Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Presented at the Higher Education in Transformation Symposium November 2 - 4, 2016 in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada


This research explores quality in two online graduate courses by examining data sets gathered separately from the same cohort of students. Data include an institutional survey and student work outputs such as assignments and learning logs. Quality in higher education is critically important, but the means to establish it has reportedly been somewhat illusive in academia (Anderson, G., 2006). There are tensions evident in processes such as program review because it encourages faculty to reflect on their practice but is generally not course-specific. Program reviews also rely on external experts to match the evidence to standards. Barrow (1999) employs the term “dramaturgical compliance” to describe quality assurance reviews, implying that program review can be staged.

Understanding these tensions, the authors instead use data collected within the institution: student work and a program-specific survey. The literature reviewed on quality assurance and online learning leads to a theoretical framework based on elements of online courses associated with quality such as: social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence (Garrison, Anderson T., and Archer, 2001) and community building in online programs (Archer, 2001). This framework is used also to analyze the data from student work outputs such as assignments and learning logs. The identification of transformative elements was aided by Mezirow’s (1990) criteria. Next, findings from a survey administered by the institution are compared to the findings from the qualitative data analysis. This study finds evidence that quality assurance is enriched by professors and the institution collaborating to seek different types of feedback.