Course Standards

Quality Matters

Vol State is committed to implementing the Quality Matters (QM) standards for the design of online and blended courses, and we are systematically building and evaluating our courses based on these rigorous, research-based standards. The QM standards assure that distance education courses are designed to promote learner engagement and provide students with the information they need to be successful in their courses.

Course developers are strongly encouraged to use a copy of the Distributed Education Master Course Template within eLearn. By adopting this template and following its design, courses will automatically meet over 20 of the QM standards.


The following guidelines are provided to aid instructors and thus aid students in online courses. While these guidelines do give direction to faculty and follow best online teaching practices, they are not meant to take away academic freedom from instructors in any way.


Online and hybrid courses must include an accessible syllabus within eLearn. Read more about syllabus requirements and templates here.

Course Overview and Introduction

  1. Create a news item informing students how to get started in the course. (QM 1.1)
  2. Introduce the purpose and structure of the course to students. Include a brief "About This Course" news item on the course homepage; other details may be provided in Content. (QM 1.2)
  3. State etiquette expectations (sometimes called “netiquette”) for online discussions, email, and other forms of communication. (QM 1.3)
  4. List Vol State policies which students are expected to follow. (QM 1.4)
  5. State minimum technology requirements and provide instructions for using any special technologies. (QM 1.5)
  6. Describe any prerequisite knowledge in the subject area or discipline needed and/or any required competencies in order to be successful in the course. (QM 1.6)
  7. Provide links to the privacy policy and accessibility information for all technologies used outside of eLearn. (QM 6.5 and 8.2)
  8. State the minimum technical skills expected of the learners before taking the course. (QM 1.7)
  9. Personalize the “Instructor Information” template provided by the developer. Instructors must provide a self-introduction in all online courses. (QM 1.8)
  10. Create an introductory activity for the course to allow students to introduce themselves. (QM 1.9)
  11. State what students can expect from you regarding how and when communication and grading will occur. All instructors are expected to reply to messages with 48 hours on weekdays. Grading policies may vary based on course content. (QM 5.3)
  12. State requirements for student engagement and interaction. (QM 5.4)


  1. Describe all assignments clearly. (QM 3.2 and 3.3)
  2. Be consistent with the labeling of all modules, assignments, and assessments as well as the arrangement of content within the module. (QM 8.1)
  3. Describe any technologies to be used outside of eLearn. Provide accessibility, privacy policy, and technical support information. (QM 4.2, 6.2, 6.5, 7.1, and 8.2)
  4. Accompany all acronyms introduced with the full spelling. (QM 8.1)
  5. Clearly describe the purpose of content materials, as well as how to use them. (QM 4.2)
  6. Use a variety of current, relevant instructional materials, which support the learning objectives of the course including video, readings, open educational resources (OER), and publisher content. (QM 4.1 and 4.5)
  7. Do not require content from your personal paid account or subscription that students do not have access to (e.g., Netflix). (QM 6.3 and 8.1)
  8. Clearly identify the difference between required and optional materials, if optional materials are provided. (QM 4.6)
  9. Follow copyright laws. Cite your sources. (QM 4.3)
  10. Create all instructional materials as HTML pages within eLearn. (QM 8.1)
  11. Manage your files by creating a folder for each module in the course in order to assure easy organization. This can be found under “Manage Files” in eLearn.


  1. A variety of assessments should be used in the course. (QM 3.4 and 3.5)
  2. Link each graded activity to the corresponding grade item in the grade book so the grade will appear automatically. (QM 3.2, 3.5, and 8.1)
  3. Create a link to the submission tool, whenever possible, within the instructions for assignments. (QM 8.1)
  4. Assign a due date to every assessment and list all due dates in the course schedule. (QM 1.2 and 8.1)

Grade Book

  1. Check Grades to ensure that all items graded are being accurately recorded. (QM 3.2, 3.5, and 8.1)
  2. Keep the grade book updated regularly in order to provide students with feedback on their work. (QM 3.2, 3.5, and 8.1)


  1. Include specific and descriptive instructions for completing the assignment in each Dropbox assignment folder. (QM 3.3)
  2. Provide guidance and clarity on assignment expectations, as needed.
  3. Review and assess student submissions promptly.
  4. Provide comments or other qualitative feedback in addition to a grade on each assignment (consider using a rubric).


  1. Clearly label each forum and topic title, reflecting the nature of the discussion. (QM 8.1 and 8.4)
  2. Design topic assignments to prompt engagement among students and the instructor. (QM 5.2)
  3. Include instructions for completing the discussion assignment in the topic description. (QM 3.3 and 5.4) 
  4. Consider adding an example of a “good” discussion posting that demonstrates your expectations. (QM 3.3)
  5. Provide guidance and clarity on discussion expectations, as needed.
  6. Review and assess discussions promptly.
  7. Provide comments or other qualitative feedback to individuals when grading in addition to the numeric grade on each discussion assignment.
  8. Non-graded topics for discussion should be provided, such as Course Questions or Water Cooler/Coffee Shop.


  1. Provide clear and detailed instructions to students in the quiz settings.
  2. Provide instruction and help contact information if proctoring is required.
  3. Check that automatically graded quizzes are also set to be automatically exported to grades.
  4. Be consistent with all quizzes and with your grading policy as stated in the syllabus.
  5. Promptly grade all essay or other similar type quizzes or exams.


Instructional materials and technologies should be accessible to all students, regardless of disability (QM 8.1, 8.3, 8.4, and 8.5). In general, the following items will help you prepare accessible materials. However, training is available and highly encouraged!

  1. Use properly formatted headings to structure the page.
  2. Provide alternative text descriptions for images and shapes.
  3. Write meaningful link text that indicates the link’s destination.
  4. Ensure a proper reading order in tables, lists, and forms.
  5. Don’t use color alone to convey meaning.
  6. Use sufficient color contrast to assure readability.
  7. Eliminate or limit blinking/flashing content to 3 seconds.
  8. Ensure that a keyboard can also complete any action, which uses a mouse.
  9. Provide accurate closed captioning for videos.
  10. Transcribe audio files.
  11. Only direct students to websites that are accessible by every student.


Article ID: 57201
Wed 7/11/18 3:24 PM
Thu 7/19/18 3:55 PM