SJSU School of Information Faculty Members Receive Grants to Improve Online Instruction


Committed to providing an exceptional education for students enrolled in the online master’s programs at San José State University (SJSU), faculty members of the School of Information were awarded grants from the SJSU eCampus Office of Quality Assurance (EOQA) to participate in trainings designed to improve the quality of online instruction. Referencing the Quality Matters (QM) rubrics and standards, the EOQA grant program elevated Dr. Debbie Weissmann and Jason Kaltenbacher’s online teaching expertise.  

Weissmann explained that although she had a basic understanding of QM standards already, she was “eager to learn more” when she was awarded the grant. “The EOQA grant program provided full access to the entire QM peer review process; including a thorough understanding of the QM standards and annotations to those standards, as well as the QM rubrics and tools to apply the QM standards in a simulated peer review,” said Weissmann.

The grant program covered three components, beginning with an in-depth look at the QM standards. “During the second part, participants practiced elements of the QM peer review in a simulated peer review forum,” said Weissmann. The final segment provided accessibility training using the QM standards rubrics.

Kaltenbacher has already applied some of what he learned in the program to improve his instruction in classes taught this fall. “My classes now have more descriptive rubrics for assignments, course expectations are clearly stated in both the syllabus and a welcome letter, and course content is readily available in multiple areas of the Canvas site. I also use the modules page to offer links to course content,” explained Kaltenbacher. Furthermore, the training helped him better understand the importance of accessibility, such as using alt-tags for images, writing descriptive hyperlinks, and providing both audio and textual versions of  lectures.

Weissmann found that there were many useful ideas presented in the program that she will be able to use when she teaches in the spring. “In preparing my spring 2015 course I created, as part of the course materials for students, an alignment table that identifies how the course topics, assignments, student learning outcomes, and core competencies are all related,” noted Weissmann. “Additionally, I have reformatted the course site and presentation of course materials following the best practice guidelines shared in the accessibility training.”

Kaltenbacher felt that the principles learned in the project are a great foundation for further professional development as an online instructor. “Overall, the EOQA grant project has helped me to attain greater awareness of how my courses are presented and then used by students, and I expect to build on this training curriculum in future courses I teach and develop,” he said. Weissmann agreed, and added, “I feel fortunate I was awarded a grant to participate in the EOQA program and am eager to apply the practices to create a more consistent and clearer course experience for the benefit of my students.”

According to application materials, EOQA’s goal is “to provide access to high quality, student centered courses that reflect best practices and promote excellence in online teaching and learning.” Seven SJSU instructors, including Weissmann and Kaltenbacher, participated in the program during fall 2014. The grant program will be continued in the 2015-2016 academic year, and 16 more SJSU faculty members who teach online courses will be awarded grants to participate.