SUNY Online Teaching develops tools, services, and resources all openly licensed to help SUNY campus leaders, IDs, faculty, and others, do their jobs a little more efficiently, effectively and better.
OSCQR is one of those tools.
OSCQR is a set of tools, online materials, and processes to support continuous improvements to the quality and accessibility of online courses. OSCQR consists of a rubric – in pdf and online interactive formats, a companion online informational website, a continuous improvement process for supporting online course design, review, and refresh, and an online dynamic dashboard that supports the implementation of larger-scale online course quality review and refresh initiatives.
The OSCQR rubric has 50 standards that integrate research-based effective practices, specific standards to inform accessibility, and specific suggestions for ensuring Regular and Substantive Interaction in online course design.
OSCQR is the first online course quality rubric that specifically addresses the new US Department of Education regulation requirements for “Regular and Substantive Interaction, or “RSI,” in the design of online courses. Online faculty, instructional designers, departments, and institutions can use OSCQR to plan, design, improve, document, and implement online courses and programs that are informed by best practices in online course design and accessibility, and that comply with RSI regulations. RSI standards in OSCQR are identified by the dashboard icon on the rubrics and the web materials, and listed here: https://oscqr.suny.edu/rsi/rsi-standards, for example, each RSI standard has a webpage, and a section that describes how the standard address or can be leveraged to address RSI and provides examples and ideas.
OSCQR is unique in many ways.
- It is free and openly licensed for anyone to use and adapt.
- It is easy to use.
- It is intentionally non-evaluative – it does not score courses, you can’t fail OSCQR per se.
- It’s intended as a faculty development activity to promote interest and conversations around online pedagogy, effective practices, learner-centered instruction and success, and to support a culture of online course design iteration and continuous improvements. So, an OSCQR review reveals things that need improvement, provides explanations and suggestions to improve each standard, and helps organize and track improvements made over time.
- It is intentionally flexible and can be customized- meaning standards can be reworded, and additional standards can be added.
- And, it is intentionally designed to be implemented in a variety of course review models and contexts.
The online interactive Rubric:
- Is easy to generate and distribute – it is a very fancy google spreadsheet.
- Dynamically aggregates reviewer assessment and feedback and produces an online action plan to document and guide the course refresh.
- Assists in prioritizing refresh efforts.
- Estimates amount of time to make improvements.
- Guides the review process and offers explanations, micro-learning videos, and specific suggestions and examples for improvements. This supports faculty using it independently and IDs to use it as a tool box for ideas, and in their work with faculty.
- Accommodates the customization of rubrics for specific purposes, disciplines, or programs.
The OSCQR online interactive dashboard is intended for managing larger-scale campus-level course review efforts. The dashboard centralizes access and automates the creation of all the rubrics for an institution. It facilitates the assignment of course reviewers, and the ability to track course review progress and manage the course review and refresh workflow process.It also provides the ability to create custom rubrics for use with specific disciplines or programs.
OSCQR was adopted by the Online Learning Consortium in 2016 and is featured as the online course quality rubric in their suite of Online Quality Scorecards, and OSCQR has won a number of national awards, including the WCET WOW award in 2018.
WHY quality assurance related to course design is so important in offering high quality online learning opportunities
If you don’t have a map to get where you want to go, you can’t be sure you will get there. And online course quality rubric and process is your map to get to a well-designed online course. Any map is better than no map. You don’t have to make it up as you go … you don’t have to take my word for it – the rubric gives you an objective framework for how to design online instruction well.
It is important to note that the course design lens is not the only thing that goes into a high quality online learning experience, but an online course quality rubric, like OSCQR, is an online course design tool that is research-based and gives you the opportunity develop an approach, or create a process within your institutional context to inform and influence online course designs intentionally, consistently, and systematically. Rubrics can be used to ensure well-designed online learning environments in which online faculty and learners can succeed … Ultimately, it is about success. The use of a rubric is about supporting online faculty and students to teach and learn well online – To support success.
… that is WHY the concept of quality assurance related to course design is so important.
HOW the OSCQR rubric & model is implemented and being used today
So, as mentioned, OSCQR was intentionally designed to be implemented in a variety of course review models and contexts. 56 SUNY institutions have adopted OSCQR in a variety of ways.
- I have seen it incorporated into both new and experienced online faculty development and online course design activities. Where faculty use it formatively as they design new online courses or online courses for the first time. And don’t feel evaluated, or have standards sprung on them after they have spent so much time designing their courses.
- It has been implemented formally and informally as an online faculty self-assessment, as a pure self assessment or in conjunction with ID support, and as part of a directed formal training certification process, or informal faculty development activity.
- I have seen it implemented formally or informally as part of an online course quality review process by online instructional designers at the end of a course design process – to for example certify or approve courses to go live.
- It has also been used to support a faculty peer review process.
