“Quality Matters (QM) is a faculty-centered, peer review process that is designed to certify the quality of online and blended courses” (Quality Matters 2010).
The QM rubric is a research-based tool consisting of 8 general standards and 41 specific criteria that describe best practices in online course design. The QM process is designed to be continuous, collegial, and collaborative. The rubric and associated annotations are based on best practices that promote student learning and instructional design principles that are part of good design. The rubric is supported by a thorough review of the literature and is updated every three years to reflect new techniques and technologies that have become available.
The course review process involves a review of a course by a team of three trained, certified peer reviewers who are all experienced online faculty. This faculty driven process is intended to be diagnostic with the overall goal of course improvement. It does not involve pass/fail judgments but instead relies on the team members providing specific guidance for the course developer on what might be done to modify the course in order that it will eventually meet standards. There is a clear recognition throughout the process that there are many ways to meet each standard and that no course is perfect. For QM reviewed courses, the goal is to meet an 85% threshold in order to be certified as a quality course.
The Quality Matters process is designed to ensure that courses undergoing review will eventually meet expectations. These principles as described by QM can be viewed here: http://www.qmprogram.org/research-grants/fipse/principles
Focus on Course Design
Quality Matters focuses specifically on course design. There are many factors that play a part in a quality learning experience for students, but QM focuses only on course design.
For example, an instructor may have included, as part of the design process, a series of discussion forums for interaction in the course. The course review process will take into account how those discussion forums align with the overall course objectives and assessment processes, will review the instructions for how students are expected to participate or how they will be graded, and will look at how the choice of this particular communication tool fits into the overall use and alignment of tools and media. The process does not take into account what actually occurs in the discussion forum in terms of student exchanges with the instructor, how often the instructor participates or what the instructor writes. Course design is the planning that goes into the course (ie. these discussion forums); course delivery is what happens with them once the course starts.