Students from Distance Education’s Learning, Design and Technology (LDT) program have been putting their Quality Matters (QM) training to use in their schools, and to aid UNC Charlotte faculty in the development of online courses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Quality Matters is a global organization leading quality assurance in online and innovative digital teaching and learning environments.The QM for students program within LDT allows students the opportunity to enroll in a year-long Quality Matters membership while they complete the curriculum and design online learning courses.
The Learning, Design, and Technology program has a concentration in online teaching and learning in which students learn to design and deliver quality online courses. The LDT program is delivered 100% online and almost all of the courses in the LDT program have been QM reviewed and certified as meeting the standards. The program has achieved two QM program-level certifications in the areas of program design and student success.
Adopted in the fall of 2019, the QM for students program gives students access to QM rubrics, training modules and the course review management system. “Two cohorts of students have taken the designing online learning systems course with the QM for students program embedded into the curriculum,” said Dr. Beth Oyarzun, program director for the LDT program.
“Many of our students are part-time students and full-time employees working in a K-12, higher education, or in industry settings either teaching or training. The Spring 2020 students were taking the course when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and their institutions were mandated into emergency remote teaching. These students found themselves applying the content to more than a learning experience and became resources for their colleagues,” said Dr. Oyarzun.
“I am so proud of their efforts and willingness to lend themselves and their expertise to assist others. They successfully managed to complete their coursework, their work, and provide service to others during a very difficult time. This speaks to their values and work ethic,” said Dr. Oyarzun.
I’m an Instructional Technology Teacher at a local Elementary STEM Magnet School. Many of our staff had never used a learning management system or taught online before this time. And although our students used devices for much of their classwork, they were now thrust into this new world of using their equipment full time for everything from learning new math to communicating in a variety of ways with their teachers and classmates.
I’ve been fortunate to be selected to help a cohort of STEM faculty transition from face-to-face instruction to an online format for both summer sessions. As a team, we’re working directly with faculty to build their mode of delivery that, for many of them, has also been a very new experience. Their challenges, although one would think would be somewhat different from an elementary school teacher’s challenge, surprisingly were very much the same – how do you build a course of study that is enriching, engaging and helps the student achieve their learning goals. This has become our big question mark, one that has required critical thinking to brainstorm solutions – some even while in the mix of things.
This past semester, taking the course Design, Development and Evaluation of Online Learning Systems, where we used QM extensively, had become a constant guide for each step and with many details to pay attention to. Ironically, I was getting real world experience in real time and was fortunate to have the tools and course working hand-in-hand to make this transition possible, with as few bumps along the way. I still can’t believe my luck.
My students had the advantage of my training and real-time learning and I had the advantage of applying those lessons immediately. The online course I built for class was no longer a possible class for me to teach in the future , it turned into next week's lessons.
While I was reading articles and social media posts about how to rapidly transition to online learning and districts were scrambling to provide guidance, I was able to use two years of the LDT program and each week's lessons. I was also able to share some best practices and priorities to some fellow teachers.
By starting and ending our course with the Quality Matters rubric, it reinforced and emphasized those standards. Our LDT program embeds and teaches the standards within each course and internalizes the ideas as “ just good teaching”.
I’ve also been able to support professors at UNCC as they transition their face-to-face classes to online courses for the summer and apply the same learning and design principles to their classes. It has been a great experience, both applying what I’ve learned and working with professors who are very open to advice and help as they tackle this unexpected challenge.
I have been building a foundational knowledge of learning theories and instructional design principles that will allow me to better serve the students I work with as the Education Abroad Advisor at UNC Charlotte.
In my role as an intern for an office on campus this summer, I will be developing a pre-departure training course in Canvas aimed to provide incoming international students with information that will contribute to their success as they spend several weeks studying at UNC Charlotte. The idea for this course is a result of an initiative to provide comprehensive information to incoming international students that will allow them to not only navigate the city and the resources provided by UNC Charlotte, but to also prepare them for an immersive experience in American culture. By demonstrating my competency in designing sound online learning courses, I was able to take advantage of this opportunity that will help to further my experience as an instructional designer.
Originally when planning to go back to college, I didn’t know what to study. I wanted something that would offer me a needed skill set that also complimented my technical background. The Learning, Design and Technology program offered me flexible online courses, in which I could continue to work full-time while attending grad school. I started by earning my Graduate Certificate and then moving into the Master’s program.
Early into the program I was able to start applying newly acquired skills to my work, from identifying training issues, to the design and development of online courses. In addition, the unique experience of learning Quality Matters provided me with a new approach to designing courses, more specifically quality courses.
Overall, I believe the program has made me a more valuable asset with a diverse set of skills to contribute with. Especially today, given the current environment, where a significant amount of learning and work has transferred online.
Dr. Beth Oyarzun, Program Director Learning, Design and Technology