Principles of Quality for eLearning Courses in the Montana University System
(first adopted March 2008; revised September 2021)
These core principles guide the design and delivery of eLearning courses in the Montana University System. The specific implementations of these principles will vary as technology changes and teaching and learning methodologies evolve, but the principles themselves should persist.
Ultimately, a single principle guiding quality course development and delivery is that all eLearning course elements (objectives, learning activities, interactions, instructional materials, technologies, and assessments) work together to ensure that students achieve the desired learning outcomes.
Bulleted lists of general guidelines follow each core principle and provide criteria to assist campuses in determining if the intent of the principle has been achieved.
While these principles particularly apply to eLearning coursework, they can and should inform quality course development, regardless of modality. Applying these principles can improve the quality of ALL teaching.
Institutions and programs also incorporate additional best practices into their policies and processes. In particular, institutions should incorporate and abide by the requirements of:
- The Consortium for Regional Accrediting Commission’s 21st Century Distance Education Guidelines
- The requirements for student disclosures and regular and substantive interaction as set out in Federal Policy (34 CFR 600.2 and 34 CFR 668.43)
1. Course Design and Introduction:
The course design, navigation, and content, as well as instructor and student expectations are made clear to students from day one and throughout the course. The course materials, interactions, and policies are universally designed to accommodate all students.
- Teacher presence is visible through the design and the facilitation of the course.
- Course has an identified starting place, the organizational system of the course is explained, and uses responsive design.
- The navigation of the course is logical, consistent, and accessible (for example, heading structure, descriptive links, alternative text, appropriate use of color, etc.).
2. Learning Outcomes:
Learning outcomes and objectives describe what learners will be able to do upon completion of the course. They establish a foundation upon which the rest of the course is based.
- Course learning outcomes are clearly defined, measurable, and visible to students.
- Module/unit objectives are measurable and aligned with course-level outcomes.
- Students build mastery of learning outcomes through engagement with the content (such as through activities and assessments), engagement with peers, and engagement with the instructor.
3. Assessment & Measurement:
Assessments use established strategies to measure effective learning, are aligned to the learning objectives, and are designed as essential to the learning process.
- The grading policy includes clearly stated criteria for how work and participation will be evaluated.
- Assessment uses a combination of formative and summative assessment techniques that follow universal design (UDL) principles by involving students in their learning progress, supporting learner variability through flexible assessments, and eliminating unnecessary barriers.
- Students can clearly see how they are building mastery of learning outcomes and objectives through timely feedback and a gradebook aligned with the syllabus.
4. Instructional Materials and Technology:
Instructional materials, including supportive technologies, have sufficient breadth, depth, and currency to enable students to achieve course objectives and learning outcomes.
- Instructional materials and technology used in the course enrich instruction and foster learner interactivity.
- Instructional materials and technology are universally designed for learning.
- The instructor uses a variety of instructional materials in the course (such as textbooks and other publications, instructor-created resources, websites, and multimedia) to support and enrich student learning.
5. Learner Engagement & Support:
The course design and delivery includes meaningful engagement designed to enhance student’s motivation, intellectual commitment, and personal development. Such engagement should include substantial instructor-to-student, student-to-student, and student-to-content interaction.
- Instructors regularly and substantively interact with students through social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presence to support learning throughout the course.
- The design and facilitation of student interaction is responsive to the variety of cultures and communication styles in the learning community.
- The course is effectively supported for the students through fully accessible modes of delivery, resources, and institutional support services essential to learner success.
- The instructor employs evidence-based pedagogical practices to deepen student engagement and enhance learning.