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Quality Online Course Checklist

The Digital Learning Hub in the Teaching + Learning Commons at UC San Diego is a subscribing member of Quality Matters, a nationally recognized evidence-based review board for online courses. The rubric below has been adapted for UC San Diego from the Quality Matters Standards and provides instructors and instructional designers with a well-tested guide to ensure quality of online courses.

Despite its detail, there is no single prescribed mechanism for satisfying the criteria listed below. Instructors should feel free to take whichever approach seems most productive/logical to them.

Interested in reviewing your course? Download our Quality Course Checklist handout (docx)

1. Course Orientation

The course includes an orientation

❏ Describe how to navigate the course space

  • Where to find critical information
  • Where to find critical information (e.g., syllabus, grade book, calendar, policies, etc.)
  • Where to find obtain, sign-up for, use, and/or seek support for the tech tools needed for class
  • How to contact UCSD student support services
  • How to communicate with the instructor & IAs (e.g., email addresses, canvas inbox, etc.)

❏ Indicate how to begin working on course tasks

  • Communicate where to go and what learning activity to do first

Includes an opportunity for instructor and student introductions

(video intros recommended)

❏ Instructors' self-introductions are professional, but also “humanizing”

  • Include your name, title, photo (or other visual representation), a field of expertise
  • Include a hobby or a piece of "colorful" information
  • Demonstrate receptivity by encouraging student questions/concerns

❏ Students have the opportunity to introduce and share information about themselves

  • Asynchronous or synchronous discussions are typical

Students have been acquainted with the course expectations

❏ Describe what students should expect from the course 

  • Prior knowledge/competencies needed and prerequisite course required for successful course completion
  • Importance of course content to student’s programs of study and/or general knowledgebase
  • Identification of common “pain points” and potential solutions/reassurances of support
  • Description of a typical week’s activities (e.g., synchronous/asynchronous, group activities, reading, multimedia)

❏ Describe what students should expect from the instructor

  • Timelines for assessment feedback, responses to emails, and other forms of class communication (e.g., announcements, forum participation, etc.)
  • Instructors and IAs/TAs have developed a student engagement/communication plan
  • Course’s grading policies are clearly presented and explained ( e.g., grade weights, late policy, etc.)

❏ Describe the instructor’s expectations for students

  • Appropriately/professionally communicate with the instructor and fellow students
  • Timely submission of assignments
  • Requests of absence or late submissions made before, not after, classes/ due dates
  • Academic integrity policies are followed

2. Learning Outcomes & Competencies

Clearly delineated and measurable

❏ Course-level outcomes are clearly delineated and measurable

  • Are easy for students to find and review (i.e., positioned prominently) 
  • Are stated clearly and written from the student’s perspective. Avoid technical jargon.
  • Measurable (i.e., progress toward these learning outcomes can be measured with specificity).

❏ Module/Week-level outcomes, or competencies, are clearly delineated and measurable

  • Are easy for students to find and review (i.e., positioned prominently)
  • Are stated clearly and written from the student’s perspective - avoid technical jargon
  • Measurable (i.e., progress toward these learning outcomes can be measured with specificity)
  • Module/week-level outcomes are consistent with and help students meet, course level outcomes

Relationships between assessments and learning outcomes are clearly articulated

❏ Describe how (and why) assessments, instructional materials, and interactions enable students to master learning outcomes

Leveled appropriately to the target population

❏ Learning outcomes measure cognitive skills to a degree appropriate to students’ programs of study or levels of experience (e.g., introductory, developmental, mastery)

  • As appropriate, module-level outcomes exhibit cognitive leveling, increasing in complexity throughout the term.

3. Assessments, Grading & Feedback

Measures, with specificity, student mastery of learning outcomes and competencies

❏ Students will demonstrate their mastering course/module level outcomes through the successful completion of course assessments.

