Course Design and Approval with Quality Matters

What is Quality Matters?

quality photo

Photo by wetwebwork Course Design

Quality Matters (QM) is a international, faculty-centered, peer review process designed to facilitate the continuous improvement of the design of online and blended courses. QM’s goals are to improve student learning, retention, and satisfaction in online and blended courses through better course design and to reflect results of academic research on effective learning.

How does an informal QM Peer Review work at UNTHSC?

Prior to submitting a course for an informal QM Peer Review, the faculty member ideally should have worked with QM Certified CIL staff to design the course. The process for informal QM course review take place when a Quality Matters Certified Reviewer uses Quality Matters Rubric to fully review each course as part of the Approval to Deliver process. In order to be approved by the CIL, the course must meet the Quality Matters standards as set forth in the rubric. Points are assigned to each of the 43 specific standards: 3 points (Essential), 2 points (Very Important), or 1 point (Important). Courses must have a minimum score and meet all 3-point standards to meet QM standards.  The emphasis is on “above average”. A score of 84 points out of 99, together with meeting all 3-point Standards will be needed for a course to meet QM standards.

QM Rubric Scoring

# of Standards
Relative Value
Total Points
Very Important

Quality Matters 8 General Standards – Note this information is in the process of being updated to reflect the 6th edition of the Rubric.

  1. Course Overview and Introduction
  2. Learning Objectives/Competencies
  3. Assessment and Measurement
  4. Instructional Materials
  5. Course Activities and Learner Interaction
  6. Course Technology
  7. Learner Support
  8. Accessibility and Usability

*Bolded standards are part of course alignment. Alignment is defined as critical course components – Learning Objectives, Assessment and Measurement, Resources and Materials, Learner Engagement, and Course Technology – work together to ensure that students achieve the desired learning outcomes. When aligned, each of these course components is directly tied to and supports the learning objectives.

In a QM Review, certain parts of a course (the critical components listed above) are examined to make sure they bring each other into line, assuring each part is relevant to helping students achieve the objectives of the course. If one of those parts is not considered “in alignment” the course will not be considered to have met the standard(s) of the review.

Quality Matters also helps us to consider the accessibility of a course’s  design. Standard 8 in the QM Rubric expects that a course will “demonstrate a commitment to accessibility for all students… [incorporating] the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and is consistent with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).” (Quality Matters ™ Rubric Workbook for Higher Education, Fifth Edition 2014).  Specifically, the standard looks for the use of accessible technologies, guidance for students on obtaining accommodation, use of transcripts or closed captioning, readable and non-distracting course design, and course materials that accommodate the use of assistive technologies.

Quality Matters Essential 3 Point Review Standards


General Review Standard:
The overall design of the course is made clear to the student at the beginning of the course.

Overview Statement: The course overview and introduction set the tone for the course, let learners know what to expect, and provide guidance to ensure learners get off to a good start.

3 Point Standards

1.1           Instructions make clear how to get started and where to find various course components.

1.2           Learners are introduced to the purpose and structure of the course.

EXAMPLES: Start Here page, Orientation Module


General Review Standard:

Learning objectives or competencies describe what learners will be able to do upon completion of the course.

Overview Statement: The learning objectives or competencies establish a foundation upon which the rest of the course is based.

3 Point Standards

2.1           The course learning objectives, or course/program competencies, describe outcomes that are measurable.

2.2           The module/unit learning objectives or competencies describe outcomes that are measurable and consistent with the course-level objectives or competencies.

2.3           All learning objectives or competencies are stated clearly and written from the learner’s perspective.

2.4           The relationship between learning objectives or competencies and course activities is clearly stated.

2.5           The learning objectives or competencies are suited to the level of the course.

EXAMPLES: Learning competency, objective, outcome alignment table



General Review Standard:

Assessments are integral to the learning process and are designed to evaluate learner progress in achieving the stated learning objectives or mastering the competencies.

Overview Statement: Assessment is implemented in a manner that corresponds to the course learning objectives or competencies and not only allows the instructor a broad perspective on the learners’ mastery of content but also allows learners to track their learning progress throughout the course.

3 Point Standards

3.1           The assessments measure the stated learning objectives or competencies.

3.2           The course grading policy is stated clearly.

3.3           Specific and descriptive criteria are provided for the evaluation of learners’ work and are tied to the course grading policy.

EXAMPLES: Rubrics, Grading chart, Assessment alignment table



General Review Standard
Instructional materials enable learners to achieve stated learning objectives or competencies.

Overview Statement: The focus of this Standard is on supporting the course objectives and competencies, rather than on qualitative judgments about the instructional materials.

8. ACCESSIBILITY AND USABILITYGeneral Review Standard: The course design reflects a commitment to accessibility and usability for all learners.Overview Statement: The course design reflects a commitment to accessibility, so that all learners can access all course content and activities, and to usability, so that all learners can easily navigate and interact with course components.*Meeting QM’s accessibility Standards does not guarantee or imply that specific country/federal/state/local accessibility regulations are met. Please consult with an accessibility specialist to ensure that all required accessibility regulations are met.3 Point Standards8.1           Course navigation facilitates ease of use.8.2           Information is provided about the accessibility of all technologies required in the course.EXAMPLES: Use of space and contrast, Meaningful links, ALT or Descriptive tags, Captions, Alternate versions of multimediaQuestions about Quality Matters or the Approval to Deliver process? Contact us at CIL@UNTHSC.EDUQuality Matters Training Course

3 Point Standards

4.1           The instructional materials contribute to the achievement of the stated course and module/unit learning objectives or competencies.

4.2           Both the purpose of instructional materials and how the materials are to be used for learning activities are clearly explained.

EXAMPLES:  Vary according to course instructional model, subject matter and instructor style.



General Review Standard:

Course activities facilitate and support learner interaction and engagement.

Overview Statement: Course components that promote active learning contribute to the learning process and to learner persistence.

3 Point Standards

5.1           The learning activities promote the achievement of the stated learning objectives or competencies.

5.2           Learning activities provide opportunities for interaction that support active learning.

5.3           The instructor’s plan for classroom response time and feedback on assignments is clearly stated.

EXAMPLES: Active learning, Materials purpose description, Learning activity alignment table



General Review Standard:

Course technologies support learners’ achievement of course objectives or competencies.

Overview Statement: The technologies enabling the various course components facilitate rather than impede the learning process.

3 Point Standards

6.1           The tools used in the course support the learning objectives and competencies.

6.2           Course tools promote learner engagement and active learning.

EXAMPLES: Tool use purpose, Technology requirements, Technology alignment chart



General Review Standard:

The course facilitates learner access to institutional support services essential to learner success.

Overview Statement: It is important to ensure online learners know they have access to and are encouraged to use the services that support learners at the institution. In the Learner Support Standard, four different kinds of support services are addressed: technical support, accessibility support, academic services support, and student services support.

3 Point Standards

7.1           The course instructions articulate or link to a clear description of the technical support offered and how to obtain it.

7.2           Course instructions articulate or link to the institution’s accessibility policies and services.

EXAMPLES: Orientation module, support page, links to policies, statements on syllabus