Courses making up the certificate of online teaching offered by the Clemson University College of Education recently earned an internationally recognized certification from Quality Matters, a nonprofit organization dedicated to quality assurance in online teaching programs.
According to April Pelt, director of online education in the College of Education, the certification helps communicate that these courses meet rigorous quality standards set by experts and peers in online education. Quality Matters began in 2003 to ensure that online courses were equivalent in quality to in-person learning; it has since worked with more than 60,000 education professionals in 1,500 institutions.
Pelt said Quality Matters focuses heavily on ensuring that the work students complete is tied to specific, measurable outcomes. She said attaining the certification is an excellent way for faculty to communicate the quality of these courses to external stakeholders and potential students.
“Quality Matters is the most widely recognized quality assurance program in education,” Pelt said. “We designed the certificate to help current and prospective students become the best online teachers they possibly can be; they can rest assured that they will receive a high-quality experience that’s an excellent value for their tuition dollars.”
Pelt likens the certification process to a multipoint inspection that homes go through before being sold. The standards focus on the structural elements of the course and ensure that students have the best possible learning experience.
According to Todd Kane, a lecturer in the certificate program who was involved in preparing courses for certification, the process included meetings with internal and external reviewers, one of which was an expert in online learning. The thorough reviews included eight different standards and 42 separate sub-standards that evaluate every aspect of the course design, from navigation to accessibility.
“Each course went through an intensive internal review and revision process that ensured clear, relevant course content and alignment with course objectives and opportunities for student-to-student and student-to-faculty collaboration,” Kane said. “We worked with reviewers to assess the online experience and ensure students don’t become lost or confused as they move through the material.”
The College established the four-course certificate of online teaching to address foundational concepts such as instructional design and development, strategies to enhance engagement and cognition, and effectively collecting and analyzing data to evaluate the learning and performance of individuals, programs and organizations. The students in this program come from traditional K-12 education and include corporate trainers and development personnel.
The College of Education introduced the certificate program in early 2020 when schools – and many other organizations – moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Jeff Marshall, associate dean of research and graduate studies in the College, the pandemic highlighted the need to ensure that online equaled quality.
“Developing courses of this kind that are of the highest quality requires real effort,” Marshall said. “The Quality Matters certification lets everyone know that this effort has paid off in a program that allows educators and others to fine-tune their existing skills, collaborate with others, explore new technologies and more, all in an online environment.”
The certificate is recommended for anyone interested in teaching online, including K-12 educators, faculty, graduate students and professionals leading, developing and engaging in training and learning functions in organizations.
South Carolina teachers who complete the certificate will be able to apply for a South Carolina Online Teaching Endorsement and employ the 12 credit hours in this certificate program towards the state’s outlined teacher pay increase associated with the 18-plus graduate credit hours beyond a bachelor’s degree.
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