Q&A with #RUOnlineCon Speaker Deb Adair of Quality Matters

Higher education is now more “personalized” and “personable” than ever, thanks to higher education technology and instructional design combined with the indispensable understanding that experienced educators have about students.

That’s the outlook on the quality of online higher ed as seen by Deb Adair, a keynote speaker at the 7th annual Rutgers Online Learning Conference Mid-Atlantic Region (RUOnlineCon) January 11-12, 2016.

The fusion of educational technology, quality assurance, instructional design and good-old-fashioned pedagogy will be the focus of a keynote speech titled “Making Quality Matter in Online Learning: Past, Present and Future” by Adair, who serves as managing director and chief planning officer of Quality Matters.


Deb Adair, Managing Director & Chief Planning Officer of Quality Matters

She previewed her presentation in a Q&A:

1. In a nutshell, what does Quality Matters do in the world of higher education?

Quality Matters (QM) develops and provides faculty-centered, turnkey quality assurance solutions for adoption and deployment by academic institutions.

We use our rigorously developed rubric, professional development and certification of peer reviewers, and continuous improvement review process to certify the design quality of online courses. 

We enable our member institutions to do this on their own to better manage their own costs. After more than 10 years at this, QM has created a vibrant community focused around quality and quality assurance in online education that is extending and innovating our quality assurance solutions beyond course design.

2. Your talk covers technology as a tool for the “iron triangle of cost, quality, and accessibility.” What might be one thing or two things technology can help faculty do in 2016 that they might not be using it for now?

One thing technology enables is the very thing about which online learning has been criticized—creating a highly personalized, and personable, learning experience.

This starts with a student-centered design, it is facilitated by student support structures, and the success rests on appropriately prepared and committed faculty—but technology provides the tools that allow us to do this at scale. 

But I’m not sure technology, in the form of ed tech tools, is the most significant change for online learning we’ve seen over the last 10 years.

The development and proliferation of the field of instructional design, team-centered approaches to course development, and increasing acknowledgement by faculty that online learning requires a different pedagogical approach than F2F (face-to-face)—all of these things have had a bigger impact on the quality of online education to date. 

How we harness the power of technology might well be the next chapter in the pursuit of quality.

3. You emphasize that people, not technology, make the difference in quality online education. What might be a couple attributes or behaviors that make that the case?

Technologies allow us to do things at scale, to automate time-consuming activities, to regulate and systematically schedule, and to quickly and accurately make sense of large amounts of data. Technology is allowing us to develop algorithms that recognize profile, behavior and response patterns of students and deliver pre-planned learning interventions accordingly. This new knowledge and ability needs to be paired with the expertise of educators with significant experience in their field AND in working with students.

The technology can deliver up the data in a usable and useful form. But faculty members with appropriate training on this data are best able to apply it—to enhance the learning experience of their students. Faculty bring a context and understanding of students built from their years of teaching experience. 

I don’t think we yet understand the depth and complexity of faculty-student interaction.  Quality Matters deeply respects the idea of what a fully prepared and supported educator can bring to the most complex of technology-based learning solutions. It’s the primary reason we insist the QM peer reviewers are pulled from the ranks of experience online instructors.

The benefit of peer review is not just for the improvement of the course being reviewed.  Review service is another form of professional development for faculty. And, as our data shows, reviewers will make improvements to their own courses—even their F2F courses—a result of their experience reviewing another’s course.

Educators will continue to be the critical component in both the application and deployment of online education—even if the roles they play look different in new models of teaching and learning.

Hear more from Deb Adair and other educational technology, instructional design and other experts at RUOnlineCon 2016.

About Rutgers Online Learning Conference Mid-Atlantic Region: RUOnlineCon is designed and open to any higher education faculty and staff interested in gaining perspectives and honing skills with best practices and innovative technologies in education. The event, held Jan. 11-12, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency is New Brunswick, N.J., provides educational opportunities, peer networking with peers, access to leading providers of products and services, and talks and presentations about industry trends and how they’re implemented.

RUOnlineCon is presented by the Rutgers University Division of Continuing Studies in partnership with University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) and New Jersey Research & Education Network (NJEDge).

Event Date

RUOnline 2017
13 March 2017
200 Atrium Drive

Somerset, NJ 08873

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