Building Quality Assurance on a Budget

“When you have strong relationships, people are willing to contribute and commit to the success of high-quality online experiences.”Meredith Roe, Program Manager for the Virtual School Network (ViSN) program for Catholic Education Western Australia (CEWA)

It’s a word that everyone can relate to — budget. And often, in education, it is the lack of a budget that is being discussed. But a shortfall in funding does not have to be a barrier to meeting your quality assurance goals. Just ask Meredith Roe, Program Manager for the Virtual School Network (ViSN) program for Catholic Education Western Australia (CEWA).

“For the first two years, ViSN ran on a zero budget! This meant I had to be very creative in how we operated without compromising on quality experiences,” shared Meredith. So what did Meredith do? First and foremost, she focused on relationships. “I am a believer in strong relationships — relationships with other online schools as well as students, teachers and other related stakeholders,” explained Meredith. “When you have strong relationships, people are willing to contribute and commit to the success of high-quality online experiences. This then becomes a self-perpetuating process built on a positive community of collaborators. And the best part? Building relationships costs nothing!”

In 2018, Meredith had the opportunity to expand those relationships through Quality Matters (QM). When presented with the opportunity to attend QM Connect, Meredith noted the registration discount for members and decided to sign up for an Individual Membership. But that was only a small part of the motivation behind her membership. As Meredith detailed, “Membership to a dedicated online learning community was also appealing, given the work I do to lead the ViSN program for CEWA. While I am located some distance from all the online action in the U.S., my membership helps me feel connected to colleagues engaged in similar work, creating a great professional network.”

Meredith is able to further maximize her budget by using her Individual Membership to expand ViSN’s quality assurance efforts and ensure that best practices are reflected. “While we are not yet engaged in QM’s official reviews, my membership ensures quality assurance practices are always in the forefront of our discussions and planning,” reported Meredith. “Additionally, the K-12 Secondary Rubric, provided as part of the membership, is invaluable for reflection on course design best practices.”

QM’s additional resources such as conferences and webinars bolster Meredith’s efforts at ViSN. In fact, Meredith reports that the 2018 QM Connect Conference was a personal professional development highlight that provided numerous benefits. “I really enjoyed extending my network of K-12 online learning community members, which was facilitated by QM’s K-12 Program Director Chris Voelker through introductions and social events during the conference. It was an exceptionally welcoming group and I have kept in contact with many of these people since.” Following the conference, Meredith was invited to co-chair a QM K-12 Collaborative Team focused on Online Learning Logistics and Operations. Meredith’s work with the co-chairs provides another source of collegiality and professional learning.

Sharing is a key component of Meredith’s plan to build quality assurance on a budget and ensure student success. As Meredith explained, “The learning I take from QM conferences, webinars, readings, discussions, and research is always shared with my teaching staff. Their increased wisdom and knowledge, in turn, benefits the ViSN students. I also work with a steering committee of principals, deputy principals, teachers, parents, and industry representatives — they too benefit from ideas garnered from my access to QM’s networks and resources.”

After experiencing significant growth in its early years, ViSN is moving into a period of sustainability planning during which Meredith will continue to explore QM resources — including QM K-12 membership — to help guide them through any changes to their current quality assurance practices while ensuring success for everyone involved. But sustainability doesn’t mean stagnation. “We have some exciting new community-based partnerships, including one with a local university, which will see ViSN deliver its ‘alternative entry to university’ program, a first for online learning in Australia,” revealed Meredith. “We are also developing a greater diversity of courses, to better cater to a wider range of students — all of which are designed and delivered by exceptionally passionate online teachers!”

Are you like Meredith and implementing a quality assurance plan on a limited budget? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Share your story and let others know how they, too, can overcome the financial barriers they are facing.