“Students will definitely benefit from our first reviews because our courses are now easier to navigate and we more clearly present resources for academic support.”Dr. Meghan Roe
In 2017, the Springfield Public School District in Missouri initiated an expansion of their online course offerings. They added courses to their catalog and began offering their courses to member districts across the state. The result of this expansion was Launch — a dedicated online school housed within the district. The school was an immediate hit, adding hundreds of students and dozens of courses within months. As Launch’s Quality Assurance Specialist Dr. Meghan Roe explained at the time, the team quickly realized it needed a quality assurance program, “This exponential growth meant that we needed a clear, rigorous quality assurance process to ensure that we are providing excellent courses and support for students. Students, parents and teachers in our state are counting on it.” That need led Launch to Quality Matters and they became members in 2018.
Launch hit the ground running and key members of the team attended the 2018 QM Mountain Regional Conference in Denver. There, Dr. Roe and a colleague attended a QM for Administrators workshop, which helped them develop a plan — and goals — to advance their quality assurance journey. One of those goals was to conduct official QM course design reviews, something they didn’t feel ready for as a new member.
Fast forward to the fall of 2018 when the Launch team made the leap and jumped into official course design reviews. As Dr. Roe explained, the team was inspired by the QM Connect Conference, “While we were becoming more comfortable with the QM K-12 Secondary Rubric, we also decided to send a group from our office to the 2018 QM Connect Conference in St. Louis. The conference was fantastic, and it was the main reason we decided to bite the bullet and start sending in our courses for official review.” Dr. Roe continued, “Especially encouraging was the presentation by Krista Tomaselli and Kristi Peacock from Michigan Virtual. They spoke about getting started with QM and sending multiple courses for official review at a time. Before we even left the conference, we decided that we couldn’t wait until we felt ‘ready’ for an official review and that we needed to go ahead and start submitting our courses. Even if our courses weren’t certified right away, we knew we would get valuable feedback that we could use to improve all of our courses.”
Once the decision was made, the Launch team spent time getting courses ready for review. Two courses were selected to start with — Health and Personal Finance. “The major change that we needed to make was to add specific module-level objectives to our courses,” said Dr. Roe. “We had Missouri Learning Standards that we had broken down by unit, but we realized that these objectives fit better as broader course-level objectives. Launch’s Senior Digital Developer Linda Ayres and I worked with our Director Nichole Lemmon to align Missouri Learning Standards by assignment. Then, we wrote new module-level objectives that would scaffold our preexisting course-level state objectives.” Not only did this process help prepare the courses for review, but it also led to an improved course development process for Launch. New courses being developed are now written with specific module-level objectives from the start.
The course review process was a learning experience for the Launch team. While both courses met QM K-12 Secondary Standards during the initial review, Dr. Roe said that the team “still received amazing feedback and recommendations that we intend to apply to all of our courses.” Dr. Roe expounded, “Students will definitely benefit from our first reviews because our courses are now easier to navigate and we more clearly present resources for academic support.”
Students aren’t the only benefactors of Launch’s efforts. The school works with over 160 districts across the state of Missouri and those districts are reassured knowing that Launch’s courses are recognized for their quality course design. Achieving QM Certification also bolstered the team’s confidence and they are ready to move forward with more course reviews.
That’s not all that Launch has planned, though. The team plans to expand its learning at the next QM Connect Conference. “The 2018 QM Connect Conference definitely helped us in our quality assurance journey. We had very interesting conversations at the conference about how we can continue to use and benefit from QM, and we’ve continued those conversations in weekly QM-focused staff meetings,” shared Dr. Roe. “This year, we plan to invite members of the curriculum department to attend with us! We are also planning to propose a session or two so that we can hopefully encourage audience members starting their own journey with QM and the K-12 Secondary Rubric.”
Another learning opportunity the Launch team members are pursuing is serving as K-12 Course Reviewers. “Linda and I were asked to join a review team at about the same time as we were submitting our first courses for review,” explained Dr. Roe. “It was very interesting to be experiencing both sides of the review process at the same time — as both reviewer and course representative. Submitting a course review helped me to be a more empathetic reviewer, in that I could see how much work went into the creation of the course and the preparation in order to send the course to QM for review. As a course representative, I could appreciate the amount of time the review team took to look through every page of my course and make helpful recommendations.”
Both experiences left Dr. Roe eager for more. As mentioned, plans are in the works to submit more Launch courses for review, but Dr. Roe also wants to serve on more review teams. As she said, “I know the K-12 side of QM is growing fast, and I want to do my part to keep it growing!”
Are you ready to do your part too? Discover ways you can assist the growing field of K-12 online learning by exploring QM’s professional development and course review options. From examining your course design to developing your online teaching skills, there are countless ways you can contribute!