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Quality Online Learning and Teaching

The Quality Online Learning and Teaching (QOLT) framework is used to design and evaluate online teaching and learning. QOLT has been developed by the CSU, based on extensive research and careful consideration of existing models for assessing effective online teaching and learning. Each section contains multiple objectives that give instructors a close-up view of a quality online/hybrid course. You can also visit the official QOLT website for more details about the history and status of QOLT.

CSUN is committed to sharing this framework with faculty interested in implementing QOLT principles and strategies in their own online and hybrid courses. View an ePortfolio highlighting the 2015-16 QOLT informational program, coordinated by the Faculty Technology Center.

The QOLT Instrument

Select one of the principles below to see the objectives under each one or view/print a two-page handout created by the CSU. Alternatively, you may download and print a long-form PDF with this information and with additional space provided under each section for your brainstorming or other notes. 

Section 1: Course Overview and Introduction

Instructor gives a thorough description of the course, as well as introducing students to the course protocol and expectations.

1.1 *Instructor uses course environment to provide clear and detailed instructions for students to begin accessing all course components, such as syllabus, course calendar, assignments, and support files.
1.2 *Detailed instructor information is available to students and includes multiple formats for being contacted by students, availability information, brief biographical information, and a picture of the instructor.
1.3 *Course description includes the purpose and format of the course, as well as prerequisite knowledge and competencies, if applicable.
1.4 Online etiquette expectations for various forms of course communication and dialog (e.g., chat, "hangout," email, online discussion) are presented and clear to the student.
1.5 *Academic integrity or "code of ethics" is defined. Related institutional policies for students to adhere are clearly stated and/or links to those policies (e.g., online catalog; institution web page) is provided.
1.6 A list of technical competencies necessary for course completion is provided, identifying and delineating the role/extent the online environment plays in the total course.
1.7 Instructor provides samples of prior student work and an opportunity for students to ask related questions. 
1.8 Instructor asks students to share their own learning goals for the course.

* = “Core 24” or essential QOLT objectives. This subset was identified by CSU San Marcos.

Section 2: Assessment of Student Learning

Student Evaluation and Assessment refers to the process used to gather evidence of the achievement of the Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes (SLOs). If needed, we strongly recommend that instructors contact their Office of Academic Assessment or Center for Teaching and Learning for assistance with establishing an effective course assessment plan.

2.1 *All student learning outcomes are specific, well-defined, and measurable.
2.2 *Grading policy is provided in a manner that clearly defines expectations for the course and respective assignments.
2.3 *The learning activities (including graded assignments as well as ungraded activities) promote the achievement of the student learning outcomes.
2.4 *The assessment instruments (e.g., rubrics) are detailed and appropriate to the student work and respective outcomes being assessed. This includes assessing modes of online participation and contributions.
2.5 *Throughout the semester, instructor provides multiple opportunities to give feedback on student learning, as well as helping students "self-check" their learning.
2.6 Periodically, instructor solicits feedback from students regarding their learning and potential improvements that may be made to the course.

* = “Core 24” or essential QOLT objectives. This subset was identified by CSU San Marcos.

Section 3: Instructional Materials and Resources

Addresses the variety of materials and material formats the instructor has chosen to present course content and enable students to meet relevant learning outcomes and, when possible, the affordability of chosen course materials.

3.1 *Instructor provides students with adequate notice and time to acquire course materials.
3.2 Syllabus clearly indicates whether textbooks and materials are required or recommended.
3.3 Instructor articulates the purpose of each instructional material and how it is related to the course, activities, learning objectives, and success of the student.
3.4 When possible, instructor promotes or provides options in terms of how students acquire course materials, including Open Educational Resources.
3.5 *There are a variety of instructional material types and perspectives, while not overly relying on one content type such as text.
3.6 Modeling academic integrity, instructor appropriately cites all resources and materials used throughout the course.

* = “Core 24” or essential QOLT objectives. This subset was identified by CSU San Marcos.

Section 4: Student Interaction and Community

Addresses (1) the opportunities students have to interact with the content, their peers, and their instructor, and (2) how well the course design encourages students to become active learners and contribute to the online course community.

4.1 *At the beginning of the course, instructor provides an opportunity for students to introduce themselves to develop the sense of community.
4.2 Instructor provides information about being a successful online learner.
4.3 *Navigation throughout the online components of the course is logical, consistent, and efficient.
4.4 *Learning activities facilitate and support active learning that encourages frequent and ongoing peer-to-peer engagement.
4.5 The modes and outcomes for student interaction are clearly communicated.
4.6 Instructor clearly explains his or her role regarding participation in the online environment. Instructor participates and manages, yet lets students take reasonable ownership.
4.7 *The course learning activities help students understand fundamental concepts, and build skills useful outside of the course.

