Special Considerations for Peer Observations of Online Courses
Please note that these guidelines apply to the observation of intentionally planned and designed online courses. It is recommended that caution be used for peer observations/reviews of courses taught in an emergency remote teaching format (e.g., in response to COVID-19), and that such observations NOT be used for summative evaluation purposes. For guidance on elements to consider when shifting to temporary remote instruction, see the Quality Matters Emergency Remote Instruction Checklist.
Best Practices for Observing Online Courses
As with all peer observations of teaching, a primary goal should be to provide the instructor with another perspective to consider in reflecting upon his/her teaching. It is recommended that a formative approach, focused on informing instructional practices and supporting the growth of the instructor, be used.
The basic steps of conducting a peer observation still apply when observing an online course (see the steps outlined in the Best Practices for Conducting Peer Observations of Teaching section). It is recommended that the process include pre- and post-observation meetings and that the same basic components are included in the report/documentation of the observation.
While exploring the online course, distinguish between making observations, interpretations, and evaluations. Focus on making observations to share with the instructor and discuss in the post-observation meeting. If the purpose of the course review is summative (evaluative), the evaluative feedback included in the final documentation should be based on the observations and additional insights gathered from the instructor in the pre- and post-observation meetings.
Criteria and Resources for Observing Online Courses
While many of the same criteria relevant for observations of face-to-face courses will also apply to the observation of online courses, it may be necessary to consider other elements specific to the online environment.
The resources listed below provide a range of criteria and rubrics that may be helpful in peer observations of online courses. The observer and the faculty member whose course is being observed are encouraged to agree upon a set of criteria that will guide the observation.
- Quality Matters (QM) Rubric – The QM rubric outlines 8 general standards, each with additional specific standards, that can serve as a guide for areas to examine when reviewing an online course. The rubric is available publicly at the link above; an annotated rubric and additional resources are available to PNW faculty through our institutional membership. Please contact the Center for Faculty Excellence if you’d like additional QM materials and resources.
- Chico State Rubric for Online Instruction (ROI) – The ROI identifies six domains with associated criteria that be used to guide the review of an online course.
- Online Course Development Guide & Rubric (from the University of Southern Mississippi) – This guide identifies elements that should be included in the syllabus for an online course and six additional categories that should be addressed when developing or reviewing and online course.
(If link doesn’t work, please copy and paste URL into browser: https://ablendedmaricopa.pbworks.com/f/LEC_Online_course+rubric.pdf)
- Online Course Assessment Tool (OCAT) and Peer Assessment Process (from Western Carolina University) – This tool is designed to guide the peer review process for online courses and provide constructive feedback to instructors.
- Faculty Peer Review of Online Teaching (from Penn State) – This site has information about conducting peer reviews of online teaching, including a Peer Review Guide for Online Teaching at Penn State that is aligned to the 7 Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.