Using Rubrics for Course Quality Assessment

Using Rubrics for Course Quality Assessment

The use of Rubric for Course Quality Assessment has become a widespread practice. Course Rubrics would typically evaluate several elements such as alignment, accessibility, engagement, the usability of course tools and content delivery methods, learners support, how clear are the instructions, how are learning objectives written, and if expectations were clearly established.

The practice of evaluating courses with a Course Quality or Course Design rubric should provide the institution with a way to assess and assure course quality throughout a program, department, or even institutions. More importantly, it should improve student's experience. 

When led by an organization, the rubric assessment and review will award the course or program accreditation. For processes where the institution seeks accreditation, there will be a group of reviewers. The group should have one member from outside the institution, someone with no bias towards the course, institution, or course designer; as well as a member that knows the course subject, someone who can answer questions related to course content; and perhaps someone from the institution, that can answer any questions regarding the university policies for example.


Course Rubric Elements

When referring to alignment, the reviewer looks for course-level objectives and module-level objectives; how the module-level objectives support the course-level objectives. Reviewers also consider content, activity, and assessments, and alignment between these items. The content and activities must support and lead the learner to successfully achieve the objective stated. 

The content must be accessible, meaning that learners can access the material provided regardless of disabilities; it could be physical, mental, cognitive, emotional, or other. All learners must experience the course and access all elements required for successful completion of the course. 

Engagement addresses the interactions within the course, as well as instructor presence. Some elements reviewers look for are discussion boards, space for students to introduce themselves and meet others, and a welcome video or message from the instructor; check-in points and room for feedback are valuable elements to a course.

Courses delivery through a Learning Management System (LMS) will offer instructors a series of tools. The usability element will evaluate if the tools are being used for their purpose and if the course is easy to navigate. Quizzes being delivered through the Quizzes tool; Grades are posted into the Grades area; Discussions are in the Discussion board Feature of the LMS, and so on. 

Institutional resources for learners' support should be available and easy to find within any course. Information about the Help Desk, Tutoring Services, Disability Support Centers, how to ask for accommodations, and general policies are the type of information reviewers would look for to assure learners support. Learners shouldn't have to ask for this type of information; it must be given and added to the course where it is easy to find and intuitive to learners to look for it.

Another significant element is how information is written and how policies are addressed. Objectives must be written from the learners' perspective, the language and terms used must be easy to understand.

These elements are present in most rubrics; some may be represented through different terminology. Depending on the institution or organization that created the rubric, there are variations, and the focus may shift from design to accessibility, technology use, etc. The elements evaluated most likely go beyond the elements presented as well.


Commonly Used Rubrics

When choosing a rubric, some of the factors to consider are the rubric's values and focus and the institution that developed that rubric. It is important to note if the rubric was designed to assess a specific type of course or a course delivery method, such as online, face-to-face, or blended.

Here are examples of organizations that have developed rubrics: 

Some LMS's have their own rubric or checklist. In those cases, specific features are often addressed. 

Institutional Rubrics

Often institutions develop their own rubric, checklist, or framework based on their instructional design preferences and recommendations, as well as LMS of choice. Here you will find some examples of institutions that developed their own course assessment tool.


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