Delgado A-Z: QEP

By: Leslie Salinero
Aside from the external symbols and activities characteristic of a school – chalkboards, textbooks, homework, exams, computer and tutoring labs – what are faculty and staff doing behind the scenes? Specifically, how are we analyzing and determining the quality of instruction received by our students?

Delgado’s Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP, was established to do just that, through collaboration between Student and Academic Affairs staff and faculty members. In 2005, the QEP was first slated for implementation in part to fulfill requirements for SACS  accreditation. The theme was “The Learning Journey” and the purpose was to improve students’ transition from developmental courses to college-level general education courses, such as English and math. An additional course, College and Career Success Skills, would offer students extra targeted guidance to ensure adequate completion of developmental courses and earned enrollment into general education courses.
Brochures (above), pencils and flyers were made to promote The Learning Journey in 2005
Just as the Fall 2005 Semester was about to kickoff with the new QEP, along came Hurricane Katrina, and priorities shifted significantly.

Specifically, Delgado’s need to offer online instruction dramatically increased. Before Katrina, Delgado offered a few online courses, but under such catastrophic circumstances, the College facilitated the Fall 2005 Semester primarily online. Displaced faculty and students were able to teach and learn from wherever the storm had scattered them.

Since then, Delgado’s online course offerings have grown extensively. Today, about 24 percent of the total student population takes online courses. Delgado offers about 150 online courses each fall and spring semester.

SACS allowed Delgado a deadline extension to devise a new QEP. Due in 2007, the plan described ways in which the College could ensure that the quality of online instruction was equal to or better than traditional classroom instruction. “Going the Distance” was the new theme chosen, given the College’s new focus on online, or “distance” learning.

Lanyards were one of the promotional items produced to promote the new QEP in 2007

Improving online instruction is a two-fold process: student readiness and course effectiveness. “Delgado jumped into the deep end of the pool with our embracement of online education post-Katrina. However, we knew enough to step back and assess what this new modality gives us in flexibility and assure that it gives that student as much in return when it came to learning,” explained Deborah Lea, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs.

Certain measures must be in place to show students how to reap the most benefits from online learning, which includes knowing how to effectively use the technology necessary for taking an online class. In other words, we want students to thrive, not just survive, in an online classroom environment. For example, one aspect of the QEP was to set up an online tutorial that demonstrates how to use Blackboard, the online classroom software.

Faculty members who teach online have their work cut out for them as well, identifying problems; developing measurement, assessment, and instructional tools and implementing them; collecting data; and analyzing and reporting on that data. The first major component of Going the Distance was transformational faculty development.  Just as students learn by constructing—rather than by receiving—knowledge, so do their teachers.  The QEP plan was to train faculty in distance delivery and instructional design in an online setting so that faculty experienced the online environment as learners themselves.  The QEP faculty participated in two years of training and follow-up for each year’s faculty cohort.  Over the course of the five year plan, 40 faculty would participate in this QEP.  During the first year, QEP faculty participants were enrolled in Fielding Graduate University’s Teaching in the Virtual Classroom (TVC) Graduate Certificate Program.  During the second year of faculty development, the College used a subscription to MarylandOnline, Inc.’s QualityMatters (QM) program  to provide faculty with the training and tools to effectively transform one online course to meet the QM essential standards.  Transformed courses were then submitted to QM for formal review to obtain QM recognition. Through this program, the College developed its own training, workshops and mentoring to help certify faculty and staff members in administering effective online instruction to students. 
Promotional poster for going the distance

Over the past five years, Delgado has expanded its QEP into a network of committees, each assigned specific tasks contributing to the overall goal: quality assurance of online education.

Thus far, the QEP has helped improve both teacher and student performance. Instructors have become more introspective about the teaching and learning process, thereby creating a better learning environment for students.

Thank you to the faculty and staff members who contributed information to this blog through personal interviews.
Your help is greatly appreciated!

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