Quality Assurance for Online Courses

Quality Online Teaching in 2019-2020

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Cal Poly's Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology provides support and informed and consistent quality reviews for all faculty who are teaching online and hybrid courses, and promotes online course development across the University. 

Campus Quality Assurance Goals

Campus Goals for Quality Assurance

Our goals for the 2018-19 academic year included:

  • Summer training for approximately 25 faculty in our annual Introduction to Online Teaching & Learning workshop
  • Provide training and stipeds to twelve faculty for our annual Quality Online Teaching Academy, with the goal of five course reviews
  • Hosting Drop-In hands-on workshop days
  • Monthly "Innovative Teaching" lunchtime presentations to help faculty determine if they would like to teach an online course
  • Revision of Cal Poly's "eLearning Policy" from 2012 - this is in progress, and coming along nicely. See below for updates



Summer Online Teaching "Boot Camp" 

This summer we will continue to offer our very popular Cal Poly / QLT version of the Introduction to Online Teaching and Learning course (IOTL). This fully online four-week course  serves as the launching point for the QOTA, but is also open to any faculty interested in teaching online. As a compliment this year to the four-week curriculum, all faculty will be encouraged to sign up for the QA workshops relating to the QLT to better prepare them for a peer review of their online courses. 

Policy Updates

  • This was our second year partnering with the Academic Senate Curriculum Committee, and we turned our attention to the revision of the 2012 Senate Resolution on eLearning and our currucular approval process.
  • Adopted: definitions for online courses as noted by the CSU Academic Senate. Why this is important: Cal Poly is no longer using "home grown" definitions of online or hybrid / blended courses, and the new definitions will help our students plan appropriately for their courses through our registration system. 
  • In process: our goal for 2019-20 is to revise the course modification process to include a stronger voice by the colleges' Curriculum Committees to determine which courses should be approved for online delivery. This places the approval at the beginning of the course design process rather than at the end, and courses will now be reviewed at the end of the design process for quality assurance. 

Background on Quality Assurance Efforts 

In the past year, the CTLT has expanded support for quality online and hybrid course development, so we have experience and existing programming to build upon through this new CSU initiative. CTLT’s current support for online and hybrid courses has included multimedia, web conferencing, OER online materials, and UDL, as well as a strong online delivery through the Flipped Classroom courses. 

In the past few years, we have felt this was a slow-moving process, but this year we have seen much of our hard work and preparation pay off well with a surge of interest in quality online courses. The QA grants have given us a solid foundation for creating resources and feedback that align with the highest standards in online teaching, and that has gone a long way toward calming the concerns of faculty in regards to online teaching.

Workshop Development 

In 2019-20, we will again offer our year-long Quality Online Teaching Academy. One of the stipulations of receiving funding is to complete the QA workshops and submit a course for QLT review, with the goal of producing a CourseMatch course. We are anticipating up to six courses from the College of Liberal Arts, three from the College of Business, and three from the College of Science and Math. We encourage bottleneck, high waitlist, and GE courses in the Academy, and all courses are identified through a rigorous proposal process.
In the upcoming year, we will offer a series of introductory workshops to faculty who are interested in exploring the feasibility of online teaching and learning. These faculty will receive an overview of our course offerings, the QOTA program, a copy of the QLT rubric, and information about special considerations for working with college curriculum committees and submitting course proposals for teaching online. Rather than offering stipends for these events, we will model this after our very successful “Drop-In” events, and offer a lunch option for those who attend.

Next Steps for QA Efforts 

Cal Poly faculty still struggle with determining how our courses appear in the CourseMatch system, as the articulation does not appear to favor the quarter system, however there is a growing interest in producing online courses that can be taught throughout the year rather than only in the summer session.

Currently, faculty also face some hurdles internally with course approval, which is being addressed directly at the Academic Senate level. We hope to streamline the process of course approval, and engage the College Curriculum Committees at a much earlier stage. There remain some other hurdles which the campus will need to address in terms of scheduling, campus culture, and other issues, however decent progress is being made on these fronts.

