The Open SUNY Course Quality Review (OSCQR) Process

At Open SUNY, our goal is to ensure that all online courses are regularly reviewed and refreshed to keep them innovative and aligned with current research and best practices.

A team of Open SUNY Center for Online Teaching Excellence staff and campus stakeholders created a course review and enhancement model that is campus driven and builds on current research and best practices to offer a team approach to the continuous improvement of online courses. The process begins with a Course Review using the OSCQR Rubric, which has 50 standards and is designed to be conducted by a team on your campus that comprises a variety of perspectives. These can include those of the faculty member who teaches the course, an instructional designer, multimedia/technologist, librarian, faculty colleague or subject matter expert, or student, depending upon the campus preference. The OSCQR Process is a collaborative approach to improving the instructional design of an online or blended course. It is campus driven and focused on continuous improvement, and is not intended to be an instructor or course evaluation.

The action plan automatically aggregates the feedback generated during the Course Review and provides recommendations and examples of enhancements for improvement for the next part of the process, the Course Refresh.

The Course Refresh is the actual improvement process undertaken by faculty in concert with campus stakeholders such as instructional designers, librarians, and educational technologists and is guided by the action plan generated by the OSCQR Rubric.

The newly refreshed course is delivered and followed by a Learning Review that initiates the continuous online improvement cycle.

The OSCQR Process for the review and refresh of online courses in Open SUNY+ programs

The OSCQR (Open SUNY Course Quality Review) Process is a collaborative approach to improving the instructional design and accessibility of an online or blended course. The process is campus-driven, focused on continuous improvement, and is not an instructor or course evaluation. To ensure quality, it is important that every online course go through a process of review and refresh on a regular basis. Through the OSCQR Process a fresh set of eyes or a fresh idea can lead to a better experience for students and faculty alike.


In the process, courses are reviewed using the OSCQR Rubric, and viewed from three different perspectives:

  • The online faculty perspective (a review by the course author).
  • The online instructional design perspective (a review by someone with an online instructional design or faculty development background).
  • The external reviewer perspective (a review by someone unfamiliar with the course, preferably a librarian, technologist, or other faculty member). Incorporated in this are additional opportunities for specific insights from the librarian and/or technologist perspectives.


These perspectives combine to provide rich feedback on the design of the online course and inform a plan to refresh specific design elements, such as content presentation, facilitation of interaction or collaboration, and providing feedback and assessment.


The OSCQR Rubric and Process are designed to be flexible and responsive to individual campus needs.  Before beginning the review process, a campus OSCQR Team Lead has several decisions to make:

  • What standards are included in the rubric?  The OSCQR Rubric contains 50 quality and accessibility standards that have undergone an extensive vetting and review by members of the SUNY online community. We recognize that no rubric can capture all the elements of good online course design, and that there may be campus-, or discipline- specific standards that may be required. The flexibility to author and add additional standards to the rubric is a distinguishing feature of OSCQR that gives the review team the ability to customize and differentiate their reviews based on campus or program needs.
  • How are standards prioritized? Standards have been categorized as either ‘Important’ or ‘Essential’ based on research-based effective practices known to support  student success in typical online courses. This information is provided as feedback to assist the review team in the prioritization of refresh options. Campuses and programs may have different priorities depending on various initiatives, goals, or on-campus cultures. The versatility to customize and adjust the priorities of the various standards is another distinctive feature of OSCQR that gives the Team Lead the ability to align the review with their specific campus or program needs.
  • Which courses will be reviewed first? The OSCQR process can be time consuming for an instructor or instructional designer (ID). To review and refresh an entire degree program may take multiple semesters, or even years. The OSCQR Team Lead will map out the priority order and timeline so that the entire program is reviewed and refreshed on a reasonable schedule.
  • What is the time frame for this review? Campuses each have unique cadences and calendars. It is up to the OSCQR Team Lead to determine what works for his/her specific campus. Some campuses may conduct complete reviews in one day, a week, or over the course of several weeks. This process is designed to accommodate whatever time frame works best for the individual campus.


Once the Team Lead has finalized the initial decisions, the OSCQR Process can begin:


  1. Identify who will be part of the review team – Individual campuses can select reviewers from their own faculty or from Open SUNY COTE’s Campus Resource Network of expert and exemplary online Fellows.  The Campus Resource Network consists of online instructional designers, librarians, graphic designers, technologists, or online faculty members from across SUNY who have expertise as online practitioners, have been certified in the application of the rubric, and have expressed a willingness to contribute to the OSCQR Process. The OSCQR Team Lead will select the members of the review team, verify their availability, and work with each individual to ensure that the reviews are completed according to the established project plan timeline.
  2. Provide access to the course – The review team should have access to a copy of the course that is free of any student data or identifying student information. This preserves the privacy of students and prevents the review from inadvertently interfering with a live course.  The OSCQR Team Lead will copy the course, enroll members of the review team, and create temporary accounts for any external reviewers.
  3. Provide access to the OSCQR Rubric – Open SUNY COTE will provide a copy of the OSCQR Rubric for each course being reviewed. Each member of the review team will complete the review on a different tab within the rubric document.  There is a unique URL that is needed to access each rubric.
  4. Have the course developer complete the profile – The first page of the rubric document is a short survey to be filled out by the course developer.  The survey questions are designed to provide context and background information that may be useful to reviewers.  These questions should be answered before the reviews take place.
  5. Review the course – The three reviews are conducted independently and asynchronously.  The review does not need to be completed in one session, but rather progress can be saved and continued at any point. The ID should also complete an additional rubric that addresses ADA accessibility standards.
  6. Monitor the review progress — The OSCQR Team Lead will work with the members of the review team to address any concerns and ensure completion in a timely manner.
  7. Discuss the suggestions proposed by the review team — The OSCQR rubric will aggregate the suggestions of the review team and create a preliminary refresh plan for the course.   The instructor and the ID should meet to discuss the findings of the review team and plan the refresh.
  8. Create a ‘refresh plan’ — The instructor and ID will create a refresh plan to guide the course refresh process.  The refresh plan will outline the priority of items of be addressed, a proposed timeline, and a survey of available resources.  Open SUNY COTE will provide a refresh plan template to guide this process.
  9. Refresh the course — The instructor leads the course refresh process, but will receive assistance from the ID, multimedia developer, librarian, technologist, and other resources.
  10. Provide reports on progress — Open SUNY COTE will regularly meet with the members of the campus team to discuss progress and suggest resources.  Periodically throughout the process the Team Lead will be asked to provide information and complete reports necessary to track progress across the system of campuses engaged in the Open SUNY+ course review and refresh process.
  11. Conduct a ‘Learning Review’ to inform future reviews — After the delivery of the refreshed course, the OSCQR Team Lead will meet with the instructor to review their accomplishments and plan future enhancements. This formal session is an opportunity to go over the experience with the ID, collect feedback, and codify any lessons learned for continuous improvement. A version of the rubric will be provided as an option to be placed in the refreshed course to anonymously collect descriptive feedback from students to add the online student perspective to the Learning Review discussions.