By Galen Stone
This past October, over 450 instructional designers, distance learning faculty, and educational technologists converged in Tucson, Arizona for the 4th annual Quality Matters conference. After arriving in Tucson, fellow DLP Instructional Designer Kelley Cruse and I met up with Matthew Cockrell, Instructional Technologist for the UK College of Communications and Information Studies. After checking in to our rooms, we headed to the welcome reception to greet familiar faces and meet new people. In addition to the highly informative sessions, the Quality Matters Conference is an excellent place to network with other instructional designers and distance education professionals.
The first official day of the conference began with the keynote address by Russ Poulin, WCET Deputy Director of Research and Analysis. Mr. Poulin discussed many of the federal regulations playing a role in online education including state authorization, student complaint procedures,and accessibility. One of the main takeaways of this presentation was the fact that rules for higher education should not be based on the mode of educational delivery.
After the keynote presentation, the first session that I attended focused on 3rd party content including the LASSO model (Locate, Assess, Select, Sync, and Observe) for finding content that aligns with course objectives. Learning about multiple online resources and methods for locating existing content to include in courses provided insight into building comprehensive course content that incoroporates multiple perspectives and appeals to different styles of learning.
This presentation segued into another session by one of the conference vendors, MindTap by Cengage. This software can be used by faculty for course building as well as students for studying and can be integrated with any LMS. MindTap provides students a set of tools to search through all content included in the course, annotate and organize content for easy retrieval, create flashcards, and access faculty developed glossaries. This new but yet intuitive suite of tools offers some interesting solutions for features that are currently missing from some LMSs.
One of the standout Thursday sessions entitled Brain Based Design was presented by University of Cincinnati Instructional Designers Sarah Schroeder and Carolyn Stoll. They discussed the cognitive functionality of learning including the process of transitioning information from working memory to long-term memory. They also demonstrated how universal design supports all learners and not only people with disabilities. Participants left the session thinking of ways to reduce anxiety in the learning process by displaying content using aesthetic design principles, allowing for students to make mistakes during the learning process, and how to incorporate student guidance techniques throughout the course.
Another common theme that was discussed in several presentations was the topic of course templates to support Quality Matters standards. Members of the instructional design team from ASU Online demonstrated how they created templates for faculty to ensure that all courses are developed with certain universal design and accessible factors in mind. Required course content including disability support services and distance learning librarian information are prebuilt into the template. This content that is required for all courses can be controlled and updated by editing a single HTML file that is embedded in each course. This ensures that the management of this content is included in every course and updated when appropriate.
On Friday evening the conference ended its last full day. Conference participants met for dinner and had one more opportunity to network and chat about the sessions that we attended and the future of higher education. For anyone who is a distance learning professional and wants to learn more about quality online course development, the Quality Matters Conference is highly recommended. Next year the event will be in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit the Quality Matters website for future updates: http://www.qmprogram.org/
Images provided by Chadwick Fowler.