Northeastern Illinois University has joined the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), a collection of more than 2,100 colleges and universities committed to expanding students’ access to educational opportunities by providing more efficient, consistent and effective regulation of online learning programs. Joining SARA is voluntary, and participating institutions agree to follow the Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education Programs for best practices in postsecondary distance education.
“Northeastern’s commitment to SARA serves as a clear declaration of support for our faculty and students in the growing and evolving practice of remote and online teaching and learning,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dennis Rome said. “We are committed to removing barriers to education not just during this year of remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also as a strategic and long-term opportunity for our current and future students.”
Participating SARA institutions agree to address the following criteria:
- Online learning is appropriate to the Institution’s mission and purpose.
- The institution’s plans for developing, sustaining and, if appropriate, expanding online learning offerings are integrated into its regular planning and evaluation processes.
- Online learning is incorporated into the institution’s systems of governance and academic oversight.
- Curricula for the institution’s online learning offerings are coherent, cohesive and comparable in academic rigor to programs offered in traditional instructional formats.
- The institution evaluates the effectiveness of its online learning offerings, including the extent to which the online learning goals are achieved, and uses the results of its evaluations to enhance the attainment of the goals.
- Faculty responsible for delivering the online learning curricula and evaluating the students’ success in achieving the online learning goals are appropriately qualified and effectively supported.
- The institution provides effective student and academic services to support students enrolled in online learning offerings.
- The institution provides sufficient resources to support and, if appropriate, expand its online learning offerings.
- The institution assures the integrity of its online offerings.
As part of its commitment to offering quality instruction in the virtual environment, Northeastern began a partnership with Quality Matters (QM) last year to provide training to its faculty. Since Summer 2020, 166 faculty members have successfully completed either the Designing Your Own Course (DYOC) or Improving Your Own Course (IYOC) trainings, and an additional 25 are registered for training this month. DYOC is intended for instructors with little or no experience, and IYOC is for instructors who have taught online but want to ensure that their instruction/course design meet the QM standards that facilitate student success in online courses.
QM training covers eight standards, each with five to eight subcomponents that address such features as introducing the learner to the course navigation, clarifying the structure and expectations for online communication, and having the requisite technology and university supports for success.