A.T. Still University–College of Graduate Health Studies (ATSU-CGHS) has been awarded Exemplary Program status from Quality Matters (QM) for achieving recognition in all four of the program certification areas. Katherine Adler, DHA, FACHE, adjunct instructor, former associate dean of academic and assessments, and Sue McDaniel, MS, instructional designer, have been the leading force behind ATSU-CGHS’ review process.
QM is a global organization focusing on quality assurance for online and innovative digital teaching and learning environments. QM program certification is achieved following a rigorous review process that examines components deemed critical to success in online learning.
“QM is the gold standard for recognizing online courses,” Dr. Adler said. “It covers a lot of things, but their main goal is alignment, meaning that everything in the course is aligned to help the students learn.”
“It is an assurance for students that a course is meeting a certain level of quality in terms of the structure,” McDaniel said.
QM has four categories for program review: Online Program Design, Online Teaching Support, Online Learner Success, and Online Learner Support. Each category of review has its own set of standards a course must meet to receive certification. Many institutions will strive to meet one standard at a time.
“We did something that nobody else has done,” Dr. Adler said. “We submitted all four reviews at once.”
QM completed the first course review, DHAD 7200, in December 2017. Later, 14 more courses were reviewed with QM managing the review process. The review team for each course consists of a master reviewer and two other peer reviewers. Review teams will go through each standard of the QM rubric to award a final score.
“You have to meet certain required standards, and if you don’t meet them, then you don’t pass,” McDaniel said. “If you meet all of the required standards and score 85 or better out of 100, then you are QM certified.”
After the first 15 courses were reviewed by QM, Dr. Adler and McDaniel determined they were ready to continue the process on their own, with Dr. Adler as the master reviewer. Over a 10-month span, 49 additional courses went through review.
“Dr. Adler had to manage all of those courses, as far as keeping track of getting them done,” McDaniel said. “I managed the process of finding the reviewers, getting the courses set up, and getting everybody where they needed to be, and then finishing up the paperwork with QM at the end. And that’s on top of our regular jobs.”
Every core course in the Doctor of Health Sciences, Doctor of Education, and Master of Kinesiology programs were included in the initial review process. ATSU-CGHS focused on these core courses because they were not going through curriculum modification at the time. When a course receives curriculum modification, it must run through two cycles before it can be submitted for review.
“QM asks you to run the course twice, see how it works, make your modifications, then send it through for review,” McDaniel said. “So, once the Master of Public Health and Master of Health Administration programs run their courses twice, we will start reviewing those courses next. Then, as new ATSU-CGHS programs get off the ground, we will send those courses through.”
With Dr. Adler and McDaniel putting courses through all four categories of review at one time, the outcome resulted in being awarded Exemplary Program status. ATSU-CGHS is the second program ever in QM’s history to achieve this high honor.
“The Exemplary Program process takes that course certification, which is what QM is known for, and takes it one step farther,” McDaniel said. “It says you didn’t just do this for a single course, but every course in your programs.”
“We will continue down this path even though we’ve gotten the Exemplary Program designation,” Dr. Adler said. “In order to keep it, we have to keep going.”