What is it?
Quality Matters™ (QM) is a peer-review process for providing feedback and guidance for online course design. According to the QM website, it originated from the MarylandOnline Consortium project in 2003. They received a grant from the US Department of Education to create a rubric and review process based on research and best practices. In 2014, it became its own nonprofit organization. Through a subscription service, the organization now provides training, resources, conference events, and research collaborations. They currently have 5000 QM certified reviewers to assist subscribers with the peer review process of their online courses.
Who uses it?
QM provides specific rubrics and guidelines for the quality assurance review process for K-12, higher education, publishers, and continuing education programs that offer distance education. QM has a new program to bring the rubric and process to students. The QM process is specifically for hybrid and fully online courses; it’s not for web-enhanced face-to-face courses. QM currently has 900 subscribers. Subscription prices are adjusted to the size of your online programs.
How does it work?
A subscribing institution (or individual) requests a QM review of their course and submits an application. QM recommends that you familiarize yourself with the rubric through the training process in advance of the review. They also recommend that the course for review not be new—that it has been through a few semesters to work out the bugs. A QM coordinator for your course assigns you a team of reviewers consisting of a team leader and two other certified peer reviewers, one of which is a subject matter expert. They read your self-report about the course and review your course using the rubric and guidelines. The rubric covers these general standards: 1. Course Overview & Introduction, 2. Learning Objectives (Competencies), 3. Assessment & Measurement, 4. Instructional Materials, 5. Course Activities & Learner Interaction, 6. Course Technology, 7. Learner Support, and 8. Accessibility & Usability. The team contacts you with questions throughout the 4-6 week process. Then they present you with your evaluation with time to address any major issues before finalizing the report.
What are the benefits?
Those courses that pass the review process receive recognition on the QM website. Even if you meet the standards, the peer reviewers provide you with recommendations for further improvements. Instructors can use this feedback for other courses they teach or debrief with colleagues about it. This serves as an ongoing continuous improvement process. This is something that institutions can promote to their clients and instructors can add to the curriculum vitae. From personal experience in becoming a QM certified peer reviewer, I can attest to the benefits of knowing the best practices and accessibility requirements for online course design. It has helped me to become a better online instructor and provided me with a wealth of knowledge for my work as an instructional designer. I’m grateful to the Innovation in Learning Center at the University of South Alabama for training me on the QM process and providing the opportunity to become a certified peer reviewer.