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William Beasley’s online class receives stamp of approval from Quality Matters

BY TRAVIS BARKER
JULY 12, 2010

William Beasley, professor in the College of Education and the director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, recently had an online graduate level course recognized by Quality Matters, a nationally recognized, peer reviewed certification organization that which focuses on the design of online classes. This is the first online course at CSU to receive a Quality Matters Certification.

Beasley was one of two professors who voluntarily submitted their course to be evaluated by Quality Matters. The other course did not meet the standards, but is on a time table to incorporate recommendations from the evaluators.

Peter Rottier, director of eLearning, says that Quality Matters certification is an intricate part of sustaining CSU’s online growth. CSU has the fastest growing online department of any public Ohio university. Currently, Rottier has the budget for 50 more classes to undergo the same Quality Matters certification process as Dr. Beasley’s class.     Eventually, all of CSU’s classes will meet the Quality Matters seal of approval, according to Rottier. 

The certification process involves professors from all over the country accessing the online class via the Internet as a student would, then evaluating 40 specific areas of the course’s design. The process usually lasts about six weeks. 

Beasley’s Telecommunication in Education course allows future teachers to get comfortable using the latest internet trends, such as Facebook, in their classrooms. This program received 83 of the possible 85 points based on the 17 rubrics used by Quality Matters.

“The two points we missed had to do with providing equivalent alternatives of audio and visual content for students with disabilities, which is a particularly difficult two points to satisfy,” said Beasley, adding that he hopes to get better at it in the future. 

Beasley has always felt the need to provide step-by-step instructions during his 35 years of teaching, but the transition to online classes in the last five years has been met with obstacles. Distributing the necessary information to the students has proved difficult. 

The evolution of his delivery is somewhat ironic. Early on Beasley was amazed to find out how many students did not know they have a CSU email address. Beasley now uses traditional means of communication when preparing students who sign up for his online classes. 

He sends a letter via USPS that notifies the student of what software will be used, and the tips for making their personal computers ready to start the class off without a hitch.
Beasley also notifies students to check their CSU email addresses for a packet of documents about getting further ready for the class. Beasley is well aware of irony there. 

“It is crazy to have to use the postal service, but it is the only thing that is truly functional in this context. I know the orientation people tell incoming students about forwarding [their CSU email to one they monitor], but not everyone does it,” he said. 

The information he gives out before the class ranges from advice about tuning up the computer in preparation for the semester to step by step screen shots explaining how to use software that may be new to the student, such as Blackboard. 

Once the class starts, a help thread specifically designed for troubleshooting the course is started to give students the opportunity to answer their own questions regarding the use of the software. Beasley also monitors his email address at least every 12 hours in case the help thread does not solve a student’s issue.
Beasley’s advice for CSU faculty teaching online courses seems basic enough, “Learn and tell students what the basics tools are that they need, and what similar basic tools will not work,” he said. 

“People are not born knowing that Word doesn’t use Works files. It stands to reason that they are both made by Microsoft; can’t one be read by the other? Well, it turns out they are not made that way, and maybe you haven’t learned that yet,” he continued. 
“That kind of information has gone a long way in reducing the problems students have had,” said Beasley.