By Stacey Cofield, Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Public Health
It seems as if we are always running out of time with courses: never enough time to prep, never enough time to grade, never enough time for learning. This is true for online, blended, hybrid, and face-to-face classes.
So much time is taken up with housekeeping, things that can clutter up your content, such as answering non-content related questions, managing due dates and turning in assignments, and updating your course timeline. Add to that losing days to syllabus review, quizzes, and exams. But what if there was a way to get back some of that time and keep your class free of distraction clutter?
There is! The Quality Matters (QM) Higher Education rubric can help keep your class clean and give you back precious time prepping and managing courses. You might be thinking “but I don’t teach online” . . . that is ok! Using the QM rubric can help any type of class. How does QM help declutter and save you time?
- Course Prep: Sometimes the hardest part is getting started. QM breaks up course design into eight standards, but QM 1, 6, 7, and 8 are not related to content – they help you ensure that students have all the information they need to be successful in your course. If you use Canvas (and we all should!), then many of the resources are built in. If you use a course template from your school or one of the eLearning templates, many of these standards are included. So, that has saved you loads of time already. And once you have that taken care of, the ball is rolling, and you can move on to the content and assessment related areas of your course (QM 2-5).
- Assessments and Grading: How much time do you spend grading and reviewing answers with students? QM 3 and 5 speak directly to that! By using rubrics, students will immediately understand what they missed and why. For all courses, students can take tests and quizzes online (even by bringing laptops to class), and Canvas can grade part or all of your assessments according to your rubric! QM tells you to specify when and how students get feedback through discussion boards, SpeedGrader (look into it!), or your defined in-person or virtual office hours. No more cluttering up class time or inboxes by sending multiple individual emails to address questions that maybe only a few students missed. And your grading goes so much faster!
- Communications: First, by being clear at the start of the semester about your interaction and contact guidelines (QM 1), learners are aware of when they can contact you and when they can expect to hear a reply. You are no longer answering questions 24/7 – this is a huge time saver and frees up class time. Keep track of emailed questions or office hour issues and post the responses to Canvas. Keep a running discussion board of common questions, so students can find answers before contacting you. Manage all of your emails through Canvas! You will never lose or miss anything or have to track emails down. The first time a student emails you outside of Canvas, copy the email and reply through Canvas; they will get the hint.
- Syllabus: How many of you lose a full day going over the syllabus? And then repeating yourself because new students have joined or every time a due date changes? A syllabus quiz is one way that QM suggests introducing students to the course (QM 1). The syllabus quiz can do two things: it demonstrates that students know how to take a quiz on Canvas and you can highlight the key things on your syllabus like due dates/times, office hours, how to contact you and then the student can never say they didn’t know that! Having all assignments due through Canvas alleviates the need to constantly broadcast due dates or keep track of papers or who was late – the dynamic syllabus changes the dates and alerts students to the changes. Even if work is hand written, most students have access to something that takes images (a camera, phone, or tablet) and those can be submitted as a PDF file. And of course, then you can grade in Canvas!
What about QM 2 and 4? Along with 3 and 5, these are content related. While QM isn’t about your content, the guidelines in standards 2-5 work together to provide a well-designed course where your content and assessments are aligned with your course and module learning objectives. This alignment clears up a lot of confusion for you and your students about what they are doing and why they are doing it.
QM will (I promise) help you design and manage your courses in a way that clarifies your content, saves you time, and frees up space for learning. And isn’t that why we are all here?