Broward College, founded in 1959 and part of the Florida College System, is a state college located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It began offering four-year bachelor's degrees in 2008 and was named one of the top 10 community colleges in the nation by the Washington D.C.-based Aspen Institute in 2012. Broward College now serves more than 67,000 students annually and employs more than 2,000 faculty and staff.
In January 2013 Broward College launched an online campus, Broward College Online – Florida’s Global Campus to manage and grow its online program. “With online education growing steadily and the number of online degree programs increasing, Broward College is committed to supporting and exceeding the changing needs of our students,” Broward College President J. David Armstrong, Jr. stated in a news release supporting the launch.1
In 2008, Broward College subscribed to the Quality Matters Program (QM), an international, inter-institutional program and a leader in quality assurance for online education. QM has received national recognition for its peer-based approach to continuous improvement in online education and student learning. QM's quality assurance processes are designed to certify the design of online and blended courses. To understand why Broward College subscribed to Quality Matters and how the College implements the program, QM interviewed Yaping Gao, PhD, District Director of Instructional Design at Broward College Online.
Dr. Gao is very active with Quality Matters. Beyond Broward College, she served as co-consultant with Ronald Legon, PhD, QM’s Executive Director, for the QM Program Audit for Ball State University. She is a member of the six-member Quality Matters Legacy Committee, whose purpose is to guide and collaborate with the 2014-2016 QM Rubric Revision Committee (Higher Education Edition). She also served as one of 11 members of the 2011-2013 Quality Matters Rubric Revision Committee (Higher Education Edition).
Dr. Gao has served as Broward College’s QM Institutional Representative since 2008, leading the college-wide implementation of the Quality Matters initiative and overseeing the college’s focus on quality assurance in course design. She led the development and implementation of what Broward College refers to as the “BC Quality Standards for Course Design”, which serves as the guide for the design, development, sign-off and delivery of all online and blended courses, and leads a team tasked with supporting the development and delivery of all the online and blended courses. She oversees all QM-managed course reviews for Broward College. 38 Broward College courses from 28 faculty members were certified as having met QM standards as of Fall 2013.
How do you use Quality Matters at Broward College?
We became a Quality Matters subscriber in the summer of 2008. We are a union institution and our Collective Bargaining Agreement includes contract language about commissioned course development, review and delivery. We developed our own “BC Quality Standards for Online Course Design”,2 which are based on and include all official QM standards plus a few Broward-specific standards. All online and blended courses need to meet these standards in order to be considered as completed.
How has QM been received by faculty?
We are very fortunate in that from very early on, we had an effective faculty-support-faculty structure, which we call eAssociates. These are our full-time faculty and seasoned online instructors. In 2008, we identified a few champion eAssociates, sent them off to QM training and subsequently had their courses undergo QM reviews; these courses met QM standards and were nationally recognized. QM has been part of our course development, review, sign-off and delivery process ever since.
Since 2008, all of our eAssociates have been QM trained, have their courses reviewed and certified by QM and have been actively involved in all e-learning related initiatives and projects. We recognize these faculty members and their QM-reviewed courses at prominent annual events at the College. We organize and publicize workshop sessions for eAssociates to showcase their QM-reviewed and-improved courses. We also ask eAssociates to assist other faculty in developing and delivering online and blended courses.
What are the key elements in promoting QM adoption among faculty?
Our experience tells us that it is very important to make sure faculty understand that the QM Rubric, standards and review process are about continuous improvement of course design, not about instructor evaluation. It is a faculty-driven peer review process with a focus on course design, not on content. We rely entirely on and respect faculty as content experts. In the review process, there are no questions or doubt about their authority on their subject matter.
Equally important in the initial implementation process is to identify some QM early adopters among faculty. Let them speak with their colleagues, share with them and guide them along the way as mentors. If the order comes from the administration down to the faculty that they have to adopt and use QM, it will be much harder to implement. Faculty need to hear testimonies from and be convinced by their colleagues who speak their language. Once the faculty realize they can save time by improving course design – for example by spending less time answering the same questions again and again at the beginning of an online class – they will buy into the entire process.
What professional development has your faculty taken?
My entire instructional design team and all the e-learning faculty associates have taken part in QM professional development. To date Broward College has 13 Certified QM Peer Reviewers and 4 Certified QM Master Reviewers. Our internal professional development program is also designed and developed based on Quality Matters standards. Our capstone training courses are “Getting Ready to Teach Online”, designed to certify instructors to deliver existing master courses; and, “Building Quality Online Courses”, designed to certify faculty to develop online and blended courses.
