Core Principles of Quality for Online Courses in the Montana University System

Overview (Adopted March 2008)

This document articulates the core principles governing the design and delivery of online courses in the Montana University System. The specific implementations of these principles will certainly vary as technology changes and teaching and learning methodologies evolve, but the principles themselves should persist.  These standards have been adopted using the Quality Matters Rubric Standards and other best practices identified within the industry.
Ultimately, a single principle governing quality online development and delivery is that all course elements (objectives, learning activities, interactions, instructional materials, technologies, and assessments) work together to ensure that students achieve the desired learning outcomes, and that an online course is equivalent in quality and academic rigor to a well-executed face-to-face course. Bulleted lists of guidelines follow each core principle.

Core Principles 

  1. Course Overview and Introduction: The overall design of the course, navigational information, as well as course, instructor, and student information are made clear to the student at the beginning of the course.

    • Navigational instructions make the organization of the course easy to understand.

    • Statement introduces course, technology, instructor, and student expectations at the beginning of the course

  2. Learning Objectives: Learning objectives are clearly defined and explained.  They help the student focus on learning activities.

    • Course learning objectives are clearly defined and measurable.

    • Module/unit objectives are consistent with course-level objectives and are measurable.

  3. Assessment: Assessment strategies use established ways to measure effective learning, are aligned to the learning objectives, and are designed as essential to the learning process.

    • Assessment strategies use established ways to measure effective learning, are aligned to the learning objectives, Grading policies are clearly stated.

    • Specific and descriptive criteria are provided for the evaluation of students’ work and participation. 

  4. Resources and Materials:  Instructional materials are sufficiently comprehensive to achieve course objectives and learning outcomes.

    • Instructional materials support the stated learning objectives.

    • Instructional materials have sufficient breadth, depth, and currency for the student to learn the subject.

  5. Learner Interaction: The effective design of instructor-student interaction, meaningful student cooperation, and student-content interaction is essential to student motivation, intellectual commitment, and personal development.

    • The learning activities promote the achievement of stated learning objectives

    • Learning activities foster instructor-student, content-student, and if appropriate to this course, student-student interaction

    • Clear standards are set for instructor response and availability (turn-around time for email, grade posting, etc.) 

  6. Course Technology: Technology used in the course should enrich instruction and foster learner interactivity.

    • The tools and media support the learning objectives, and are appropriately chosen to deliver the content of the course

  7. Learner Support: The course is effectively supported for students through fully accessible modes of delivery, resources, and student support. 

  8. Accessibility: The course materials, interactions, and policies are designed to accommodate all students. 

    • The course acknowledges the importance of ADA requirements.


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