For Adam Maksl, associate professor of journalism and media at IU Southeast, Quality Matters is all about perspective. “Course design often starts with the question, ‘What content do I want to cover?’ said Maksl. “Quality Matters flips the question. Instead, the instructor asks, ‘What do I want students to learn?’”
Maksl is grateful to teaching center staff who pushed him to adopt a QM perspective. Now, he is less tempted to “wing it” and allow his classes to develop organically throughout the semester. Rather, he explicitly defines course outcomes and maps course design to those outcomes. Maksl has realized that by planning the semester’s learning activities in advance—learning modules, reading assignments, discussions, written assignments, and quizzes—he can make everything align with, and contribute to, specific learning objectives.
Maksl also adheres to QM’s recommendations that instructors try to view their courses from the student’s perspective. He asks himself, How well does the course packaging work? How easy is it to navigate the course and find materials? Are all tech tools appropriate to the course and to the way students will interact with course materials? Does the course make expectations clear?
“We tend to assume that today’s learners are all digital natives who innately know how to do everything,” said Maksl. “They’re good at social media, where user interfaces are designed and tested to be easy to use. That’s not the same as being good at finding information and doing coursework online.”
This can be especially true for older students who have been away from school and who are less tech savvy. “Asynchronous ed can challenge those less motivated or less skilled at managing time,” explained Maksl. “QM encourages us to develop user friendly tech interfaces. Coherent course designs clarify instructor expectations and student tasks, and help students organize their time.”
Maksl’s QM experience has led him to challenge abiding misconceptions that online teaching isn’t as good as face-to-face teaching. His online classes, he said, have helped him improve face-to-face classes. “Do we tend to give our face-to-face classes a pass, teaching them as we’ve always done? Are my on-campus classes as aligned and coherent as my online courses? I’ve found a side benefit of using QM is the influence it’s had on face-to-face design. I’ve since adjusted my courses to incorporate QM principles.”
Maksl emphasizes that QM is a tool aimed at improving course design, not a template or iron-clad set of rules intended to standardize courses and make them look and operate alike. “QM is very flexible, and as with Canvas, there are many ways to use it,” he said.
Maksl learned the QM rubric in 2015, and is now a QM-certified peer reviewer. His first QM-certified course was Social Media Strategies. “With QM, I design from the student perspective. I make course outcomes explicit, and align all elements with those outcomes. I make sure tech tools are accessible and appropriate to course outcomes. Applied in a comprehensive way, QM results in courses that are thoughtful, easy to navigate, and make sense to students.”
Maksl has a new course, Introduction to Mass Communication, in the pipeline. If you would like to talk with Maksl about his experiences with QM, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.