Quality Matters Monday: Standard 8.4

It’s Quality Matters Monday! Each Monday, we highlight a Quality Matters standard and review its importance in an online course and how we evaluate this standard.


Today, we are reviewing Quality Matters Standards 8.4


General Standard 8 addresses Accessibility & Usability


Click here to view Quality Matters Standard 8.4 in the Quality Matters Rubric.


Standard 8.4 focuses on the course design and readability, or the overall layout and display of your course content.

QM Std. 8.4 #edtech Facultyecommons.com

QM Std. 8.4 #edtech Facultyecommons.com


  • So far in General QM Standard 8, we’ve discussed the importance of holistic accessibility in the course design process, including quality course navigation (1), providing accessibility information to your students (8.2), utilizing alternative means for technological access (8.3), which leads us to today’s standard, 8.4, and the concept of readability. If you’ve ever visited a poorly designed website, you know that unusual web fonts, mismatched color palates and arbitrary formatting choices can make the viewing experience difficult, and generally distracting from the intended content and purpose of the page. Likewise, instructors can make unintentionally distracting choices during the design process that affect the overall readability of course content, leaving students befuddled.


  • One of the most crucial things you’ll want to remember when putting standard 8.4 to practice, is to ensure that your personal design preferences don’t get in the way of solid course readability. For instance, your love for neon might make reading the information in your course a chore. That ‘fun’ font you like using can divert your students from key learning objectives, and your overuse of bold, underline and italics could potentially obscure which information you intend to be most important. Disabled students are most disadvantaged by questionable design decisions. Poor color choices may cause colorblind students to miss important distinctions in the content, and bad formatting might confuse a blind student’s screen reading software. In order to avoid these conundrums, ask yourself the following questions:


  1. Are the fonts I utilize clean, readable fonts and avoid embellished fonts like Comic Sans and decorative serif fonts?
  2. Am I using color combinations that provide satisfactory contrast between background and foreground?
  3. Am I using images/animations that productively contribute to the objectives and purpose of the course without distracting from them? Am I providing alt-text for these?
  4. Is the formatting I’m using logical and consistent? Does it break information into meaningful, digestible chunks? Does it serve specific, instructional purposes rather than simply being decorative?
  5. If I’m using color-coding in the course, am I providing additional means to communicate those distinctions, like symbols or labeling?


AP Guidance: If you answered ‘no’ to any of the questions above, take some time to consider redesign strategies that will help make your course more readable for your students. Before placing your course online, ready your students by maximizing readability!


Thinking ahead: Make sure to log in next week when we discuss our final QM standard 8.5!


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Click here to access Quality Matters eLearning Marketplace. The Quality Matters eLearning Marketplace is a free, searchable database built to serve the broad QM community with an easy-to-use eLearning product/service directory organized within the 8 general standards of the rubric as well as by user and product categories.

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