QM Raises the Bar

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Candace Garlock Image

Candace Garlock, TMCC Galleries Curator and Art Instructor

With Fall Semester approvals, a new set of Truckee Meadows Community College online courses have now been approved by Quality Matters (QM), verifying them nationally as superior Web-based classes.

“Professor Brochu has put her Spanish courses online through the Quality Matters assessment and we now have all four courses certified,” said Brandy Scarnati, Program Director for WebCollege and the Academic Support Center. “Candace Garlock has achieved certification for the online visual arts foundation course.”

Quality Matters (QM) is a nonprofit organization that provides an academic peer-review process to recognize excellence and certify online courses.

“Gaining Quality Matters certification really raises the bar to a very high level for TMCC’s online course offerings because it’s a thorough and rigorous process of peer review carried out at a national level,” said Garlock, TMCC Galleries Curator and Art Instructor. “These are very high quality courses that have been certified at TMCC—on par with any in the country.”

Professors proposing courses are trained in Quality Matters procedures and requirements before they begin developing their curriculum to be considered by the organization.

Visual Art Course Approved

“We address accessibility for all populations, including people with disabilities,” Garlock said. “Sometimes reviewers ask for adjustments, and the instructor makes the requested changes. I spent about three years to completely fine tune the curriculum, in that there are systematic steps for non-art majors to create art in an online environment.”

Garlock’s art course is a lab class. Students upload videos of their progress on art projects, and the other students in the class post written critiques of each other’s projects. One major subdivision of the course involves creating a journaling book with exercises in various materials and art techniques.

“You learn materials such as pen and ink, collage, print-making techniques, painting and color theory, along with conceptual skills of how to compose, the elements of design, techniques of the masters, perspective and color values, tints and shades,” she said.

Another major portion is themed identity work.

“First, you research stereotypes and prejudices to find where you fit into the world,” she said. “Then you research images and how you can express your identity through art. The final part of this is producing four canvas boards, where each piece has to be related visually and shows mastery of at least five of the techniques. Canvas boards are shipped or delivered to TMCC.”

Students rate the course highly on Canvas and RateMyProfessors.com, she added.

“Many have expressed after the course that they’ve been surprised at how much they could actually do and create—and one said it was life-changing,” Garlock said. “The online course is very successful. It’s a really solid foundation and shows a good example of what a rigorous course can be.”

Four Spanish Courses QM Approved

“Online Spanish courses with Dr. Brochu are very well organized, easy to follow and fun,” said Olga Katkova, Spanish student and TMCC Chemistry Professor. “They include personal online interactions with the teacher and other students. They are a perfect collaboration between the instructions from the teacher and interactive online homework by Vista Higher Learning. I would highly recommend online Spanish courses at TMCC for anyone who is interested to learn Spanish and Latino culture.”

Spanish language courses prepare students in the spoken and written word, and also introduce them to unique Hispanic cultures and values.

In the QM-certified Spanish courses, students complete assignments on TMCC Canvas and a dedicated text website. They also perform speaking exercises and tests with Adobe Connect, a Web conference system. The sequence includes:

  • SPAN 111: First Year Spanish I (Certified Spring 2015)
  • SPAN 112: First Year Spanish II (Certified Spring 2016)
  • SPAN 211: Second Year Spanish I (Certified Fall 2016)
  • SPAN 212: Second Year Spanish II (Certified Fall 2016)

“Students do listening activities in the book's website, called the ‘Supersite,’” said Gabriela Brochu, PhD, Professor of Spanish. “They also have to record their answers in the Supersite, and I grade them after their submissions. Students contact their speaking partner and prepare for the oral tests in advance, and then talk to each other while I listen using Adobe Connect.”

Students may either buy the written textbook on which the lessons, or lecciónes, are based, or use a code listed in the syllabus to access the online version of the book. Also featured are Fotonovelas, video episodes of real-life characters and actors speaking Spanish and shot on location in places such as Xochimilco Park in Mexico City.

Students have reported in course evaluations that they found the Supersite helpful, well-organized and intuitive. Many rated the course user-friendly and effective, she added.

“Dr. Gabriela Brochu is a great instructor,” posted a student anonymously. “She is passionate about her subject. All the instructions were very clear. Grading was done fast with detailed comments. Overall, this online class is very well designed. Plus, she answered all your emails fast with a lot of details and explanations as well, which is very important, especially for an online class.”

Additional QM-Approved Courses at TMCC

In addition to visual art and Spanish classes, QM-certified courses at TMCC include the following:

  • IS 101: Introduction to Information Systems
  • PSC 101: Introduction to Political Science (Precious Hall)
  • PSC 101: Introduction to Political Science (Brian Fletcher)
  • PSC 101: Introduction to Political Science (FastTrack 5-week course)
  • ENG 101: Composition I (Robin Griffin)
  • EPY 101: Educational, Career and Personal Development (Melanie Purdy)
  • ENG 98: Preparatory Composition (Griffin)
  • ENG 102: Composition II (Griffin)

Information about Quality Matters at TMCC can be found on WebCollege or by calling 775-673-7814, and information about the national organization can be found on the QM website.