Reflections on the First TxQMC Connections Conference

by Ursula Pike, Associate Director, DigiTex, and System Lead for the Texas Quality Matters Consortium

Texas Quality Matters Consortium logoBefore I came to work in higher education, I spent time as a community economic developer. In small towns and cities, I identified community needs and possible solutions. That work gave me an appreciation for community members coming together to help themselves and others. I think that is why I was excited to organize and attend our inaugural Texas Quality Matters Consortium Connections Conference. On June 3rd, higher education professionals from across the State and beyond came together virtually to share techniques and best practices on digital higher education. TxQMC Coordinators had gathered previously as part of other Texas conferences but this was the first time the members and others gathered specifically to discuss QM.

It was wonderful to see people who I have worked with only through email for the last two and a half years. Y’all are smart, hard working, and, most of all, resourceful. I learned so much. There were presentations focusing on accessibility, student success, course design templates, backward design, using QM in grant funded projects, and others that expanded my understanding of the value of QM. 

The theme of the conference was Connections. As the System Lead for the TxQMC, I have the advantage of witnessing the network of hard working professionals across Texas implementing QM and impacting the learners at their institutions. Each of the members of the Texas QM Consortium are working in their separate departments at their own institutions and may not be able to see the movement they are a part of. After watching all of the sessions, four big themes stood out to me.

Assess Digital Learning at your Institution

Photo of title slide from TxQMC keynote addressOur morning keynote speaker, Dr. Racheal Brooks, the Director at North Carolina Central University’s Office of e-Learning and a QM Coordinator herself, spoke about the information her department was able to gather by conducting an institution-wide Comprehensive Needs Assessment. Her department discovered not only professional development needs but infrastructure and technological needs. She emphasized the importance of doing this assessment now, after the rapid change required during the pandemic, because the resources needed to support digital learning might have changed.

Celebrate your Hard Work and Success

Dr. Brooks and several of the other presenters mentioned the importance of highlighting the success of all the professionals building quality digital learning at an institution. They recommend recognizing the work of faculty, but also that of Instructional Designers, Instructional Technologists, and other staff responsible for instructional support. The awards can have financial incentives, but equally important is to acknowledge the efforts of staff who make quality digital learning possible.

Resources enhance QM’s value

Photo of title slide from "The Road to Quality Course Design" presentation

As wonderful as QM is, the reviews and trainings can have the biggest impact when paired with other resources. Dr. Bobbie Myatt and Rudolph Lopez from Alamo Colleges District explained in their presentation The Road to Quality Course Design how they were able to incentivize faculty to complete QM trainings using financial resources and on-going support services like mentoring. The learning was reinforced through practice and reflection.

Course reviews and professional development can bring about change when combined with other initiatives

Title V slide from ACC grant project presentationIn the presentation Targeting Online High Risk Courses Through Grant Funds and Quality Matters Certification, Jennifer Gray and Virgil McCullough from Austin Community College District explained how they used QM trainings and reviews as one piece of a winning application to the Department of Education’s Title V Hispanic Serving Institutions grant. The QM trainings are being paired with intensive advising and embedded tutors in the college’s toughest courses. 

I want to thank everyone who helped make the conference a huge success. The session recordings from the conference are now available for viewing on DigiTex’s YouTube channel. The program and the recordings can be found on the TxQMC Connections webpage. 

In the fall, we’ll begin planning for a 2023 TxQMC Conference. I hope you will be able to join us as a planner, presenter, or participant. Follow TxQMC on twitter at @tx_qmc and read the DigiTex monthly newsletter DigiTex Connections for updates on the conference and all the exciting work happening in the TxQMC community. If your institution is interested in becoming a TxQMC member, we would love to hear from you. Please contact me and I can explain all the benefits of membership.