with Alamo’s goals. “Alamo Colleges District is committed to delivering premier, quality digital learning experiences for online students,” shared Dr. Luke Dowden, Alamo’s Chief Online Learning Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor, “Access to essential academic resources and support services ensures the success of online students in completing their academic goals in an online learning environment.”
There are two paths to program certification — Program Review or Candidacy + Program Review. Alamo is taking the Candidacy + Program Review route. Candidacy is the first part of the process and is broken down into three phases. In each phase, there are clearly defined criteria, targeted activities and information on required documentation to help institutions and districts such as Alamo move smoothly and confidently through the process. After completing the candidacy portion, institutions move through the Program Review process, which will result in Program Certification if the required criteria are met. Currently, two of the District’s five colleges — St. Philip’s College and San Antonio College — are moving through the process. The goal is to eventually obtain certification for all five colleges.
To prepare, Alamo took a team approach. As Dr. Dowden explained, “Alamo Colleges Online, an integrated support unit for the five independently accredited colleges, proposed a joint effort between the District’s Academic Success and Student Success teams to support St. Philip’s College and San Antonio College in — one — conducting self-evaluations of online resources and support services. Two, identifying any gaps. And three — finding solutions to close the gaps.” Additionally, quality assurance teams were created by each college to assess potential inequities of access to direct and indirect support services for online students.
A team wouldn’t be a team, though, without a coach and a mentor for that coach. To facilitate the process, Alamo Colleges Online identified a staff member, Katrieva Jones Munroe, Alamo’s Online Learning Coordinator, to serve as a QM Certification Coach. Patricia Parma, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Access and Success Initiatives, served as Katrieva’s mentor to provide context for present student success frameworks. Katrieva developed certification pathway tools for each College’s Quality Assurance Team to use. Katrieva shared that those tools included:
- Online Learner Support Swimlane Diagram — A visual representation distinguishing each stakeholder's responsibilities of processes and sub-processes.
- Learner Feedback Rubric — Determines the level of progress units made in collecting, analyzing, and describing ways learning feedback is used to improve processes, policies, or delivery of services each year.
- Remote Access to Services Rubric — Determines the level of progress student support units made to develop and promote statements of commitment to online students that address how remote services are provided and how services are accessed at a distance.
- Online Learner Support Pathway Kick-off Orientation — A meeting to 1) discuss the Candidacy + Program Review pathway to Program Certification; 2) review the benefits of the pathway to students and the college; and 3) develop action steps to meet the pathway timeline.
- College Quality Assurance Team Milestone Chart — Provides a snapshot of deliverables tied to each milestone along with a checkmark to recognize the completion of the milestones.
- Remote Access to Services & Learner Feedback Evaluation Form — Guides units towards the identification of gaps in access and support of remote student services through salient questions prompt that align to unit goals to support online students.
- Mock-Review Team Kick-Off Orientation — A meeting to 1) discuss the Internal Mock-Review Process; 2) review the benefits of mock-review to the college; and 3) develop action steps to meet the mock-review timeline.
- Online Learner Support Candidacy Progress Report — A quantitative summary of artifacts produced and works completed at the halfway point of the pathway in the form of an infographic.
- Online Learner Support Candidacy In-Flight Status (Per Phase) — A pictorial that captures the percentage of completion in each of the three phases in addition to the final steps in the certification pathway process.
- Unit Learner Feedback Survey Target Dates — A semester development timeline for student experience surveys.
Katrieva elaborated on the benefits of Alamo’s game plan. “An identified leader at each college, a Program Liaison, surrounded by a representative cross-college team, the Quality Assurance Team, is a prerequisite for success,” said Katrieva. “The leadership of the Vice Presidents of Student Success and Academic Success, Program Liaisons as well as a staff member, serving in the role of Certification Coach, is essential to support each college in their own assessment, self-discovery and solution seeking.”
The process is also transformative. The District already identified areas where it can expand access to student services and increase the level of available access. As a result, it created web hubs — a one-stop-shop of remote Academic Services, Student Support Services and College Services — and digitized required student forms. “The changes that are inspired by QM Program Certification provide further evidence to current and potential online students, district-wide stakeholders and accreditors that each College is committed to delivering premier, quality digital learning experiences to its online students,” explained Dr. Dowden. “Through this commitment, we support the Alamo Colleges District’s mission of empowering our diverse communities for success.”