FLORIDA ONLINE COURSE DESIGN QUALITY DESIGNATIONS
As the demand for online courses in higher education continues to increase, so has the concern for the quality of online education and its impact on student success. While there are many components of online education that can impact student success, the most standardized and least subjective component has to do with the online course design and structure. Just as brick-and-mortar construction standards were used to build traditional face-to-face classrooms, online courses are now being similarly built using rigorous, research-based standards for quality course design and format. The result is increased quality and accessibility of online education and reduced barriers to student success.
The catalyst for this initiative was the Florida Board of Governors 2025 SUS Strategic Plan for Online Education, which outlines goals and strategies designed to result in improved instruction and increased educational opportunities for Florida Citizens. Goal 1 of the plan is that the State University System (SUS) in conjunction with the Florida College System (FCS) will create a culture of quality for online education. Tactics in support of this goal include a process to ensure implementation of quality standards for course design and the creation of a coding system in the Florida Virtual Campus course catalog that allows the identification of Quality and High-Quality online courses.
To work toward increasing the number of quality online courses in Florida, a BOG Quality Workgroup was tasked with developing online course design quality review processes that would be flexible enough to work across all SUS and FCS institutions and accommodate institutional differences while increasing overall online course quality. The result of this statewide collaboration is that online courses that have completed an online course design quality review will be tagged with a Quality designation in the FloridaShines course catalog.
The standards-based, course review process is a significant commitment of institutional time and resources. This is a new initiative and the lack of a Q or HQ indicator in the catalog should not be interpreted as a lack of quality.
Florida Online Course Design Quality reviews can result in a Quality or High-Quality designation. Both quality designations rely on the Quality Matters (QM) Higher Ed. Course Design Rubric Standards, but the course review process is unique to Florida. The main differences between the two quality designations are in the number of course reviewers and the number of QM standards that must be met:
- Quality (Q) designation results from a course being reviewed by two trained reviewers, meeting all QM essential standards, and providing alternative means of access to course materials in formats that meet the needs of diverse learners.
- High Quality (HQ) designation results from a course being reviewed by three trained reviewers, meeting all QM essential standards, receiving at least 85% of the available points on the QM Rubric, and providing alternative means of access to course materials in formats that meet the needs of diverse learners.
A Quality or High-Quality designation is a significant accomplishment that means an online course has met rigorous, research-based standards of course design in the following areas:
- Course Overview and Introduction
- Learning Objectives (Competencies)
- Assessment and Measurement
- Instructional Materials
- Learning Activities and Learner Interaction
- Course Technology
- Learner Support
- Accessibility and Usability