This page articulates the core principles governing the design and delivery of online courses in the Montana University System. The specific implementations of these principles will certainly vary as technology changes and teaching and learning methodologies evolve, but the principles themselves should persist.  These standards have been adopted using the Quality Matters Rubric Standards and other best practices identified within the industry.

Ultimately, a single principle governing quality online development and delivery is that all course elements (objectives, learning activities, interactions, instructional materials, technologies, and assessments) work together to ensure that learners achieve the desired learning outcomes, and that an online course is equivalent in quality and academic rigor to a well-executed face-to-face course. Bulleted lists of guidelines follow each core principle. 

The Core Principles

  1. Course Overview: The overall structure and expectations of the course are introduced.
    • Navigational instructions clearly state how to get started and move through the course components.
    • Course and institutional policies are provided, along with expectations for communication and interaction.
    • Prerequisite knowledge, digital literacy skills, and minimum technology requirements are listed.
    • A professional faculty introduction is provided, along with a forum for learner introductions.
  2. Learning Objectives: Learning objectives or competencies are clearly defined in a prominent area and are suited to the level of the course.
    • Course learning objectives are measurable and are written from the learner’s perspective.
    • Module/unit objectives are consistent with course-level objectives, which are consistent with program-level objectives.
    • The relationship between the course objectives and the learning activities is clear.
  3. Assessment: Assessment strategies use established ways to measure effective learning, are aligned to the learning objectives, and are designed as essential to the learning process.
    • The assessments measure the achievement of learning objectives or competencies.
    • Specific criteria are provided for the evaluation of student work and are connected to the course grading policy, which is provided at the beginning of the course.
    • The course provides multiple opportunities to tracking learning progress with assessments that are sequenced, varied, and appropriate for the level of the course.
    • Instructor feedback is provided in a timely manner.
  4. Instructional Materials:  Instructional materials are comprehensive and support the achievement of course objectives or competencies. 
    • Instructional materials support the stated learning objectives. 
    • Instructional materials have sufficient breadth, depth, and currency for the learner to learn the subject. 
    • Academic integrity is modeled with the use of source references and permissions where necessary.
  5. Learner Interaction: Learning activities are comprehensive and support the achievement of course objectives or competencies. 
    • The learning activities provide opportunity for active learning.
    • Learning activities foster instructor-learner, content-learner, and if appropriate, learner-learner interaction with clearly stated requirements.
    • Clear standards are set for instructor response and availability (email replies, grade posting, etc.) 
  6. Course Technology: Tools are comprehensive and support the achievement of course objectives or competencies. 
    • A variety of technology tools are provided to promote learner engagement and active learning.
    • The course offers best practices for protecting data and privacy.
  7. Learner Support: The course offers a clear description of support channels and policies.
    • Technical Support is offered, as well as clear instructions on how to access available support channels.
    • Course instructions include access to accessibility policies and services, as well as academic support and student services.
  8. Accessibility: The course materials, interactions, and policies are designed to accommodate all learners. 
    • Course navigation facilitates ease of use and readability.
    • Course files and pages include accessible text and images to meet the needs of diverse learners.
    • Multimedia content is provided in alternative formats and facilitates ease of use.
    • Accessibility statements are provided for all third-party technologies.