About Quality Matters

Quality Matters (QM) began as a consortium of higher ed institutions, mostly community colleges, in Maryland called MarylandOnline. Certificates and degrees were offered online, and courses were shared through a program not unlike the Internet Course Exchange (ICE). However, uncertainty about the quality of peer institutions was an immediate obstacle, ultimately overcome through the creation of common design standards funded by a FIPSE grant in 2003.

Quality Matters is focused on course design rather than course delivery or performance and features:

  • A set of standards for online/blended course design
  • A faculty-centered peer review process for courses with an online component
  • A tool for instructional designers to work with faculty
  • A professional development opportunity for faculty and staff

Today, many states have their own QM consortium; the Ohio Quality Matters Consortium has even innovated a bartering system for course reviews.

Quality Matters Rubric

The Quality Matters rubric is supported by current research literature. It is reviewed and updated every 2-3 years. "The rubric for the rubric" has been part of the process since the beginning. The underlying principles about continuous improvement are not limited to courses being reviewed; it also has a significant impact on faculty development as well.

The QM Higher Ed Rubric is focused on holistic course design and the use of technology to support quality instruction and promote student learning. Currently, the rubric is in its 6th edition (2018), and consists of eight key areas. While it might appear like a checklist, the rubric has an intrinsic connection between Specific Review Standards called Alignment that individuals unfamiliar with QM often overlook. This basic internal structure ensures critical course components work together to build effective online course.

Peer Review

Quality Matters is a faculty-driven, peer review process that is:

  1. Collaborative
  2. Collegial
  3. Continuous
  4. Centered

QM offers the structure for faculty to provide peer-to-peer feedback that is useful and actionable in the continuous improvement of online courses.

QM Review Process

The peer reviews are designed to be a formative assessment for course improvement. They are about the course quality, not about individual instructors or faculty evaluation. Unsurprisingly, many peer reviewers are Faculty Advisors from major publishers. The process is intended to be diagnostic and collegial in a supportive environment, not evaluative and judgmental.

A QM Certified course is one that meets the expectations of the shared standards. Statistically, 61% of QM-managed course reviews meet standards upon their initial review, with most meeting after minor amendments. A QM course certification is valid for five years, unless substantial changes (>20% on a component) are made after the course is certified. Recertification can extend validity for an additional three years before another review cycle takes place.

QM Review vs Waubonsee Review

There are two course review options available: Waubonsee Review (Internal) and QM Review (Mixed Internal/External).

Waubonsee Review

The main purpose of a Waubonsee review is for continuous improvement. Its focus should be more on individual Specific Review Standards (SRSs); based on the reviewers' comments, recipients are encouraged to see which areas among the 42 SRSs could be improved.

Quality Matters Review

Although not required by Waubonsee, courses need to have Module Level Outcomes or Objectives (MLOs) (SRS2.2) to quality for official QM certification. MLOs are a component of Alignment, which is a concept unique to the QM rubric. Courses also need to have been created with well‑applied Course Level Outcomes (SRS 2.1).

Whether a Waubonsee or official QM review is chosen by an instructor, developing Module Level Outcomes is highly encouraged as they will help reveal the alignment between Course Level Outcomes with content and activities.

Faculty Development

Course reviews rely on a community of collegial and collaborative coordinators, facilitators, and peer reviewers.

Peer reviews are the most common way to be involved with QM. Reviewers are typically compensated for completing each review. Reviewing online courses (often from other colleges and universities) allows you to gain insight into your own practice and walk away with new ideas. Participating in peer reviews is a low-stakes activity that leads to continuous improvement.

Peer reviews are a safe space for sharing resources and leading by example. They promote a self-reflective cycle of growth. To understand what the review process entails, you are encouraged to attend the Applying the QM Rubric (APPQMR) workshop (please see the registration instructions below), which is the pre-requisite for the Peer Reviewer Course (PRC) that is required to become an official QM Peer Reviewer.

Even if you do not plan to become an official QM reviewer, APPQMR provides the foundational concepts of Specific Review Standards (SRSs) that are grounded in the research literature and best practice. The implementation of any SRS directly helps improve student learning. QM also has a variety of workshops that focus on different areas beyond the QM rubric. Your courses may already meet the expectations to be QM-certified!

Why QM?


  • Spring 2021

    • Train the trainer
  • Fall 2021
    • Begin training Waubonsee Peer Reviewers
  • Spring 2022
    • Waubonsee Peer Review Process begins.
  • Fall 2022
    • Waubonsee Peer Review Process continues.
  • Spring 2023
    • Waubonsee Peer Review Process continues.
  • Fall 2023
    • Waubonsee Peer Review Process continues.

♻ Cycle continues until all eligible course shells have been reviewed.