OLC OSCQR Course Design Review

The OLC OSCQR Course Design Review at UNT Dallas addresses the shared concern and need for online course quality. The approach assures quality through evidence-based online learning practices and guidance on how to develop and continuously improve distance education courses to improve student learning.


The OSCQR Course Design Review Scorecard is a course-level quality rubric for reviewing and improving the instructional design and accessibility of online courses based on online best practices. With 50 instructional design and accessibility standards integrated into the rubric, it can be used to identify and target aspects of online courses for improvement. The rubric is designed to guide online faculty to use research-based effective practices and standards to improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of their online course design.

The rubric includes the following categories: Course Overview and Information, Course Technology and Tools, Design and Layout, Content and Activities, Interaction, Assessment and Feedback.


Course Overview and Information 

Standards 1 - 10

  1. Course includes Welcome and Getting Started content.
  2. An orientation or overview is provided for the course overall, as well as in each module. Learners know how to navigate and what tasks are due..
  3. Course includes a Course Information area that deconstructs the syllabus for learners in a clear and navigable way.
  4. A printable syllabus is available to learners (PDF, HTML).
  5. Course includes links to relevant campus policies on plagiarism, computer use, filing grievances, accommodating disabilities, etc.
  6. Course provides access to learner success resources (technical help, orientation, tutoring).
  7. Course information states whether the course is fully online, blended, or web-enhanced.
  8. Appropriate methods and devices for accessing and participating in the course are communicated (mobile, publisher websites, secure content, pop-ups, browser issue, microphone, webcam).
  9. Course objectives/outcomes are clearly defined, measurable, and aligned to learning activities and assessments.
  10. Course provides contact information for instructor, department, and program.

Course Technology and Tools

Standards 11 - 15

  1. Requisite skills for using technology tools (websites, software, and hardware) are clearly stated and supported with resources.
  2. Technical skills required for participation in course learning activities scaffold in a timely manner (orientation, practice, and application – where appropriate).
  3. Frequently used technology tools are easily accessed. Any tools not being utilized are removed from the course menu.
  4. Course includes links to privacy policies for technology tools.
  5. Any technology tools meet accessibility standards.

Design and Layout 

Standards 16 - 28

  1. A logical, consistent, and uncluttered layout is established. The course is easy to navigate (consistent color scheme and icon layout, related content organized together, self-evident titles).
  2. Large blocks of information are divided into manageable sections with ample white space around and between the blocks.
  3. There is enough contrast between text and background for the content to be easily viewed.
  4. Instructions are provided and well written.
  5. Course is free of grammatical and spelling errors.
  6. Text is formatted with titles, headings, and other styles to enhance readability and improve the structure of the document.
  7. Flashing and blinking text are avoided.
  8. A sans-serif font with a standard size of at least 12 pt is used.
  9. When possible, information is displayed in a linear format instead of as a table.
  10. Tables are accompanied by a title and summary description.
  11. Table header rows and columns are assigned.
  12. Slideshows use a predefined slide layout and include unique slide titles.
  13. For all slideshows, there are simple, non-automatic transitions between slides.

Content and Activities

Standards 29 - 37

  1. Course offers access to a variety of engaging resources that facilitate communication and collaboration, deliver content, and support learning and engagement.
  2. Course provides activities for learners to develop higher-order thinking and problem solving skills, such as critical reflection and analysis.
  3. Course provides activities that emulate real world applications of the discipline, such as experiential learning, case studies, and problem-based activities.
  4. Where available, Open Educational Resources, free, or low cost materials are used.
  5. Course materials and resources include copyright and licensing status, clearly stating permission to share where applicable.
  6. Text content is available in an easily accessed format, preferably HTML. All text content is readable by assistive technology, including a PDF or any text contained in an image.
  7. A text equivalent for every non-text element is provided (“alt” tags, captions, transcripts, etc.).
  8. Text, graphics, and images are understandable when viewed without color. Text should be used as a primary method for delivering information.
  9. Hyperlink text is descriptive and makes sense when out of context (avoid using “click here”).


Standards 38 - 43

  1. Expectations for timely and regular feedback from the instructor are clearly stated (questions, email, assignments).
  2. Expectations for interaction are clearly stated (netiquette, grade weighting, models/examples, and timing and frequency of contributions).
  3. Learners have an opportunity to get to know the instructor.
  4. Course contains resources or activities intended to build a sense of class community, support open communication, and establish trust (at least one of the following – Icebreaker, Bulletin Board, Meet Your Classmates, Ask a Question discussion forums).
  5. Course offers opportunities for learner to learner interaction and constructive collaboration.
  6. Learners are encouraged to share resources and inject knowledge from diverse sources of information in their course interactions.

Assessment and Feedback

Standards 44 - 50

  1. Course grading policies, including consequences of late submissions, are clearly stated in the course information area or syllabus.
  2. Course includes frequent and appropriate methods to assess learners’ mastery of content.
  3. Criteria for the assessment of a graded assignment are clearly articulated (rubrics, exemplary work).
  4. Learners have opportunities to review their performance and assess their own learning throughout the course (pre-tests, automated self-tests, reflective assignments, etc.).
  5. Learners are informed when a timed response is required. Proper lead time is provided to ensure there is an opportunity to prepare an accommodation.
  6. Learners have easy access to a well designed and up-to-date gradebook.
  7. Learners have multiple opportunities to provide descriptive feedback on course design, course content, course experience, and ease of online technology.





Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board - Principles of Good Practice

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board commends and encourages, faculty pedagogy and technology training and the development of online courses and programs that enhance access to higher education throughout the state of Texas. The Coordinating Board works closely with Texas colleges and universities as well as with ICUT (Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas) to ensure the high quality of distance education. To that end, UNT Dallas is required to certify that their distance education programs are in compliance with the Principles of Good Practice.


Southern Association of Colleges and Schools - Best Practices 

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, UNT Dallas' accreditor, provides guidelines for distance program and course development and faculty preparedness through pedagogy and technology training in the Best Practices for Electronically Offered Degree and Certificate Programs and the Distance and Correspondence Education Policy Statement.


National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) - Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education

SARA establishes comparable national standards for interstate offerings of postsecondary distance-education courses and programs, and outlines specific Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education. Included are requirements for online faculty to receive training in pedagogy and technology; faculty-student interaction, student-student interaction, and student-content interaction; and ongoing course and program evaluation.