Office of Academic Innovation

Design and Evaluation

Course Planning

CIAT's instructional designers can meet with you for one-on-one consultations.  For assistance, contact us at (410) 704-2005 or

To assist with project planning, consider using these draft schedule for online and hybrid course delivery and templates.

Evaluating Online Courses with Quality Matters
What Elements Combine to Create a Quality Online Course?

Learning in an online environment can be a very different enterprise for both teachers and students. What does the research say about best practices in developing online courses? Is there a research-based tool that instructors and course developers can use to identify essential elements for online courses and to determine the effectiveness of their courses?

Maryland Online, a statewide consortium of 19 Maryland community colleges and senior institutions, is working on a grant-funded project named, Quality Matters (2005). One of the outcomes of the project is a rubric for evaluating online courses. The elements for evaluation are based on information gleaned from an extensive review of the literature and research regarding online learning. Eight areas (each with its own standards) have been identified for evaluation. These areas are:

  1. Course Overview and Introductions
  2. Learning Outcomes
  3. Assessment and Measurement
  4. Resources and Materials
  5. Learner Interaction
  6. Course Technology
  7. Learner Support
  8. ADA Compliance

The rubric provides a general standard for each of the eight areas for review as well as specific, detailed standards within each area. Each specific standard is weighted according to research findings of whether it is an essential (14 standards at 3 points each), very important (12 standards at 2 points each), or important (14 standards at 1 point each) standard. There are 40 standards in all and 80 total points. For a course to be deemed as a quality course, all 14 essential standards must be present and the course must receive at least 68 points (85%).

There are several versions of the rubric available (annotated version, demonstration version, and matrix including summary of standards and associated research) online.

  • Quality Matters Rubric (Word) Annotated Version (2006)

  • Contact Audrey Cutler for the 2008-2010 version of the rubric along and an annotated version with explanations and examples.


Quality Matters. (2006, January 17). Retrieved January 30, 2006, from

Zhang, D. (2005). Interactive multimedia-based e-learning: A study of effectiveness. The American Journal of Distance Education, 19(3), 149-162.

Office of Academic Innovation
Cook Library Room 405
Phone: 410-704-2005


Watch Clips of Faculty Tips

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