University of Alaska Fairbanks has become the first online special education program in the nation to earn the Quality Matters’ Online Program Design Certification.

Quality Matters is an international, U.S.-based nonprofit organization that is recognized as a leader in quality assurance for online education.

The Online Program Design Certification recognizes higher education programs that are designed around measurable learning objectives or competencies. UAF’s special education degree is just the fifth (of any discipline) to earn this program-level certification from Quality Matters.

Joanne Healy, special education program chair, and UAF eCampus began the certification process in 2016. The rigorous review process included:

  • Aligning course-level objectives for all 15 courses with program goals.
  • External course reviews by three independent (not within the University of Alaska system) QM-certified peer reviewers of eight courses.
  • Internal course reviews by QM-certified UAF eCampus staff of 15 courses.
  • External programwide review by three QM-certified reviewers.

“This was truly a herculean feat on Joanne’s part, requiring hundreds of hours of her effort, as well as a great deal of support from the UAF eCampus instructional design team,” said Owen Guthrie, UAF eCampus associate director of online programs. “The time and effort invested will pay significant dividends for future students of the online Master of Education in Special Education in terms of the quality of their learning experience.”

UAF offers an online Master of Education in Special Education as well as an Initial Special Education Teacher Certification and a Teaching Endorsement in Special Education.

“All courses are modeling accessibility, which is what special education is all about,” Healy said. Next, she plans to pursue Quality Matters certifications for Teaching Support and Leader Success. UAF would be the first university to earn program certification in three areas.