Life by Design

Ensuring Quality in Blended Learning

Posted on: March 23, 2015

Online learning and blended learning environments have received much criticism in recent years as being ‘ineffective’, ‘unsuccessful’ and not as ‘good’ as a face-to-face traditionally designed course.  Yet, there is very little specific information offered with this criticism that can help to improve these new forms of educational delivery.

I grant you that scanning a syllabus, including a title to a textbook and throwing up a PowerPoint into a course management system instructing students to read it all before coming to class, constitutes the worst of the worst.  This effort is known as ‘flat design’ and reinforces a negative impression of this style of learning.

However, with a good design rubric in hand and thoughtful measures taken to ensure an engaging learning space both online and in the corresponding face-to-face experience, blended learning environments can be more successful and effective for student learning.

So, how does one know if their proposed course design will work and meet the stated learning objectives?  I enjoy using the ‘Quality Matters’ rubric for course design as a way to be sure all the best practices for course design and student satisfaction are met.

“The Quality Matters™ Program ( is a research-centered approach to quality assurance and continuous improvement for online learning. The primary components are a set of standards (or Rubric) for the design of online courses and the online components of blended courses, a peer review process for applying these standards, and related professional development for faculty. The Quality Matters Rubric, with versions for continuing and professional education, educational publishing, secondary education, and post-secondary education, is based on recognized best practices, built on the expertise of instructional designers and experienced online teachers, and supported by distance education literature and research. The goal of the program is to enable faculty to increase student engagement, learning, and satisfaction in online courses by implementing better course design. ” (Quality

In backwards design methodology, reflecting on the rubric first helps to design a course with best practices built in as part of its DNA.  All the considerations are built to create a tightly integrated course that delivers results and meets the needs of varying learning styles as well as the need for accessible course elements.

Another feature I enjoy building in includes student surveys.  I design surveys to assess online learner readiness to take at the beginning of the course.  Then a second survey to assess student satisfaction is administered about 3 weeks after the opening of the course to gather formative feedback that might inform the remainder of the course. This also insures a higher retention rate as an instructor can quickly see students that are either struggling or are highly dissatisfied with the course.  Finally, a third survey is administered at the end of the course to again to capture a final look at student satisfaction and measure how attitudes and skills have changed since the inception of the course.

There is an art and science to designing good online courses and especially blended learning environments.  A good instructional designer has an ‘eye’ or a ‘feel’ for good design and relies on the science of educational research to ensure a good mix of the subjective and objective.


Quality Matters website ( Quality Matters research and related documents may be found at  Extracted:  March 23, 2015.


1 Response to "Ensuring Quality in Blended Learning"

Is this an ad? I see very little useful information about the value of this approach in comparison to others.

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