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My Experience With DELTA’s Course Quality Program and How It Will Help You, Too

Fall leaves on main campus
Students enjoy a fall day by the copper wolves in Wolf Plaza on main campus. Photo by Marc Hall

Would you like to be more satisfied with your course or add proficiencies as an instructor? Whether you have little time or a lot, if your course is already operating at a high-level or you’re in the process of (re)building it, or if you are just looking for transferable professional development opportunities, DELTA has resources and expertise that will help you.

As a new employee, I’ve continuously been awestruck by the dedicated efforts made by DELTA to assist faculty, staff and students. They’re kind, generous people who invariably make the learning process worthwhile by speaking to the content that matters most to you, structured in an intuitive way and delivered as though from a well-informed friend. They are also always enthusiastic to answer questions, tailoring the learning to your particular needs. 

REPORTER – Your Best Choice with Limited Time or Targeted Training

My process to better acclimate with digital education and learning technology began with workshops offered through DELTA, which you can register for through REPORTER. If you haven’t taken a look lately, then you should see what is offered. These workshops are especially useful if your time is limited, you’re not quite sure where to begin, or if you want to focus on specific areas for improving your course. The workshops can be in person or online, overviews or deep dives, synchronous or asynchronous — there’s always something available that will be beneficial to any instructional practice or course design.

APPQMR – An Introduction to Quality Matters

While all the workshops I’ve taken have been uniformly beneficial, Applying the Quality Matters Rubric (APPQMR) stands out in terms of commitment and achievement. This workshop is offered in two formats: a one-day synchronous training, or a two-week asynchronous online training. The one-day synchronous (face-to-face) training lasts 7-8 hours and is an immersive and collaborative experience. The two-week format requires between 8-10 hours of work per week, depending on your pace, and is uncommonly absorbing not only due to the richness in content but also because of the exemplary facilitators there to assist you. Here are a few benefits you will take away from APPQMR:

  • How to prepare your course to benefit from the corpus of educational research
  • How to align course objectives with course materials and assessments
  • How to better emphasize the student perspective
  • Recognize the foundational concepts of Quality Matters (QM)

By the time I found APPQMR, I had developed an expectation of high-level support from DELTA but what I experienced from Lead Instructional Technologist Arlene Mendoza-Moran was on another plane. DELTA Course Quality understands that learning the Quality Matters rubric is challenging so they calibrate their assistance to meet you where you are. Arlene guided my cohort through the learning modules so that we achieved the most from our work. More importantly, her feedback was authentic and empathetic, asking meaningful, thought-provoking questions. You could tell she took the time to understand each of our responses individually and her care was contagious — inspiring our learning group. QM believes your course can always be improved and provides the guidance and guidelines to take action. Arlene demonstrated that principle exactly in her communication with us.

DELTA Course Quality Program and Quality Matters (QM) – A Partnership

As it happens, I later learned Arlene’s way is also DELTA’s house brand, called the Course Quality Program. The program is designed not only to provide top-level, custom support but to make available for faculty a set of processes for quality assurance in online education. Course Quality offers resources such as professional development workshops and grants, assistance with course and program reviews, templates for course documents such as:

The Course Quality Program is rooted in Quality Matters.

Quality Matters (QM) is a nationally recognized, non-profit organization that seeks to improve the online learning experiences through the application of peer reviewed, empirical evidence to the design of hybrid and fully online courses. The essential idea is that the online courses should be designed to facilitate, not impede, learner success. Following the research-based standards described in the QM rubric will help you improve your course design so that it incorporates best practices that help instructors communicate to students what to expect in terms of quality, learning objectives and communication. 

Inherent in QM is an ethos for continuous improvement. It’s important to note that QM is not prescriptive; it doesn’t take away the instructor’s agency or instructional freedom. What QM offers is guidance to better align course components and communicate clear expectations to learners, with the ultimate goal of improving learner success, engagement and satisfaction.

Courses can earn nationally recognized QM Certification through an official, rigorous, QM-managed peer review process. QM Certification signifies that a course has been externally reviewed by a team of experts and has met the nationally-recognized, researched-backed standards in the QM Rubric. The UNC System is a full QM subscriber. As a result, NC State is able to offer faculty, staff, and graduate students QM-based professional development opportunities free of charge if you register through DELTA.

APPQMR serves as a requisite workshop that gets you started on a path toward QM certification. It can also be taken as a standalone training that will give you the tools and foundational knowledge to do a formidable job yourself. Whether you choose the one-day or two-week format, I recommend that you give the workshop a try. And while I definitely appreciated Arlene’s feedback, I’ve since learned that all the QM-certified workshop  facilitators in DELTA’s Department of Digital Learning will be similarly helpful.