For 2019-2020, we will shift our focus from internal informal course reviews to asking faculty to submit their initial peer-reviewed course to the CTLT for approval for a formal review. It is our hope to send more courses to the QA review, as well as qualifying more faculty for Q2, in the coming year.

Quality Assurance Project Results

Training Completions

Goals Achieved:

  • Twenty two faculty completed our Introduction to Online Teaching and Learning course in summer 2018
  • Eleven faculty completed the Quality Online Teaching Academy (QOTA) training, four internal course reviews are in process, and two internal reviews have been completed. 
  • Two faculty have indicated an interest in a CSU review
  • Nine workshop days delivered, with 3-9 attendees at each event
  • Ten lunchtime presentations delivered on the topic of Online Teaching & Learning, and three of the faculty who attended will be included in this year's QOTA

    Course Peer Review and Course Certifications

    Our faculty continue to embrace internal reviews but are slow to post their courses for external (formal) reviews. We are attempting to change the perception that their courses are "blocked" from the CourseMatch system due to the quarter system articulation, and we hope to have more courses reviewed this coming year as we are no longer going to offer internal informal reviews (only peer reviews) so any further review will be done through the CSU formal process.

    Student Quality Assurance Impact Research 

    This past year we had two faculty research student engagement in online environments and the impact this has on retention, grades and other student success factors. Those faculty will be participating in the full SQAIR project in the coming year. 

    Accessibility/UDL Efforts

    This past year, our UDL specialist, Pam Dougherty, created a fully online 4-week intensive course in Accessibility and UDL. We were pleased to receive approval for Q1 equivalencyfor those faculty passing both the IOTL course and the UDL course.

    We also made strides toward the adoption of ALLY into our LMS, currently on hold as we migrate from Moodle to Canvas, but our goal is to implement ALLY in the coming year.

    Growth and depth

    We continue to ride the new wave of excitement for online teaching and learning! In 2018-19, we:

    • "Cannonized" our Quality Online Teaching Academy (QOTA) 
    • Refined an additional workshop addressing accessibility and UDL through the fabulous talent of Pam Dougherty, our newest instructional designer
    • Saw an astonishing 33 courses launched for summer of 2019, with 27 faculty participants from prior QA projects teaching those courses
    • Nearly all colleges participating in the most recent Quality Online Teaching Academy


Innovative Topics - Lunchtime Discussions

This year we launched three quarterly (12 total) topical lunchtime presentations and discussions about online teaching. The topics rotated between the following:

  1. Myths, Opportunities and Unicorns in Online Teaching & Learning
  2. Navigating Cal Poly's Pathways to Online Teaching Success
  3. The Quality Online Teaching Academy at Cal Poly
  4. A Panel Discussion from Faculty Who Have Just Taught Online!

These presentations were well attended and lively, and we look forward to holding more in the coming year!

Faculty Sentiment about Online Teaching

Cal Poly is experiencing a shift in faculty sentiment about online teaching. In the past year we've seen tremendous interest in our workshops and lunchtime presentations about online teaching and learning, and we plan to continue this program in the coming year. This fall, we will also launch a new cohort of faculty from the College of Business who are interested in a hybrid Marketing degree in our Graduate Studies program. The initial group of 6 faculty will be our test case for this new approach.

Our program:
Cal Poly’s primary quality assurance activities supporting online education are offered through our Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology (CTLT), located in the Robert E. Kennedy Library. The QA team is led by Catherine Hillman, Instructional Designer (and also current faculty in the College of Business), and the team offers robust support in the areas of teaching pedagogy, Learning Management System (Moodle), Multimedia and other content development and delivery, Accessibility, and assessment. In addition, the Quality Online Teaching Academy engages faculty in a peer-mentoring process during course development and delivery.
Quality Assurance Lead
  • Catherine Hillman, MS Ed.

Instructional Design Team

  • Luanne Fose, Ph.D.
  • Tonia Malone, MS Ed.
  • Pamela Dougherty, MS Ed.
  • Teresa Cameron, MA Ed.

Supporting Campus Partners 

  • Academic Programs & Planning
  • Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology