This blog written by:
USDLA Board Member
Assistant Dean, Online Learning/WebCampus – Stevens Institute of Technology
I got a call recently from our Director of Management Programs, informing me that the School of Business at Stevens Institute of Technology was creating something called the Committee for Peer Review of Online Courses. “By the way, would you mind chairing it,” he asked. For a long time our division had been operating under the assumption that getting faculty buy-in for such an initiative would be an extreme long-shot at best. Now, it looked as though a golden opportunity was being handed to us on a silver platter. All we had to do was figure out which peer review model to use for a pretty diverse set of online programs. And there was one other thing: our Business School has been running joint efforts with Chinese universities for over a decade. Whichever peer review scheme we ultimately adopted, it would need to be compatible with the Chinese higher education environment.
In the search for applicable models that have been applied in China, I didn’t need to look any further than the partnership between Quality Matters and Fudan University. Quality Matters, the US-based eLearning quality assurance organization, and Fudan University, a tier-one research institution in China, are roughly half-way through a 5-year agreement to develop and deploy joint quality standards specific to Chinese teaching and learning practices. Their “QM-Fudan Higher Education Online Course Quality Standards” won the 2017 USDLA Global Impact Award. Of what use was all this to my situation? Here’s the backstory….
The QM-Fudan Partnership
The QM-Fudan partnership began with three objectives:
- develop online course design standards for the Chinese higher education community
- collaborate on the dissemination of the standards throughout China, and
- conduct joint research in the field of quality assurance and online education
A core group of 28 Fudan faculty and staff members were provided intensive training on QM standards. This group participated in standard QM course reviews and played a critical role in refining the standards for adoption in China. These efforts and the resulting QM-Fudan model presents a compelling case study in the adoption of eLearning best practices for universities with international programs. A central challenge for the group was how to omit parts of the model that did not apply while keeping the essential elements in place. For example, accessibility considerations regarding students with special needs were removed from the QM-Fudan model, as these students were already served by special institutions in China. However, the core QM principles and fundamental features, including clarity about purpose of course and learning activities, measurable outcomes, the alignment of core course elements, self-introductions by instructor and students, students’ ability to track their own learning progress, were integrated into the final QM-Fudan model. The joint standards were thus informed by both Chinese tradition and US-based best practices and research-supported insights on effective online teaching and learning strategies.
Since winning the USDLA Global Impact Award in May 2017, the joint QM-Fudan team has been hard at work advancing their partnership and disseminating their lessons learned. In July, QM’s Executive Director, Dr. Deb Adair, and Senior Academic Advisor Yaping Gao, Ed.D, presented the early results and updates of the collaboration at the Chinese Higher Education Development Network Conference. In addition, a pre-conference workshop delivered by two members of the Fudan delegation highlighted other aspects of the QM-Fudan project. Among the next steps on team’s agenda is to gather detailed metrics on course reviews and faculty training. Additional follow-up activities will be the subject of a meeting when a Fudan delegation attends QM’s annual international conference being held in Fort Worth, Texas in September.
And what of the Peer Review Committee I was “asked” to lead at Stevens? How many of the lessons learned in the QM-Fudan project will be applicable to initiative that my group is about to embark on? That will have to wait for another blog post at another time. So until next time, I’ll see you online.
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The USDLA was formed in 1987. At that time, companies like Yahoo and Google were still years away. “Power users” were boasting of their Intel 386 processors. In that context, DL was a concept well outside the educational mainstream. Granted, a few people knew something of the process but hands-on DL experience was rare. USDLA, then, provided a means for these pioneers to find one another.
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