DELTA Grant Opportunities

If you have a semester or two and a strong desire to transform the design of your course then I have two recommendations. The first is the Course Essentials Express Grant and the second is the Course Improvement Grant. Both are paid opportunities to work with DELTA to upgrade your course.

Course Essentials Express Grant – Fast(er) track toward QM certification

The Course Essentials Express Grant (CE) will be offered this Spring. The CE grant is targeted toward faculty who have experience teaching online and would like to improve one of their online or hybrid courses to meet a subset of the QM Rubric standards. The CE grant runs from January to June, and is structured as a semester-long, mostly asynchronous online course that guides a small faculty cohort through the process of improving their courses. Throughout the grant period, faculty work mostly on their own to apply the 23 essential standards in the QM Rubric to their course. Individual progress is supplemented by a few cohort check-in meetings and consultations with a dedicated Course Quality advisor, who is a DELTA instructional designer or instructional technologist. After course improvements are complete, Arlene Mendoza-Moran (the second of NC State’s two QM Coordinators; Bethanne Winzeler is the primary one), works with participants to submit the course to be reviewed officially through QM, with the goal of QM certification. The CE grant is a great option for faculty who are highly self-motivated and who wish to work mostly individually to improve their course over a semester.

Course Improvement Grant – A deep dive into QM standards

Alternatively, the Course Improvement Grant (CI) is there for those faculty who want to transform their course more substantially through deeper engagement with the QM Rubric, cohort members and Course Quality advisors. The duration of the CI grant is longer than CE, running from September to April. DELTA understands the value of faculty working together, and has designed the approach to be as faculty-driven as possible: participants interact substantially with each other through frequent asynchronous discussions and cohort meetings to discuss application of QM standards, as well as share examples and brainstorm solutions. Participants meet with their dedicated CI advisor every other week to receive more detailed, individualized coaching and support. In addition to DELTA instructional designers and instructional technologists, Faculty Leads can also serve as advisors in CI. Faculty Leads have earned QM certification for at least one of their courses and are eager to share their enthusiasm and first-hand experience with the course improvement and certification process. 

After the program is complete you meet with the Assistant Director of Course Quality and NC State’s primary QM Coordinator, Bethanne Winzeler (who is so helpful and inspiring), to submit the course for QM review and certification.


Before I move on, please allow me to share with you facts about NC State DELTA and QM.

  • 100% of submissions have successfully earned QM certification
  • Over 10,000 students are enrolled annually in a certified course
  • All the colleges have at least one certified course
  • 57 QM-certified courses (3 more in review)
  • 356 faculty have earned QM digital credentials for professional development
  • Course Improvement Grant applications are at an all-time high
  • This is a great time to apply

Digital credentials may be a secondary or tertiary perk of QM but that doesn’t mean it isn’t meaningful. When you complete APPQMR or another QM workshop, you receive a corresponding QM seal that can be displayed on your instructor sites, email signature or LinkedIn profile. These credentials serve as recognition of your commitment to high-quality online course design. When a course earns QM certification, you receive an official QM Certification mark to display in the course and the course is listed in QM’s national database (as well as on NC State’s Course Quality website). Additionally, the head of your department and dean of the college will also be notified of your accomplishment and the work that went into it, and your efforts will be publicly recognized through a variety of DELTA communication channels.

A primary incentive is that these trainings emphasize the student perspective. Students are taking an increasing amount of courses online and they’re not all experiencing positive outcomes. Obviously, instructors are the subject matter experts and have the experience and expertise that enables them to deliver their instructional content. What is often not obvious is that by streamlining the design of an online course, instructors can reduce many (often previously invisible) barriers to student success. We are beginning to collect data that shows that students desire faculty who are committed to online quality assurance and are gravitating toward courses with QM certification. Course and teacher evaluation outcomes are better and it’s less work for the instructors because the course is operating in a fully articulated and transparent way

Finally, the greatest perk of all may be a feeling of control over your course and the satisfaction that you are actively working to improve the online learning experience for your students. While it is rewarding to have taken a DELTA workshop, APPQMR or another QM workshop, or you decide down the road to have your course QM certified, what inevitably happens is that you want to keep going. You become spirited. Not only do you want to implement better ways of engaging and communicating with students, but you find that you want to spread the word assisting others. That is why we’ve established the Course Quality Faculty Lead program, which offers faculty who have gone through the course improvement and certification process the opportunity to give back by mentoring others. Indeed, 14 instructors applied to be involved in helping their colleagues last year alone, and that number increases every year.

In conclusion, while I’m not an instructor, I used to be one and what I’ve seen from DELTA Workshops and faculty support has been so positive that I felt the need to share my enthusiasm with you. I hope you join the hundreds of other faculty who have taken advantage of our services. As I mentioned, once you start on the path toward course improvement the positive results become irresistible and inspire you to keep going. Hope to see you soon.