SDSU: Juggling QA Efforts During a Global Pandemic

Proposal Summary: Like everyone else on the planet, San Diego State University (SDSU) faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 global pandemic.  As an institution, we set out to adopt a University-standard approach to quality assurance (QA) during the 2020/2021 academic year.  Like many things during this challenging time, things progressed in unforeseen, unpredictable ways.  SDSU ultimately pivoted away from a plan to adopt Quality Matters (QM) as its standard and instead chose to move forward with the CSU’s Quality Learning and Teaching (QLT) rubric.  As an institution, we were able to provide scalable new pathways for faculty training in the design and development of online courses via the highly successful Flexible Course Design Institute (Flex CDI), which enrolled more than 1,000 SDSU instructors in four separate offerings during the 2020/2021 academic year.

Campus QA Goals

Campus Goal for Quality Assurance

  • Adopt a University-standard to enhance quality assurance of online courses using the nationally-recognized Quality Matters (QM) framework and evaluation instrument

  • Provide new pathways for faculty training and staff professional development related to the design and development of online courses and programs

  • Support campus growth and student success initiatives including GI2025 and SDSU World Campus by increasing student access to high-demand and gateway courses.

Quality Assurance Leads 

  • Mark A. Laumakis, Ph.D., Instructional Technology Services (ITS) Faculty in Residence and Lecturer, Department of Psychology

  • Maureen A. Guarcello, Research, Analytics, and Communications Specialist

  • Andrea Saltzman Martin, Instructor, College of Education, Instructional Designer

Supporting Campus Partners

  • James Frazee, Chief Academic Technology Officer, Associate Vice President, Information Technology Division

  • QA Resource Team Faculty

    • Katie Hughes, ITS Faculty Fellow, Arts and Letters

    • Beth Pollard, ITS Faculty Fellow, Arts and Letters

    • Stuart Voytilla, ITS Faculty Fellow, Professional Studies and Fine Arts

  • Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL)

  • SDSU World Campus

Campus Commitments toward Sustainability of QA Efforts

  • With adequate funding, the ways we intend to sustain and grow our QA efforts include: 

    • certifying courses

    • creating a cadre of peer-reviewers to conduct informal reviews

    • coordinating QA implementation plans at the college and departmental levels

    • developing targeted course templates (e.g., for large lecture courses)

    • co-hosting Center for Teaching and Learning Lunches on Learning on QA topics

    • providing a context for show-and-tell QLT-driven course improvements.

  • The QA Resource Team includes: 

    • Mark Laumakis, Faculty in Residence ITS and QA Faculty Lead

    • Beth Pollard, History

    • Stuart Voytilla, TFM

    • Katie Hughes, RWS

    • Andrea Saltzman, ID, Instructor

    • Linda Woods, ID, ITS

    • Phil Denman, ID, ITS

    • Jon Rizzo, ID, ITS

    • Michelle Peterson, Faculty Support Specialist, ITS

    • Leo Lopez, Faculty Support Specialist, ITS

  • Team members joining in AY 2020/2021: 
    • Ken Arnold, Engineering

    • Harsimran Baweja, Motor Neuroscience

    • Melissa Soto, Education

    • John Alexander, ID, World Campus

    • Terri Linman, ID World Campus

    • Sarah Freiler, ID, World Campus

Summary of Previous QA Accomplishments

  • Exploring the Canvas LMS:

    • With the decision to transition to Canvas in May 2020, faculty began opting in to using the LMS and an initial course template was provided which includes 

      • accessible syllabus template

      • course accessibility report  

      • course planning grid

      • quality assurance course design checklist

  • Evaluation of Canvas LMS Campus pilot: 

    1. Overall, faculty and students preferred Canvas, giving it a Learning Management System “grade”

    2. Faculty assigned Canvas a 3.4 GPA or B and Blackboard a 2.0 or C-. Students (report cards on the right) assigned Canvas a 3.5 GPA or B+, and Blackboard a 2.9 or C+

Quality Assurance Results

Training Completions

The table below shows QA training completions at SDSU for the past three academic years, demonstrating the significant uptick in such completions during the 2020/2021 academic year.


2019/2020 AY

2018/2019 AY

Quality Matters 




SDSU also facilitated 157 QLT training completions during the period from 2012-2020.

Course Peer Review and Course Certifications 

As noted above, SDSU pivoted from a plan to employ QM as the campus QA standard to the use of QLT as this standard during the course of  the 2020/2021 academic year.  As such, no formal course peer reviews or course certifications have been completed at this time.  Instead, campus efforts during the 2020/2021 academic year focused on providing all-hands-on-deck emergency training to more than 1,000 SDSU instructors via 4 separate offerings of the SDSU Flex CDI training program.  Going forward, we plan to develop a robust peer review and course certification program.

Development of Campus QA Resources

  • Summary of Flex CDI training program:

Accessibility/UDL Efforts

  • SDSU has adopted Ally as part of the campus LMS migration to Canvas.

  • Faculty training in Flex CDI included a required module entitled “Universal Design for Learning and Accessibility” designed by SDSU’s Instructional Materials Design Specialist, Jon Rizzo

Dissemination of QA Efforts - Conferences

  • None, due to COVID-19 global pandemic

Next Steps for QA Efforts

  • As noted above, going forward, we plan to develop a robust peer review and course certification program.

  • We also plan to host showcase events for SDSU faculty regarding exemplary online courses that meet the requirements of QLT.

  • Finally, we plan to incorporate the newly revised QLT instrument more fully into our long-running Course Design Institute, which runs each Spring semester.