Academic journal article International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education

Redesigning Design: Field Testing a Revised Design Rubric Based on iNACOL Quality Course Standards

Academic journal article International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education

Redesigning Design: Field Testing a Revised Design Rubric Based on iNACOL Quality Course Standards

Article excerpt


The use of online courses in the K-12 environment continues to grow, with supplemental online course enrollments at roughly 4.5 million in the United States alone (Gemin, Pape, Vashaw, & Watson, 2015). This influx of online courses into the United States education system has led to a realization of the differences between traditional and virtual environments. These differences would include the issue of the design of asynchronous course content. However, what is somewhat surprising is that the research into this critical aspect of K-12 online learning has been both minimal (Barbour, 2013; Barbour & Adelstein, 2013a), and narrow in scope, mainly focusing on specific schools (Barbour, Morrison, & Adelstein, 2014; Friend & Johnston, 2005; Zucker & Kozma, 2003).

There are current foundations and associations, such as the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute (MVLRI), that have taken up the task of researching further into course design. For example, since 2013 the MVLRI has included recommendations into educational delivery models and instructional design standards in their yearly directives for the Michigan Legislature (MVLRI, 2016). To date, the recommendations made by the MVLRI have focused primarily on the International Association for K-12 Online Learning's (iNACOL) (2011) National Standards for Quality Online Courses. At present, the iNACOL online course design standards are one of the most popular, non-proprietary and publically available standards - both in the United States and internationally. Yet, the iNACOL standards were not developed using a traditional process that examines the validity and reliability of the standards and any instruments (i.e., rubrics) designed to measure those standards (Barbour, 2013; Barbour & Adelstein, 2013b; Molnar, Rice, Huerta, Shafer, Barbour, Miron, Gulosino, & Horvitz, 2014).

The following article outlines the third, and final phase, of a research study designed to begin the process of examining the iNACOL online course design standards for validity and reliability. The first phase of research of this study provided a cursory review of the iNACOL standards to determine the level of support for each of the standard elements within the K-12 online learning literature, as well as the broader online learning literature (see Adelstein & Barbour, 2016). During the second phase of this research study, two panels comprising eight experts from a variety of sectors in the field of K-12 online learning, examined the standards based on the outcome of phase one over a cycle of three rounds of review (see Adelstein & Barbour, in press). This second phase generated a revised list of specific design standards, as well as a revised rubric. In this article we describe the third phase of this research study, where four groups of two reviewers applied the phase two revised rubric using current K-12 online courses to examine the instrument for inter-rater reliability.

Literature Review

As indicated above, the research focused on K-12 online course design has been sparse. This can possibly be attributed to the idea that online course design has not been stressed in teacher professional development (Dawley, Rice, & Hinck, 2010; Rice & Dawley, 2007; Rice, Dawley, Gasell, & Florez, 2008). While it has been suggested that design should be a completely separate role from the classroom instructor (Davis, Roblyer, Charania, Ferdig, Harms, Compton, & Cho, 2007), this notion has only been promoted in a handful of models. For example, the Teacher Education Goes Virtual Schooling1 and Supporting K-12 Online Learning in Michigan2 programs focused primarily on the role of the online learning facilitator, while the Iowa Learning Online3 and Michigan Online Teaching Case Studies4 initiatives focused on the role of the online teacher. However, there are several design trends that can be gleaned from the available literature. …

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