Quality Matters Monday: Standard 8.1
It’s Quality Matters Monday! Each Monday, we highlight a Quality Matters standard and review its importance in an online course and how we evaluate this standard.
Today, we are reviewing Quality Matters Standards 8.1
General Standard 8 addresses Accessibility & Usability
Standard 8.1 (formerly standard 6.3), specifically addresses course navigation, that is, the overall relation between the learner, course content, and the ‘road signs’ placed therein that help direct student’s cognitive traffic.
· While the majority of QM general standard 8 deals with providing multiple, or alternative means of access to course content for those with special learning needs, 8.1 is meant to direct instructor’s attention towards course navigation. In the same way that it’s frustrating to navigate your way around an unfamiliar office building or a highway without a directions or a detailed map, it’s equally daunting for students to have to wade through an excess of readings, assignments and assessments when the scaffolding of the course is sloppily constructed, and there are no general guidelines to help learners find their way. Imagine that your course is a building, and you’re the architect. Did you remember to include signs and instructions that direct building occupants towards important spaces such as restrooms, emergency exits, information kiosks, or elevators/escalators?
· Quality course navigation will always provide students with answers for these three questions: Where am I? What am I supposed to do? What’s the point? In order to master course navigation, here’s a few helpful hints to ensure that your students spend the majority of their time and attention focused on retaining the content, instead of looking for it:
o Where am I? Hopefully, you’ve already gone through the steps of arranging your content into meaningful modules or units at the beginning of the course design process. It’s helpful, particularly with accelerated online courses, to arrange this information in a module/unit-per-week format. Based on this, you’ll want to make sure that each sub-item within (e.g. overview, to-do list, reading, lecture, quiz, discussion) is labeled accordingly (e.g. ‘Week 1: Overview’) so that students will always have an understanding of where they are at all times in the course. For additional reinforcement, try to make sure that each module/unit follows a similar sequence of sub-items so that students become familiar with the progression.
o What am I supposed to do? In addition to providing students with an overview of the information they’ll be encountering in that week’s module/unit, it’s also helpful to offer a ‘To-Do’ list, or a list of deliverables that student can reference to make sure they’ve accomplished or retained all the things included in that particular module/unit. Moreover, remember to arrange each of your module/unit items sequentially, that is, according to the way you’ve itemized each of the items on your ‘To-Do/Deliverables’ list. Lastly, provide students with a ‘Next Steps’ reminder at the end of each module/unit, so they know how to proceed.
o What’s the point? Now that you’ve strategically placed all of your road signs, make sure that students know that there’s a point of arrival on the horizon. Help learners make the journey meaningful and reach their destination by aligning the layout of the content with your overall module/unit learning goals. In order to accomplish this, we recommend that each item on your ‘To-Do/deliverables’ list cross-reference your list of module/unit objectives so that students understand they’re fulfilling each of those learning goals with every subsequent item they complete.
AP Guidance: Can your students find what they need with ease in your course, or are they fumbling around in the dark? In order to meet QM standard 8.1, remember the following things:
1) Map your place– Arrange your content (modules/units) in a way that guides students through a linear progression, and name each item so no one gets lost in the process.
2) Make a list– Always provide a list of deliverables and ‘next steps’ for students to keep them on track.
3) Align your signs– Make sure that each deliverable on your ‘To-Do’ satisfies your module/unit learning objectives, and sequence them accordingly to make the journey meaningful.
*Thinking ahead: Following the steps above will help students maneuver through your course with ease, but some students need additional accommodations for their learning needs. As we navigate through the rest of QM general standard 8, we’ll learn about specific strategies and best practices to make sure your course stays accessible for all types of learners!
Click here to access Quality Matters eLearning Marketplace. The Quality Matters eLearning Marketplace is a free, searchable database built to serve the broad QM community with an easy-to-use eLearning product/service directory organized within the 8 general standards of the rubric as well as by user and product categories.