- And in multi disciplinary collaborative review teams with, for example, an ID, instructor/SME, librarian, student, or technologist.
- I’ve also seen combinations of these models.
We have 64 SUNY institutions. OSCQR has been intentionally designed for this type of flexibility to be adapted for use in any of our institutional contexts.
The BEST way to get started with OSCQR
The OSCQR self-assessment is the easiest way to get started. We recommend it for every online instructor as a part of their online faculty development process, after they have developed and taught their online course for the first time. It is a very good mechanism to support a culture of continuous professional development, and online course iteration/improvements – that cycle of online course development, delivery, review, and refresh.
- Go to: https://oscqr.suny.edu/get-oscqr/
- Download the self-assessment pdf. Or fill out the form to get the online interactive rubric.
- Conduct a self-assessment on your online course, or a review of an existing course, using the companion website as a guide, and for suggestions.
- As an instructor, if you have access to an online instructional designer, you can share your action plan, and get their input and help to review, prioritize, and plan what needs to be improved in the course. And, determine how, when, and by whom the improvements to the course will be made.
- If you are the instructional designer, you can use the action plan and the companion website to determine what improvements are essential, before the course is taught again, and that can be made with the skills you have, in the timeframe you have to make those improvements.
Some obstacles or challenges that might interfere with implementation, and how can they be overcome
Obstacles?? It depends on context … who you are and where you sit.
If you are an instructor, your obstacles might be time, might be fear, might be assumptions, might be that you don’t know what you don’t know… we have a lot of faculty now that were forced online because of COVID, that now honestly believe that they “know” how to teach online. That’s a challenge…
If you are an ID, your challenges might be that you don’t have support, or authority to conduct reviews, or to change process or policy. You might not have processes, or sufficient resources in place. You might not have time, or enough staff, or ways to incentivize participation, or the ability to require course reviews and refreshes… you might not have the necessary skills or tools, or access to certifications and PD. You might not have the professional standing as a peer with faculty that would help you in your work… all real challenges and obstacles.
If you are an administrator, you might not have top down alignment on the strategic value of online education at your institution. If that is the case, you won’t be able to create a rationale for allocating budgetary resources to course quality initiatives. You won’t be able to propose reorganization or create new organizational structures, or build staffing to support the initiative, or to propose changes to existing policies, or propose new policies or agreements that might be necessary.
How to overcome these challenges ?? I think that no matter what organization level or role you have, one has to clearly understand why one is engaged in online education. Is it access? Is it revenue? Is it retention? Is it to increase enrollments? Is it to modernize, and keep up with changes and demands? Is it to fill a workforce need? Is it to assist a particular demographic with alternatives/options? Is it to offer residential students options for summer courses so they don’t go somewhere else? Is it for continuing education offerings? Ultimately, at the end of each of these questions is the need and desire for online learners to have successful academic experiences.
Once you get clear and inspired by why you are engaged in online learning in any context or level – the “how” to overcome any obstacles becomes a matter of creative problem-solving, and taking incremental steps toward a specific goal. You need a map and a plan – OSCQR is one map that you can check out. And you also need a plan. SUNY Online offers an Implementation Plan Template for use with larger-scale online course quality initiatives –it is set up for OSCQR, but you can use it with any rubric. It is an implementation plan template that can help you make the case for an online course quality initiative and plan the incremental steps toward your goal.
How quality assurance and OSCQR can specifically help to address issues of equity
Currently we provide some suggestions and resources to address equity, diversity and inclusion (DEI) that are integrated into OSCQR web resource materials of specific OSCQR standards (currently standards 1, 3, 10, 29, 31 and 41).
A formal OSCQR version update was planned for summer 2021, to intentionally review and revise the rubric with the DEI lens. But the RSI regulation created an urgent priority for a revision focused on that new DoE regulation that went into effect on July 1, 2021 so we postponed the DEI OSCQR revision for a year. Since then, an opportunity has come up to work with some groups outside of SUNY to formally update OSCQR with DEI, and address gaps in online course quality rubrics in general.
I am currently co-leading a cross-institutional collaboration that includes a group of online instructional design experts, online faculty, and DEI experts from across SUNY, a team from CalState LA/CETL, and a group of interested individuals from the California virtual campus – online education initiative.
We are at the very beginning stages of this project that will be developing a set of DEI annotations that are mapped to specific standards of all the main online course quality rubrics. The intention is to develop a resource that is free and openly licensed that can be used to add a DEI specific lens to relevant online course quality standards from any rubric.
A course quality rubric is just a tool. It is what you do with it that matters.
Once you understand the answer to the existential question of why you are engaged in online education, whatever your context, you can then focus on what needs to happen to do it well. An online course quality rubric – any online course quality rubric – can help you do the online course design piece well, consistently, and systematically.