FSU Online Quality Initiative

FSU's Online Quality Initiative promotes academic excellence in distance learning courses and provides a strong foundation for student success in the online learning environment. With increased support for online course design and a course certification process focused on student success, FSU is removing barriers to learner achievement in distance learning courses. Together, we’re taking "distance" further!

  • Do high-quality courses make a difference?

    Bret Staudt Willet, PhD, shares some of the reactions he's had from students taking his Quality Matters-certified courses.

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  • How manageable is the certification process?

    Alishia Piotrowski, EdD, weighs in on the commitment involved in revising a course to meet high-quality standards.

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  • How are faculty supported during certification?

    Christopher Small, PhD, explains the level of support instructors receive from ODL during Quality Matters certification.

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  • Is Quality Matters certification worth it?

    Lisa Johnson, PhD, LCSW, expresses her perspective on why Quality Matters is a gold standard for online courses.

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What Does a Quality Online Course Look Like?

FSU uses the nationally recognized Quality Matters rubric to assess the quality of its online courses. Backed by research in online learning, the rubric is a set of eight standards for benchmarking quality in online course design. The rubric is used in a faculty-centered, peer review process to evaluate and certify the quality of online courses. Focusing primarily on course design, rather than on content or delivery, the rubric helps ensure a course is structured to achieve the desired learning outcomes. Courses designed with the standards in mind remove obstacles to learner achievement, are easier to navigate, and result in better learning outcomes and student experience.  

More student interactions

Quality Matters Standard #5 focuses on how well learning activities provide learner interaction in support of active learning.

Better student participation

Quality Matters Standard #3 focuses on assessment and how well a course connects the learner's work to the grading policy.

Technology supports learning

Quality Matters Standard #6 focuses on the inclusion of various technologies to promote learner engagement and active learning.

Higher course evaluation marks

In one study, students enrolled in Quality Matters courses gave higher marks on course evaluations than those enrolled in non-QM courses.*

FSU Course Certification

We already boast an extensive catalog of courses that demonstrate high standards of academic quality and rigor. So why go to the trouble of certifying a course for quality? Course certification helps FSU affirm that all online courses demonstrate our university’s core values for academic excellence, diversity, and student success. Regardless of the course, students can count on an experience designed to promote their success online. Preparing a course to pass a quality or high-quality review involves creating measurable course- and module-level learning objectives, aligning learning objectives with learning activities, attending to principles of universal design, developing accessible course materials, and incorporating course elements that engage students and promote a quality learning experience. 

illustrated representation of steps 1-5


A certified quality course meets all essential standards for course quality, provides access to course materials in alternative formats that meet the needs of diverse learners, and involves two course reviewers.

illustrated representation of steps 1-5

High Quality

A certified high-quality course meets all essential standards for course quality, receives 85% or higher of the available points in the Quality Matters rubric, provides access to course materials in alternative formats that meet the needs of diverse learners, and involves three course reviewers.

Ready to get started?

ODL offers training, support resources, and guidance for all instructors who design or revise a course to meet Quality Matters’ high-quality standards. After successful completion of training and course certification, instructors can expect the following acknowledgments:

  • Applying the QM Rubric Digital Credential
  • QM Course Certification Badge
  • Course Quality Report
  • Provost's Letter of Recognition

In addition to the above, instructors who successfully achieve high-quality course certification are eligible for the FSU Excellence in Online Teaching award.

Apply for Course Certification


Instructor Testimonials

Image of Dr. Bret Staudt Willet

Dr. Bret Staudt Willet

Assistant Professor | College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences

“ODL offers major perks by organizing the review process and helping with accessibility. The QM reviewers are attentive and generous in their feedback ... Completely unsolicited, students regularly tell me how impressed they are with the organization of my courses. Everything is easy to find, it all makes sense, and they know exactly where to look when they have questions.”

Image of Dr. Alishia Piotrowski

Dr. Alishia Piotrowski

Assistant Dean | Dedman College of Hospitality

“Like most faculty, I was worried about the commitment that this process would take, as I already [had] a full plate. While it did take a good amount of time, it was certainly manageable. The support I received from the ODL team was incredible, and the improvements made to my course far exceeded my expectations. I would highly recommend this process for anyone teaching online!”

Image of Dr. Christopher Small

Dr. Christopher Small

Assistant Teaching Professor | College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences

“The [ODL] support team ensured that I not only felt comfortable with the process of reviewing my course but also helped [by] connecting me with resources and supports on campus. After I initially completed the review with a rating of quality designation, I was encouraged to elevate my courses to high quality designation. The team at ODL was also very responsive to communication and offered quality training around the process.”

Image of Dr. Lisa Johnson

Dr. Lisa Johnson

Assistant Teaching Professor | College of Social Work

“I have been part of the QM process in various roles for well over a decade ... [QM] truly is the gold standard for online courses. It helps to ensure that when a student opens up your course on the first day of school, they will be ‘greeted’ with a class that is inviting and easily accessible. It's also a great way to confirm you have included everything needed to make a student successful in your online class.”

*In a study published by Florida International University in July 2016 (The Benefits of Quality Matters Certification: What the Analytics Reveal), students rated their Quality Matters courses higher in every category when compared to non-Quality Matters courses. They also rated their instructors 12% higher in QM versus non-QM courses.


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