University of South Florida

Innovative Education


2 women sitting at computer with green and gold badge graphics overlay

USF Faculty Collaborate with InEd to Earn Green and Gold Quality Online Designations for Courses

Since Spring 2023, nearly 150 USF faculty members have completed Innovative Education Digital Learning’s online course design and development process and earned green or gold high-quality online designations for their courses. A high-quality green or gold designation is a significant accomplishment that means an online course has met detailed, research-based standards.

“These designations are evidence of the university’s collective dedication to exceptional education and its steadfast commitment to purposeful design that enhances student learning outcomes,” said Christine Brown, associate vice president of USF Innovative Education, the group that partners with faculty to design and develop online courses and programs.

Designing to Improve Student Outcomes

InEd’s online course development process is a highly collaborative partnership that brings together experienced learning designers and USF faculty. This collaborative effort spans a semester, during which they diligently align learning outcomes with course content and objectives, aiming to enhance student engagement and improve the overall student experience. Together, they produce various course materials to enrich the online learning experience, including interactive videos, discussion boards, group projects, peer review activities, and more.

“The most valuable aspect of the process was the teamwork involved in transforming content into an engaging, accessible format for online learning,” said Vickie Lynn, program chair for the Bachelor of Social Work and an assistant professor of instruction. “Working with the Innovative Education team is always a wonderful experience. Their dedication, combined with a collective focus on enhancing student engagement, always make the process truly collaborative.”

This partnership with Innovative Education not only helps faculty but also benefits the USF students taking their online courses.

“Good design and content mean that students gain a deeper understanding of course materials and benefit from increased rigor.”

“Good design and content mean that students gain a deeper understanding of course materials and benefit from increased rigor,” said Brown. “That’s why earning the green or gold designation is an honor that shows that faculty have gone above and beyond in optimizing their courses.”

By earning gold designations for their courses, faculty members can promote increased student engagement and interaction, community building, and real-world application.

Standards Grounded in Research 

Throughout the process, the designers use the USF Quality Online Rubric, adapted from Quality Matters, to guide their recommendations to faculty as they partner to design courses with students in mind. 

“Participating and going through the design and development process provides important reminders, as well as strategies to improve accessibility, clarity, and engagement in all courses – whether face-to-face, online, or hybrid,” said Elizabeth Doone, professor of instruction in Exceptional Student Education.  

The standards, grounded in research and best practice, focus on online course design and include recommendations for learning objectives, assessments, instructional materials, course activities, technology, usability, learner support, and the student experience. 

There are a variety of ways that courses can meet each standard. At InEd, courses are designed to meet the standards, aiming to ease navigation, remove obstacles to student achievement, and contribute to better learning outcomes. 

At the end of the development process, the course is reviewed for quality, and faculty participate by completing a self-review of their course. 

“Quality standards provide the framework for designing effective learning environments,” said Director of Learning Design and Research Christie Nicholas. “Our commitment to using the standards throughout the course design process allows us to keep students at the forefront of all design decisions.”

“Our commitment to using the standards throughout the course design process allows us to keep students at the forefront of all design decisions.”

Given the considerable effort that goes into the online courses that InEd and USF faculty collaborate on, it’s essential to take a step back and reflect on the achievements that have been made, Nicholas said. 

Call for Nominations: Online Teaching Awards Programs

While the green and gold designations signify a course meets quality standards, USF Innovation in Online Design and Teaching Awards go a step further and recognize exceptional online educators who have earned the green or gold designation -- and their accomplishments in designing, developing, and delivering student-centered online teaching. Nominations are now open for the 2024 awards. Three instructors will be selected for recognition after the February 5, 2024, application deadline. 

Award candidates must provide evidence of online teaching practices supporting student engagement, learning gains, and student satisfaction and demonstrate the impact of well-designed, high-quality digital course materials. The award winner will receive $5,000, a plaque, and an invitation to the Faculty Honors and Awards Reception hosted by the USF Provost’s Office. Additionally, the winner will be able to present at the TOPkit Workshop or Innovation Summit in 2025. Two finalists will receive $1,000 each. 

Last year, Associate Professor Sanghoon Park won for using generative AI, augmented reality, and the metaverse to develop a unique learning space. It was essential for him to think outside of the box with his pedagogy as an instructor who teaches graduate courses related to instructional technology and design to students who will need to know these tools in the workplace. 

Visit the award webpage to apply and see the full list of submission guidelines. 

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About Department News

USF Innovative Education is a powerhouse of creativity and collaboration, offering a range of faculty-related services including learning design, multimedia development, technology integration, and support for teaching and learning. We help faculty transform courses into dynamic learning experiences, providing training and support for various programs. We work with both experienced and new faculty, assisting them in integrating technology and staying up to date with educational trends.