Archived Story

Riverland strives for quality online, too

Published 9:59am Thursday, October 10, 2013

Column: Riverland Community College, by Adenuga Atewologun

During the last decade, the number of available online courses and programs skyrocketed worldwide. Online programming provides students with the flexibility and convenience to complete coursework according to their schedules at home or anywhere Internet is available.

Adenuga Atewologun
Adenuga Atewologun

With this deluge of online higher education offerings, there are important questions to consider when choosing online courses. How can you guarantee that the curriculum is accredited and transferable to other colleges or universities?

What are the learning outcomes you can expect from these courses? Will the course teach you the proper skills you need? Let us explore Riverland Community College’s successful approach to online education.

The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools accredits Riverland. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation recognize the HLC serves as a primary national voice for voluntary accreditation and quality assurance to the U.S. Congress and U.S. Department of Education.

This regional accreditation applies to our entire institution, including distance delivery (HLC Policy 1.C.2.b). This accredited status assures students that the credits they earn at Riverland are not only transferable throughout the country but also qualifies them for federal financial aid.

Since 1999, Riverland’s online education has grown to 35 percent of credits sold. Riverland offers more than 390 of its courses either partially or entirely online. Several certificates, diplomas and degrees can be completed entirely online in the program areas of accounting, business, computer technology, supervisory management and liberal arts and sciences. Nearly 2,600 Riverland students are currently receiving education online.

To ensure the quality of our online programming, our deans and faculty are rigorous in their review of curriculum, learning goals and student outcomes for all our courses, especially online. Further, many of our instructors have acquired national certification from Quality Matters for online courses.

The QM program is a faculty-centered peer course review and quality assurance process. The goals of the program are to increase student retention, learning and satisfaction in online courses by implementing better course design.

To meet QM certification, members of a Quality Matters peer review team evaluate the course against 41 standards, 21 of which are required, including in the areas of learning objectives, assessment and measurement, instructional materials and learner engagement.

Quality Matters is sponsored by MarylandOnline and has been adopted by hundreds of higher education institutions across 46 states, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

To date, Riverland proudly leads the way in QM certified courses in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. Starting with the first two QM Minnesota-certified courses in 2009, we currently have 19 certified courses, compared to 80 courses at 22 other MnSCU institutions.

Two course certifications are due in October, and 12 more courses are in the preliminary stages of the review process. At present, 15 instructors are responsible for our 19 courses in 12 various subjects.

This faculty dedication to assure the quality of our online courses not only is a great service to our students, but also positions Riverland as a global leader online education.

 

Adenuga Atewologun is the president of Riverland Community College. He holds a doctorate in agricultural engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.