What costs are involved?
We are in the Florida QM Consortium so our annual full membership fee is about $2,475. The annual subscription to the Continuing and Professional Education (CPE) Rubric is $500. We also allocate annual funding to send at least five courses for QM-managed reviews each year ($1,000 per course as member x 5 =$5,000).
Other QM related costs include QM training (mostly online), purchasing QM materials and sending faculty and staff to attend QM conferences, all of which is very reasonable.
What is next for Broward College and Quality Matters?
Since last spring, Broward College has been hosting a college readiness Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for a global audience. We continue to improve this MOOC, based on the first several offerings. This MOOC, titled “College Foundations – Reading, Writing & Math”, was developed and evaluated using Quality Matters’ Continuing and Professional Education (CPE) Rubric, and I reported on this experimental course at the 5th Annual QM Annual Conference in Nashville in early October 2013.4
Additionally, Broward College has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the State of Florida to provide the K-20 community with a more ambitious developmental education/college-readiness MOOC with modular materials on reading, writing and math. This MOOC will be unique in its use of game-based learning activities to engage and motivate learners. Titled “College Readiness through GAme-BAsed LEarning” (GABLE), the course design will use a modular approach, beginning with top-level modules for reading, writing, and math content areas.
Content will be available to the educational community as an entire course in reading, writing or math, and also as disaggregated assets in Florida State’s learning object repository, the Orange Grove, to enable modularized learning objects to be imported into any learning management system to provide discrete remediation as needed.
Within each module the learner will be presented with a consistent sequence of activities that includes a pre-test to identify competencies in need of remediation followed by targeted, media-rich lessons replete with game-based learning activities, self-assessments, post-tests and additional external resources. This competency-based approach will ensure that each learner experiences a customized curriculum that drives an effective, time-efficient pathway to college readiness and success.
The Quality Matters Rubric that Broward College has adopted for course development will be applied to the evaluation of this MOOC prior to its release. For example, the first Quality Matters standard stating “… design of the course is made clear to the student at the beginning of the course” will be realized through text and video orientations, as well as through the interactive guidance and support from the subject area faculty coaches that will be facilitating in each content area.
Finally, Broward College is also using the Quality Matters Rubric to guide the design and development of a competency-based IT program funded by the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program from the United States Department of Labor. The purpose of the grant is to adapt Western Governors University's competency-based model to accelerate completions in some IT programs. On behalf of Broward College and the entire grant team, Professor George Cooke and I presented on how we are using the QM Rubric to guide the design and development of this program at the 5th Annual QM Annual Conference in Nashville.5
Broward College is truly using its collaboration with Quality Matters to remain at the forefront of new trends in distance education.
How does Broward College Online use QM to support your re-accreditation efforts?
To get the complete picture on how Quality Matters supports Broward College’s re-accreditation efforts, Dr. Gao connected QM with David Shulman, PhD, Associate Vice President, Broward College Online. Broward College had their re-accreditation visit from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in October 2013 and Dr. Shulman said, “With our interviews with SACS in October, the faculty referred to and mentioned QM repeatedly as our holy grail for ensuring quality courses.”
As part of the re-accreditation process, Broward College relied on two key documents to drive the conversation with SACS.
A. SACS Guidelines for Addressing Distance and Correspondence Education6
B. The “BC Quality Standards for Online Course Design” Dr. Gao referenced above, which include all official QM standards plus a few Broward-specific standards.
Dr. Shulman detailed 10 ways in which Quality Matters supported the re-accreditation process:
- Accountability for the delivery and quality of online courses. QM provides the framework for the consistent quality of our online and blended courses.
- Institutional effectiveness. QM ensures the preeminence student learning outcomes, assessment and measurement as the bedrock of curriculum content integrity.
- Curriculum and instruction. QM ensures the appropriateness of the curriculum design for online teaching and learning.
- Faculty involvement in curricula development. QM is an instrument that facilitates faculty involvement and understanding of online content and syllabus development.
- Technological delivery modes. QM ensures the appropriateness of the delivery technology in supporting usability and attainment of learning outcomes and competencies.
- Training. QM standards drive the structure of our professional development.
- Interaction. QM establishes and adds to the fabric of online delivery a clear understanding and standards for ensuring adequate, quality interaction occurs in the virtual learning environment.
- Academic resources. QM ensures that course development includes information and links to resources that support online learners.
- Accessibility. QM ensures that course development is inclusive of all learners, regardless of any accessibility issues.
- Course evaluation. QM was provided to our SACS visiting committee as an example as the main method employed to evaluate the quality of online courses.