QM Program Certification Overview

Going beyond an initial focus on course design, QM has created a series of Program Certifications—using QM-Managed Program Reviews—related to online teaching and learning. These certifications draw upon the knowledge gained from reviewing several thousand courses from hundreds of institutions over more than a decade. There are Two Paths to Program Certification: Program Review or Candidacy + Program Review. Programs that achieve any of the individual Program Certifications will receive a unique seal that they can display on their website and printed materials and will be listed on the QM-Certified Programs page.

The QM Program Certification process consists of four individual certifications that online Higher Education Programs may seek:

  1. Online Program Design
  2. Online Teaching Support
  3. Online Learner Support
  4. Online Learner Success

These are broken down into criteria, evidence, and annotations in the Annotated Program Criteria PDF.


Program Certification Categories

The first three certifications focus on critical inputs to the delivery of quality online programs. As such, they follow the pattern of established QM course design Rubrics. The fourth certification, however, directly addresses program outcomes. Can a case be made that learners going through the program are achieving levels of success during and beyond the completion of the program that exceed what they might otherwise have accomplished?

Programs may choose to seek certification in areas of strength, or they may commit to seeking all four certifications over time. As a further recognition, QM will designate those programs that attain certification in all four areas over a period of three years or less as Exemplary Online Programs.

Online Program Design

The Online Program Design Certification recognizes programs that are designed around measurable learning objectives or competencies. Design or revision of individual courses within the program aligns with program objectives, involves QM-Certified personnel, and is consistent with the relevant QM Rubric.

Additional Requirements:

Newly designed courses must be developed according to QM Standards.  Older courses must be revised through a combination of the following practices:

  • Revisions that embody the relevant QM Rubric(s)
  • A required post-revision course review - official, Preparatory Review or qualified internal*
  • A statement that any future qualified internal QM course reviews will be conducted by teams of two or three QM-trained reviewers
  • A statement that all courses in the programs seeking certification will be reviewed at least once every five years, based on the most recent QM Rubric

*A qualified internal course review uses QM tools and is conducted by a minimum of 2 reviewers who have completed either the Applying the Quality Matters Rubric (APPQMR) or the Improving Your Online Course (IYOC) workshop, at least one of whom is also a QM-Certified Peer Reviewer or Master Reviewer.

Online Teaching Support

The Online Teaching Support Certification recognizes programs that require all online faculty to undergo training in best practices for online course delivery, provide faculty with ongoing pedagogical support, encourage faculty professional development to increase their knowledge and skill in online teaching, emphasize instructor availability and feedback to learners, and collect and use feedback from learners to improve online teaching.

Online Learner Support

The Online Learner Support Certification recognizes programs that provide all the critical student and academic services needed for learner success and use learner feedback to continuously improve those services.

Online Learner Success

The Online Learner Success Certification recognizes programs that are able to articulate a mission-driven definition of success for their learners that also meets the expectations of their external stakeholders and to demonstrate that their learners are achieving success at a high rate, based on external comparisons and benchmarks.

Exemplary Program Status

Programs that are successful in achieving recognition in all four of the certification areas within a three-year period will also be awarded Exemplary Program status by Quality Matters. No separate review is required. Such programs will be prominently identified on the QM website.

Two Paths to Certification

Program Review

For Program Review, online programs need a minimum of 3 consecutive years of evidence as noted in the Annotated Program Criteria and affirmative answers to all questions in the Program Readiness Checklist; completion of the Preparing for Program Reviews workshop is recommended.

Key items in the process for the Program/Institution include:

  • Submission of data/evidence that show the criteria for the certification being sought are met
  • Description of the data/evidence and how it is collected
  • Interpretation of the data/evidence
  • Explanation of relevance of the data/evidence to the certification being sought
  • Readiness for review
  • Ability to devote time to the review during the approximately eight-week process

For a full list of activities in the process, download the “Steps in the Process” document. To get started, ensure program readiness and fill out the form on this page to receive an application.

Fees for Program Review*
  • Single Program: $3,000 
  • All Online Programs in one Academic Unit: $3,750 
  • All Online Programs offered by the Institution: $4,500 

*Prices valid for the current calendar year. Non-Subscriber must become members.


Candidacy + Program Review

For Candidacy, online programs need a commitment to complete the Preparing for Program Reviews workshop and the target activities unique to each certification as outlined in the Program Certification Candidacy Progress Chart. To get started, submit the form on this page. After completing the candidacy portion, organizations will move through the Program Review process (with associated fees) outlined above. 

Fees for Candidacy
  • Application fee: $1,000
  • The application fee is a one-time fee for candidacy. Candidacies may last for a maximum of 3 years. Subscription-level access is added for each year of candidacy for non-subscribers at the rate of $1,750* for a Basic subscription.

*Prices valid for the current calendar year. Non-Subscriber must become members.