HE: Growing With Quality Matters

Planting the Seed

woman watering a drawing of a tree with a light bulb growing from the top

MaryJo Villasenor remembers when she was first introduced to Quality Matters (QM). She had just been hired as a part-time faculty member in the Accounting & Finance Department at Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) when she learned about QM through the college’s Online Teaching Certification course. MaryJo’s relationship with QM grew quickly after that initial introduction.

After taking the Applying the Quality Matters Rubric workshop, MaryJo’s interest in becoming a QM-Certified Peer Reviewer was sparked, so she took the Peer Reviewer Course. Soon after completing the course, MaryJo was asked to serve as a subject matter expert on an accounting review. “The experience was great,” MaryJo shared. “It was so interesting to see how another faculty member addressed the course materials, the course layout, and the course objectives, not to mention the structure of the framework in the LMS.”

Seeing how others are creating quality courses continues to stand out to MaryJo. “There are multiple ways to meet the QM Standards,” MaryJo explained. “There is always another way to do certain things, and I’ve learned that my way is not the only way. That’s important to me as a teacher. I always want to be learning. It helps me stay green and grow professionally.”

Being a Reviewer has also helped MaryJo better understand how the QM Rubric benefits students. As MaryJo shared, she learned that measurability, alignment, navigability, and interaction all play a crucial role in the student experience. “Students want to know why they are learning the material and where to find it easily so that the LMS becomes a tool or a classroom full of tools, rather than a corn maze,” MaryJo expressed. ”They need to know how each item in the course steers them one step closer to meeting the course objectives, and who their instructor is, and who they can interact and partner with.”

A Budding Idea

MaryJo’s reviewer experience has come in handy. In August 2019, she was named Online Learning Manager and tasked with overseeing the college’s LMS transition. As decisions were made regarding customizing the LMS’s navigational features, MaryJo was guided, in part, by the QM Rubric Standards she had learned so much about. But then, just as the college was completing its LMS transition, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing the college to “get a semblance of a course online so students had something to learn.”

Fast-forward to today and MaryJo is overseeing an exciting new initiative at CNM — the Cares 2.0 Remodel. Competency. Review. Certify (RCRC) Project. Following the transition to remote emergency instruction, the college recognized they had an opportunity to remodel the courses that had been rushed online as well as to refresh other courses now that the LMS transition was complete. “The RCRC project centers around curriculum and design,” MaryJo shared. “I chose to use the QM Higher Education Rubric, Sixth Edition, as a guide. As a reviewer, I understand what is expected, and that there are many ways to achieve these quality standards and thus improve the student experience. This aspect of flexibility allows the faculty academic freedom of expression and allows the Instructional Consultants and Learning Experience Designers at the college an opportunity to create specific design elements that interpret how to address the student needs and align with the QM Standards.”

In Full Bloom

As part of the RCRC project, CNM is planning to have 100 courses go through the QM review process, something MaryJo says the college is ready for because they have used the QM Rubric as a guide throughout the RCRC project. The college used the Rubric to:

  • Create its Get Started and overview templates
  • Organize the navigation bars in its LMS
  • Suggest best practices to faculty during collaboration sessions
  • Conduct CNM Self Reviews with faculty and instructional consultants 
  • Complete a final QM Self-Review as a readiness test

“We know that a QM review is a process of continuous improvement towards student success, and that goal worked well with our mission in the Cares 2.0 RCRC project to collaborate with faculty to create an enhanced, consistent student experience,” MaryJo said. “It also dovetails with CNM’s Strategic Planning 2020-2024 under the Student Success definition: ‘Students achieve their educational and career goals.’ One of the objectives is to ‘deliver an exceptional student experience.’ We feel by utilizing the tools in the LMS using the QM Standards as our guide, we can further the success of our students.”
As the Academic Fellow supervising the RCRC project, and one of CNM’s Quality Matters Coordinators, MaryJo is playing a large role in the review initiative. In addition to serving as the QMC for each review, MaryJo supports the Course Representatives by:

  • Providing faculty with the support materials they need to understand the review process
  • Providing guidance and direction in completing the course worksheets
  • Attending the pre-review conferences
  • Assisting faculty once the review is completed with any needed amendments 

Knowing that communication is key, MaryJo also meets regularly with the Deans, who in turn relay the information to the faculty within their schools. “We have also communicated this through the Associate Deans, Program Chairs, the Faculty Senate, and the Distance Learning Advisory Committee,” MaryJo explained. “It has also been shared in President Hartzler’s bi-monthly Strategic Direction Updates, and through our weekly CNM-News Link.” MaryJo is also working with the college catalog team to add the certification mark to CNM’s college catalog, syllabi and other marketing materials so that students and prospective students are in the know as well.

In the meantime, MaryJo is excited to continue this important work. “My enthusiasm has not waned from my first review  in 2019. It grows with each Pre-review Conference, Final Report and Amendment Report,” MaryJo said. “Being part of QM is truly an amazing opportunity that CNM affords us through our membership, that I want to spread like wildfire across the campus.”