An online music appreciation class—one of the approved transfer courses to Nevada System of Higher Education colleges and universities—has been Quality Matters (QM) certified for the first time at Truckee Meadows Community College.
Music Instructor Kathryn Mickey has been teaching at TMCC for five years, and her schedule typically includes both in-person and online classes each semester.
“Brandy Scarnati, WebCollege Program Director, had a Quality Matters training and I thought it would be really neat to put my MUS 121: Music Appreciation course through,” Mickey said. “Political Science Professor Paul Davis was my mentor for developing a great online class. There are a lot of details that Quality Matters has, but they all make sense. He helped me with how to create modules, and the best online setup.”
Mickey found that by adjusting her online course to QM standards, she ironed out some of the questions that had been asked frequently in prior semesters.
“The questions that students have asked in the past—this semester they haven’t asked as many course interface questions—so adding to what was there already in the class has fixed all that,” she said. “Little things that were missing are now there so students know exactly what is expected. The QM requirements have filled in all the small gaps.”
The QM Standards are Rigorous
Putting a course through the QM peer review process can appear daunting the first time, because there are many specific and detailed requirements.
“You look at what the QM standards require and it’s a lot,” Mickey said. “Brandy is a wealth of information. We worked on some of the course upgrades during workshops she taught. She helped me scrutinize the course, gave me things to add or adjust, and I worked on it. Examples are putting the syllabus in its own block for easy locating, and adding campus resources at the left side for students to reference throughout the term.”
When Mickey and Scarnati were confident with the Music Appreciation 121 course, Mickey filed it electronically, and QM officials were able to go into the Canvas platform and evaluate the class.
Following the online evaluation, the QM team chairman interviewed Mickey by phone. Three peer reviewers, one of whom is specifically subject knowledgeable, then checked the course. This part of the process took about three weeks. Mickey adjusted any last items that the team asked her to fine-tune.
She added more explanation into a couple of the modules, added another video to one of the sections, and made sure her weekly units each closely relate to the course objectives.
“Students can look at the objectives and say ‘Yes, I did learn all of this,’” she said. “I added a tab for weekly objectives so they can see their progress.”
Then Mickey and Scarnati heard the good news.
“We found out on Nov. 10 that the course was accepted with a score of 97 percent,” Mickey said with a big smile.
She has found that going through the QM review has also helped her beyond building high-quality online classes.
“Now it’s on my mind during my in-person class to make that even better, too,” she added.
Benefits of Distance Learning
Many students at community colleges have additional commitments outside of the classroom, and find that online courses better fit into their busy lifestyle and time constraints.
“Online curriculum helps a lot of people—one of my students had a baby a couple of weeks ago, and most of my students, probably about 75 percent of them work,” Mickey said. “About a third are parents, because they mention their children in some of the posts. They turn in their assignments around their work schedules.”