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Expanding PIVOT with Proactive Course Design Peer Reviews

Six faculty seek Quality Matters certification in UMBC pilot

By most accounts, UMBC’s PIVOT initiative has been considered a success in that 70 percent of all faculty participated, and 85% percent of students in PIVOT courses felt they were well organized and “flowed in a logical format.” The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) even recognized PIVOT as one of its 2021 “Effective Practice” award winners, primarily for the use of 25 peer mentors. However, due to the scale and timing of UMBC’s pandemic response to teaching and learning, it wasn’t possible to implement a key element of the Quality Matters framework that informed PIVOT: peer review of course design (not instructor delivery).

Six UMBC faculty recently accepted an invitation to pursue QM course certification through the Quality Matters Impact (QMI) initiative, which leverages the official QM course review process managed by DoIT trained and certified staff. These faculty are the first to submit an online or hybrid course for this high distinction of quality in online/hybrid course design at UMBC through a partnership with the Provost’s office.

FA2021 Cohort

  • EDUC 667 - Mary Tabaa

  • EHS 115 - Gary Williams

  • AGNG 355 - Louise Murray

WT2022 Cohort

  • CHEM 101 - Sarah Bass

  • ENCH 300 - Mariajose Castellanos

  • HAPP 100 - Katie Birger

The SP2022 cohort will open for submissions in January 2022. 

At this time, only fifteen courses in the University System of Maryland currently have the QM Certification Mark -- none of them are at UMBC, though more than 40 have been internally reviewed by UMBC staff using the QM rubric. 

Using the 6th edition of the QM Higher Education Rubric (pdf), a formal QM course review is designed to be a collegial process to provide helpful recommendations for continuous improvement and reinforce effective, research-based practices for online and hybrid course design. As part of this process, faculty receive feedback from certified Quality Matters peer reviewers including UMBC faculty and instructional design staff, and other online learning experts in the QM community. When a course meets QM standards following a formal review, it is eligible to display the QM Certification Mark. Participants receive a $1,000 professional development award for participating in the program. 

Why Quality Course Design Matters

As more students take online courses, UMBC’s enrollment survey found 55% of respondents felt that UMBC should prioritize the online/hybrid program development in the next five years (Huron, 2019). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UMBC’s own Finish Line initiative encourages students, including many from out of state, to return to college and finish their degrees (Leyshon, 2020; Rous, Mozie-Ross, Shin, & Fritz, 2021; Fritz, Hawken, Shin, 2021). Providing quality course design and instructional experiences, including active learning and authentic assessment, align with UMBC values in teaching and learning.

Grounded in effective practices and international standards for course design, the award-winning PIVOT program promoted key concepts in alignment of learning objectives, community building and engagement, and authentic assessment. Nearly 85% of PIVOT+ faculty participants said the program was helpful for their pedagogical shift to online teaching and were more likely to be open to alternative course delivery formats in Fall 2021. Additionally, research indicates students value clear instructions for getting started, descriptive criteria for course activities and assignments, and consistent navigation (Ralston-Berg, 2014). The majority of PIVOT+ students said they agreed or strongly agreed that PIVOT+ courses flowed in a logical format, reinforcing QM foundations. As such, it is important to recognize the exceptional course design from UMBC faculty through a QM review. 

For more information about the Quality Matters Impact program, please contact the QM coordinators for UMBC:

Dr. Mariann Hawken


Dr. Susan Biro


Posted: November 9, 2021, 9:23 AM