Sequenced, varied, and leveled appropriately for the target population

❏ Assessments are sequenced logically and progressively, allowing students to develop skills before demonstrating mastery (e.g., feedback is received on section drafts before the full paper is submitted)

  • An assessment schedule should be presented early in the course, allowing students to complete work in a timely and thoughtful manner

❏ A variety of assessment types are employed, allowing students to demonstrate progress and mastery in multiple ways (e.g., quizzes, case studies, discussions, group presentations, research papers, etc)

  • It may not be possible to measure the mastery of all outcomes with the same assessment type. Choose types of assignments/activities that will assist you in gauging student progress towards all goals
  • Strive to craft assessments that can accommodate diverse students

❏ Assessments are rigorous enough to allow students to demonstrate mastery of learning outcomes at degrees appropriate to students’ programs of study or levels of experience

 Specific evaluative criteria are provided

❏ Prior to each assessment, students are provided with the criteria that will be used to evaluate their performance (e.g., rubrics, checklists, or other evaluative tools)

  • Evaluative criteria need to help students understand the instructor’s assessments and participation expectations
  • Assessment descriptions explain the relationship between evaluative criteria and a student’s final course grade

Students are provided with multiple opportunities to track their performance 

❏ The grade book is structured logically, allowing students to accurately calculate their current grades

❏ Students can expect to receive regular, timely, and actionable feedback

  • Feedback is timely, allowing students the space to incorporate suggestions into future assignments
  • Feedback is “actionable”, highlighting areas that need improvement and suggesting remedial steps

4. Instructional Materials & Learning Activities

Actively promotes the achievement of learning outcomes

❏ Instructional materials provide students with the contextual information, procedural tools, and the skill demonstrations needed to complete assessments successfully, and by extension, demonstrate their mastery of learning outcomes

❏ The relationships between instructional materials and learning outcomes are clearly articulated

Sequenced, varied, and represents up-to-date trends in their discipline

❏ Instructional materials are sequenced logically and progressively, allowing students to integrate new information into prior schemas 

  • When possible, content should be "chunked" into shorter units. This segmentation gives students time to assimilate new information without overwhelming their short-term memories

❏ Instructional materials come in various formats (e.g., textbooks, videos, podcasts, articles, etc)

  • Varying the forms of employed media helps maximize student attention and support the preferences of individual students

❏ Instructional materials are up-to-date, and where appropriate, represent up-to-date trends in their discipline (e.g., current research, clinical recommendations, theoretical frameworks, analytical techniques, etc)

Actively promotes the achievement of learning outcomes 

❏ Learning activities employ various interactive strategies to promote outcome mastery by providing students with opportunities to actively and directly engage with course content 

  • Students are invited to “engage by doing” (e.g., discovering, processing, or applying information), and to take increasing levels of responsibility for their own learning
  • Activities can come in a variety of formats (e.g., presentations, group work, case studies, discussions, debates, role-play, etc)

Employs multiple forms of interaction to enhance active learning 

❏ Students have the opportunity to actively interact with the course content, with other students, and with the instructor

5. Usability, Accessibility & Academic Integrity

Course organization maximizes usability, readability, navigation, engagement, and multimedia ease of use

❏ Contact the Digital Learning Hub to schedule a short Usability Checkup

Course supports the needs of diverse students by providing alternatives to access content

❏ Contact the Digital Learning Hub to schedule a short Accessibility Checkup (e.g., Image descriptions, video captioning, document headers)

Course is configured to actively promote academic integrity

❏ Contact the Digital Learning Hub to schedule a short Academic Integrity Checkup (e.g., plagiarism tools, exam proctoring, canvas quiz setup, academic integrity pledges, etc)

❏ Contact the Academic Integrity Office for additional support

6. Student Support

Students are encouraged to utilize support services

❏ For each external tech tool used, students are provided with tool-specific support contact information (e.g., support contact information for publisher tools, Zoom, Canvas, etc)

❏ The syllabus includes an accommodation statement

Sample Language:

  • “Students requesting accommodations for this course due to a disability must provide a current Authorization for Accommodation (AFA) letter (paper or electronic) issued by the Office for Students with Disabilities ( ) Students are required to discuss accommodation arrangements with instructors and OSD liaisons in the department in advance of any exams or assignments.”

❏ Students are made aware of UCSD support services

7. UC San Diego Configuration

Additional UC San Diego configurations

❏ If you would like to make the course available to students across the UC system, notify the Digital Learning Hub approximately a quarter in advance

❏ An “Are you ready for online learning?” tool is available to students when the course is published - contact the Digital Learning Hub for more about this tool

❏ When appropriate, remember to make sure the end-of-course survey has been configured and will be distributed to students