Closing the Gap: One Institution’s Journey to Quality Blended and Online Courses

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As with any journey in life, the journey to quality assurance is a multi-step process, often spurred by an initial thought or action. In the case of Missouri’s Rockwood School District, that catalyst was the decision to offer more personalized learning options for their students. As Dr. Shelley Willott, Executive Director of Learning and Support Services, explains, that goal led to a series of next steps, “That decision led us to do a lot of soul-searching about what really engages students both online and in the live classroom, how students want to learn, and what employers expect of our students when they graduate. Then, in order to get started, we purchased an online coursework service to see how our students interacted with the online format.”

That was just the beginning of the journey, though. Dr. Willott and her colleagues soon discovered a disconnect between the online coursework they had purchased and the types of skills they work with students to build. These include communication skills, critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities. It was a gap in learning that the District knew it had to close, and the decision was made to create its own blended and online courses to incorporate those skills. While they are just getting started on this phase of the journey, Dr. Willott feels confident that they are headed in the right direction, “We think that piecing these skills together with guidance from Quality Matters will result in a solid product moving forward.”

Rockwood decided to work with Quality Matters based on the advice of Springfield Public Schools, which is also located in Missouri — a recommendation that Dr. Willott is very pleased with, “[Springfield] recommended Quality Matters, and I couldn't be more grateful. I have learned so much about things we need to consider as we build our courses and develop policies and procedures.”

As Rockwood moves forward in its journey, it is looking to develop a collaborative quality assurance process that involves input from many perspectives, including teachers, administrators and students. To begin, the curriculum, assessment, professional learning, and instructional technology teams will participate in  the K-12 Applying the Quality Matters Rubric workshop. They will use the knowledge gained from that workshop to develop specific quality assurance goals. Additional training is planned once goals are fully developed.

If you are just beginning your own quality assurance journey, Dr. Millot recommends seeking help from Quality Matters especially the professional development offerings. As she explains, “It opened my eyes to things I had not considered which will only improve our final product.”

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