Evaluating your course with the Open SUNY Course Quality Review rubric.
The Open SUNY Course Quality Review rubric, aka OSCQR, is a free tool to help you evaluate your online or blended course for instructional quality and accessibility. The OSCQR identifies pedagogical best practices is based on empirical research and is designed to provide formative feedback about online courses. It can be used to improve existing courses or as a guide for courses that are being developed.
The OSCQR is important because it provides you with information on how to improve the design and accessibility of your course. Improving your course’s accessibility is important because it increases the likelihood that all students, especially those with disabilities, will be able to participate on an equal footing with the rest of the students in your class. Further, accessibility is required in order to be compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, New York State Enterprise IT Policy NYS-P08-005, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Adhering to the QSCQR rubric will help you make changes to your course that will increase the chances of success for all of your students.
The Accessibility Policy of the University at Buffalo is that the University is, “committed to providing equal access to individuals with disabilities, including physical access to programs as well as reasonable accommodations for members of the university community.”
The OSCQR is divided into different standards that address a particular design or accessibility element. Each standard is based on empirical research. The standards address course overview, technology, design and layout, content and activities, interactions and assessment and feedback.
The standards in the overview and information section highlight the necessity of orienting students to the course. These standards include elements that should be present at the start of the course to guide students.
The standards within this section encourage welcoming students into your course. They cover the importance of establishing clear navigation at the start of the course to limit student confusion. Students should also have access to informational material including campus policies, resources and instructor contact information. The final standards in this section address the syllabus and creating clear course objectives.
These standards address student use of technology. It is important that students have access to, and the ability to use, the technology required in a course. Technology skills and requirements should be clearly stated at the start of the course. The standards within this section also address the accessibility of technology and student privacy. This section includes the following standards:
The design and layout standards focus on the clarity and ease of accessibility of course content. The standards related to clarity address course consistency and navigation. For example, content should be formatted in information “chunks” to aid in information processing. This section also covers the necessity of thorough and well-written directions.
The standards in the design and layout section include best practices with text, tables and PowerPoint formatting. Research has found that student comprehension is influenced by how these mediums are formatted. It is important to use the formatting that will best support student learning.
These standards address the types of activities and content that help students learn best. Activities should both emulate real world applications and help students develop higher-order thinking skills. When possible, content should be drawn from Open Educational Resources, free or low-cost sources. This allows students to have immediate access to the content at the start of the course and increases the chance that they will acquire them.
Course content should be accessible to all students. Texts should be in a format that is accessible to those with visual impairments or learning disabilities and readable by assistive technology. All essential non-text content should also be available in a text form. Hyperlinks must make sense out of context. These standards help ensure that students with different types of disabilities can access the content.
These standards address both student and instructor interactions. The nature of online courses makes consideration of interactions particularly important. These standards cover the importance of creating clear expectations for feedback and instruction. Further, learning is enhanced when class community is fostered and there are opportunities for student to student interaction. This section includes the following standards:
These standards address instructor and student feedback. They include the need for clear student grading policies and assessment criteria. Assessments should happen regularly throughout the course. Students should also have opportunities to assess themselves. Further, this section covers the importance of gradebook availability. Students should have access to their grades so that they know where they stand in the course. This section also states that students should have an opportunity to give the instructor feedback about their course.
When you understand how and why it is important to evaluate your course, the next step is to view your course from the perspective of a student.