Our online course design process and evaluating with the QM Rubric

Last week our OLTAK team was focused on completing our online course design for teachers in the Survivalcraft experience. My responsibility was to create the training module for the teachers guide to The Maze Runner experience.  Our team used a Google Hangout chat to discuss and collaborate on the course design throughout the week.  This proved to be a convenient and effective tool for us to communicate quickly but in an “open” conversation as a team; each member could review the chat at the own convenience to get caught up on the dialogue or to find out details or decisions that had been made.

I coordinated with Matthew throughout the week because he was responsible for developing the same module but for the Lord of the Flies experience.  It was incredibly valuable to be able to compare notes and ideas as we each worked on designing our respective training modules.  We wanted to keep the same organization and formatting but make each guide a comprehensive resource about each story.

I spent time learning how to create and edit pages on the Weebly site and tested all the tools for adding content on each page. Using the Quality Matters Rubric was helpful in considering the standards for each aspect of the course design.  I realized that it is very different when you are creating every part of the course and when you are only working on one part of entire site.  In a way, it was convenient to be able to see how others were organizing their pages and to consider how my training module would fit in.  I spent more time reviewing Matthew’s module because we were covering similar material in our sections.  He gave me great ideas about adding information about MinecraftEdu; he also had audio files on his pages to assist users in going through each section.  I tried to create audio files but could not get the recording quality I needed to be able to post them so I switched tactics and wrote out each page as I would present it.  I also spent time formatting and adding documents and making sure they would appear correctly and that they were accessible.  I made my documents open on a different tab to help the user return easily to the training module.

This week we published our online course and invited Survivalcraft teachers to complete each training module in preparation for the experience next week. Our team met to review and evaluate our course according to the QM Rubric; each of us rated the site on a separate sheet then we reviewed each section to discuss our ratings and justifications.  As I examined the course site according to each category on the rubric, I tried to be objective and focus on the specific details that were provided to determine if we had met the standard for quality.  I found that there were some areas in which our course did not meet the standard because of the content of our course or the inconsistency across training modules. These inconsistencies were minor and can easily be changed, including formatting and linking of pages, revision and addition of specific learning objectives for each training module, stated expectations for communication and prerequisite knowledge and technical skills, and adding a description of the project on the home page.  One training module that needs to be added will focus on training teachers to use the provided rubric to assess students according to their chosen standards.

I found the peer review and use of the QM Rubric to be extremely valuable in examining our course from different perspectives.  Having an accepted standard with which to measure our work, helped me as I was designing my own training module.  By considering each standard and whether it was relevant for my training module, I was able to ensure that I was maintaining a standard for quality in presenting the content but also that I was accommodating the needs of my learners.  Now as I examined the course site in its entirety, I was able to consider my work in the context of our collective body of work and identify areas to improve.  It was also an affirmation to realize that we had covered most of the content needed for teachers to be successful in Survivalcraft and to see the aspects of the course that were strong due to our combined experience, knowledge, and efforts.  Comparing our ratings in the peer review demonstrated the value of a support network in developing the online course but also highlighted the importance of examining the finished product from different perspectives.  Using the QM Rubric is also significant because if the content changes and new course designers step in to revise the course, they can continue to ensure that the new materials and tools reflect the quality needed for learners to be successful.  As we continue to learn more about how course design impacts how students learn and what they need to successfully meet their learning objectives, this rubric is a valuable resource for ensuring that our work in developing virtual learning environments supports students effectively and appropriately.  Like any valuable tool, the more we use this rubric, the better we can improve our skills in effective course design and learner support.  Regardless of the pedagogical approach used in virtual teaching, this rubric can still be used to ensure that a high standard is met for designing virtual learning experiences.

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