* = “Core 24” or essential QOLT objectives. This subset was identified by CSU San Marcos.

Section 5: Facilitation and Instruction (Course Delivery)

Addresses how well the instructor facilitates the course, communicates with students, engages students to be active learners, and reinforces the development of a sense of community among course participants.

5.1 Instructor helps identify areas of agreement and disagreement on course topics.
5.2 Instructor helps students understand importance of course topics and related outcomes.
5.3 Instructor actively strives to keep course participants engaged and participating in productive dialogs.
5.4 Instructor encourages students to explore new concepts through the course experience.
5.5 Instructor helps focus discussions on relevant issues.
5.6 *Instructor provides feedback in a timely manner.
5.7 Instructor sends communications about important goals and course topics as opportunities arise.
5.8 *Instructor sends reminders of due dates and duration of respective modules, as well as other instructions to keep students on task.

* = “Core 24” or essential QOLT objectives. This subset was identified by CSU San Marcos.

Section 6: Technology for Teaching and Learning

Addresses how well the instructor utilizes technology to effectively deliver course content, engage students in learning activities (individual, student-to-student, and instructor-to-student), and allow students to express themselves or demonstrate learning.

6.1 Technological tools and resources employed support the student learning outcomes.
6.2 *Instructor takes advantage of the current tools provided by the Learning Management System (or similar) to enhance learning.
6.3 Technological tools and resources used in the course enable student engagement and active learning.
6.4 *Instructor provides clear information regarding access to the technology and related resources required in the course.
6.5 Acceptable technological formats for assignment completion and submissions have been articulated.

* = “Core 24” or essential QOLT objectives. This subset was identified by CSU San Marcos.

Section 7: Learner Support and Resources

Addresses the program, academic, and/or technical resources available to learners. Though instructors may not play the direct support role, they should be aware of potential issues and promote what is available to support students. 

7.1 Instructor states her or his role in the support process.
7.2 *The course syllabus (or related) lists and/or links to a clear explanation of the technical support provided by the campus and suggestions as to when and how students should access it.
7.3 *Course syllabus (or related) provides an introduction to campus academic (non-technical) support services and resources available to support students in achieving their educational goals. E.g., Disability Support Services, Writing Center, Tutoring Center.
7.4 Course syllabus (or related) provides information regarding how the institution's student support (non-academic, non-technical) services and resources (E.g., advising, mentoring) can help students succeed and how they can use these services.

* = “Core 24” or essential QOLT objectives. This subset was identified by CSU San Marcos.

Section 8: Accessibility and Universal Design

Addresses the course’s adherence to accessibility and universal design principles that are critical to some learners but that benefit all learners. Note: We strongly recommend that instructors contact their campus disability service center for assistance and information related to this section.

8.1 *Syllabus (or similar) links to the campus accessible policy, whether it is required or recommended that instructors do so.
8.2 Instructor articulated how s/he proactively supports a wide range of learning styles and abilities of all students, as opposed to just making reactive accommodations for those with registered disabilities. Note: This support does not entail sacrificing academic rigor or student learning outcomes. The goal is supporting the needs of all learners as opposed to having an inflexible teaching and learning process.
8.3 *Students are given accessibility information and policies related to the online course environment.
8.4 Students can clearly ascertain the role of the instructor in providing support for those officially registered with the campus disability services office.
8.5 *Course materials created by the instructor or from external sources are in formats that are accessible to students with disabilities.
8.6 All tools used within learning management system or third-party are accessible and assistive-technology ready.
8.7 If accessibility of a particular course resource or activity is not practicable, instructor provides an equally effective accessible alternative for students.

* = “Core 24” or essential QOLT objectives. This subset was identified by CSU San Marcos.

Section 9: Course Summary and Wrap-up

Addresses the opportunities students are given to summarize the semester, establish the connection between this course and other courses, and prepare to start the next phase of their program/progress.

9.1 Provides opportunities to help students form closure and foster insight into their accomplishments
9.2 Provides feedback about student overall learning and progress
9.3 Provides opportunities for students to reflect on learning and make connections with their expectation

Section 10: Mobile Platform Readiness (optional)

Optional section for applicable courses -- addresses the accessibility of course content on mobile devices (phones & tablets). Note: Not all course components must be tailored toward mobile devices (e.g., online exams). 

10.1 General course content on main page does not include pop-up screens, moving text, large images, or long headings/labels.
10.2 Audio and video content can be displayed easily on multiple platforms such as PCs, tablets, and mobile devices.
10.3 Course should take into consideration and reduce number of steps user must take to reach primary content.
10.4 Instructor limits amount of course content that does not contribute directly to student learning outcomes.