Karen Duncan develops Gaston College course that receives Quality Matters Certification

The Professional Development course at Gaston College has received certification from Quality Matters, the global organization that leads quality assurance in online and innovative digital teaching and learning environments. The course teaches realistic career-building skills and motivates students toward improving both personal and professional performance. The QM Certification Mark is the internationally recognized symbol of online and blended course design quality.

Professional Development is included in the curriculum for the Office Systems Technology program at Gaston College and is an elective for other programs, such as Accounting, Business Administration, Criminal Justice, and Paralegal Technology. It is the first course that Gaston College has submitted for Quality Matters Certification and it earned the certification after a rigorous review process which provided validation of its quality, learner-focused design.

Karen Duncan, Instructional Technology Specialist and Accessibility Liaison for all eLearning content, developed the course. To be certified, a course must meet the 42 Standards and 23 Essential Standards in the Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric. A score of 85 percent is required for certification, but the Professional Development course scored 100 percent. Prior to submitting the course for certification, Duncan completed several professional development programs through Quality Matters to learn what would be required for a course to meet the Standards. Those courses included Quality Matters Coordinator Training, Design That Welcomes Your Learners, Improving Your Online Course, Apply the Quality Matters Rubric, and Designing Your Online Course. She also took their Peer Reviewer Certification course so that she can participate in the process to review courses that others may submit to QM for certification.

Duncan has worked at Gaston College since 1999 and has served as faculty and department chair of Office Systems Technology and Business Administration. She earned her master’s in Educational Media and Instructional Technology from Appalachian State University and holds certificates in Information Accessibility Design and Policy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and in Advanced Technologies in Distance Education from the University of West Georgia.

Duncan is responsible for the effective integration of technology into the online instructional areas of Gaston College, including both curriculum and continuing education. In that capacity, she fosters effective teaching and learning in the areas of distance learning and instructional technology, recommends new instructional delivery systems and hardware and software applications, and identifies the training needs and provide appropriate development opportunities for faculty in the application of technology in instruction, among other responsibilities. She also teaches Office Technology Systems curriculum courses to Gaston College students.

“I am passionate about helping faculty create accessible content and designing courses that benefit all learners,” said Duncan. That passion was called into play when Duncan was one of the key Gaston College employees who worked with faculty to prepare them to go to online classes when the COVID-19 pandemic peaked in March 2020.

One of the most beneficial things during this demanding time was facilitating the Blackboard and Accessibility Training courses she had developed in 2019. Blackboard is a web-based course management system that allows students and faculty to participate in classes delivered online or to use online materials and activities to complement face-to-face teaching. “Now it is more important than ever to make sure we are creating and posting accessible content for all learners,” said Duncan. “My team, Sarah Clemmer and Shawnna Robinson, and I assisted in creating consistent course design in Blackboard courses and converted paper tests to an online format for faculty. To date, 101 faculty members have gotten a crash course in how to use Blackboard and its tools to take their classes fully online. Feedback from instructors has been extremely positive.”

As COVID-19 restrictions continue, Duncan persists in accommodating the remote learning needs of Gaston College faculty and students. “Every day is different as faculty inquire about ‘how can I do this?’ and we start investigating solutions and incorporating technology into courses to engage students and continue active instruction.”


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