Meeting You on the Road Ahead

Dr. Deb Adair, QM Executive Director

empty road leading to sun near horizon
“Although it sounds simple, even the work to identify desired outcomes and align your QA plan to them can be challenging.”

To my friends and colleagues in the QM Community,

I hope each of you were afforded some time at the end of last year, or the start of this one, to catch your breath and reflect on what 2023 may bring and how you will meet it. Since 2020, our community has been the Johnny-on-the-spot to react to emergent needs, new priorities, and conflicting imperatives. To me, at least, 2022 did not bring any respite from the sense of urgency to simply “do”— even as we left the days of emergency remote teaching behind. Looking ahead to 2023, we have an opportunity to be more planful and move forward with intentionality and focus. 

Our focus, of course, is always on quality; however, it’s time for us to take a much wider view of what that means and what it affords our institutions and learners. Some of you may have had the opportunity to attend QM Connect last November and to hear the message of our opening keynote panel on the theme of Expanding Possibilities. QM and our entire community were charged to “open our aperture” to see a broader perspective on the quality of the student learning experience. Just as the power of design thinking can help us take the perspective of the whole learner — rather than limiting our focus to their interactions within courses and programs — design thinking can also be useful in understanding how quality assurance (QA) practices can be implemented within complex structures. What we achieve is a broader view of the institutional landscape and a sharper sense of alignment between QA initiatives with key outcomes and organizational success. 

Our research on implementation and on the experience of QMCs has led us to the development of QM’s “Quality360” approach to the implementation of QA practices. The hallmarks of this approach are the intentional design of QA plans to specifically align to strategic institutional goals and the identification and use of specific levers for change within institutional contexts. This is a particularly timely approach to quality assurance for digital learning because: a) the affordances of online learning are increasingly seen as important in achieving institutional enrollment, equity, and access goals; and b) institutional infrastructure writ large (i.e. the people, processes, policies, resources, communications, and evaluation systems) is less navigable because it has been designed, traditionally, for on-campus, rather than online, operations. Demonstrating the impact of your QA work on larger organizational goals is a very big “ask” of those of you who are working to implement QM at your institutions because the objectives of your QA work haven’t always been aligned to the outcomes you are asked to meet, and the expertise and work to navigate the broader institutional landscape can’t readily be captured in the “other duties as assigned” work of QM implementation. We know you need help — and we are prepared to provide it.

This year, we will be introducing the QA Implementation Landscape, created by Dr. Bethany Simunich, QM’s VP of Innovation and Research, as the model that helps us identify the important institutional levers for implementation and helps us consider what is needed to effectively execute your plan. Although it sounds simple, even the work to identify desired outcomes and align your QA plan to them can be challenging. Throughout the year, QM will be providing workshops and events, training and customized consultation to help you achieve your goals.

We appreciate the expertise and the commitment of the QM Community and are well aware of both the challenge and the achievements of the last few years. We also know, to paraphrase a takeaway from QM’s previous Presidents Summit on Leading Quality, that there is no going back — the only path is forward. We are all traveling the same road, and QM wants to meet you where you are in advancing your quality initiatives. Let’s make 2023 the year we “open our aperture” and move forward with a Quality360 approach to achieve the outcomes we all want to see. 

Happy New Year!

Dr. Deborah Adair is the Executive Director and CEO for Quality Matters. Dr. Adair has more than 30 years of experience in higher education, teaching and administration, and non-profit leadership and management consulting. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) and has served on advisory bodies for the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, the National University Technology Network, the Presidents' Forum, and Credential Engine. Dr. Adair has also authored, presented, and interviewed broadly as an expert in quality assurance for online learning.