Spend any time with Cal State San Bernardino professor Jonathan Anderson and within minutes his passion and enthusiasm for teaching and working with students is sure to come through whether he is instructing face-to-face or online.
That passion has led to Anderson becoming the first CSUSB faculty member to receive the California State University’s Quality in Learning and Teaching (QLT) certification for his online course, Public Administration Theory and Practice, the first class in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program.
The QLT program was developed by the CSU to assist faculty, faculty developers and instructional designers to more effectively design and deliver online, blended and flipped courses.
While the department chair and professor of public administration at the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration enjoys both equally well, though, he said, the nod has been more toward online instructing because it gets more students involved.
“I do like face-to-face engagement. I think all faculty do,” said Anderson, who joined the university in 2011. “But you often get more engagement with more students online because in a face-to-face class, a third of the students have something to say and you may get excited and they may engage and you have a lot of stuff, but there’s two-thirds of the students who just fade back there unless you’re someone who personally grabs each student in turn.”
In online classes, students really can’t hide.
“Everybody is graded on their participation on the online activities and they must engage,” Anderson said. “I think online education demands more engagement by students, if you do it right, than a face-to-face class, even though most faculty find the face-to-face environment more rewarding.”
The QLT is awarded to both the instructor and the online course the faculty member teaches, said Ashley Skylar, the quality assurance program manager, Academic Technology Services, in the CSU Chancellor's Office.
The other online certification used by the CSU is the Quality Matters (QM) designation developed by the University of Maryland, said Mihaela Popescu, the faculty director of the CSUSB Academic Technologies & Innovation department and an associate professor in communication studies.
The difference between the two “instruments” (sets of course quality criteria) is more technical than substantive: QLT includes criteria of course delivery quality whereas QM does not. Campuses may choose to certify courses with QLT, QM or both, Popescu said.
“Receiving certification for an online course means that the course is a mature, high quality online or hybrid course, which maximizes student success,” Popescu said. “For the faculty, it means that they have achieved a certain level of proficiency in designing and teaching online courses that enables them to create courses recognized to be of high quality by their peers.” 
Currently the CSU lists 185 certified online courses on its website. Of those certified courses, 19 are QLT certified and the rest are Quality Matters certified.
Last year Anderson earned the QM certification for his online class Managing Diversity in Organizations along with three other CSUSB instructors: Montgomery Van Wart, Human Resource Management in the Public Sector; Frank Lin, Information Systems and Technology Management; and Delia Ortega, Race, Class, Gender, & Sexuality in the Lives of Women.
Anderson said the popularity and increase in online instruction is primarily due to two factors – access and lifelong learning.
“People who don’t have a college or university close to them can complete a degree through online courses, and for older working adults, people who want to proceed with their education, but are working now, this is a way that they can advance,” Anderson said. “That has been going on across the country. Online has been growing a lot. Of course you have these online only institutions like (the University of) Phoenix and some of those others who do their things, but more and more full-fledged, flagship R1 (Research 1) universities are also delivering online programs.”
Though the MPA program has been offering online classes for years, “we make a big deal that we are not just an online program. We’re an MPA program that offers both online and on-campus classes,” Anderson said.
But the trend is toward online classes, which have proved to be popular with working MPA students. Typically each term we offer 50 percent of our courses face to face and 50 percent online, but student enrollment is about two-thirds online and one-third on campus, Anderson said.
Our goal is to make the online classes as effective as the face-to-face classes.
“I will never argue with someone who says on-campus classes are better. That’s not the question. The question is, ‘Does that mean you only offer that, or do you try to make your online classes as good as they can be?’” Anderson said. “We’ve put out a tremendous amount of effort trying to get our faculty to produce high quality online classes.
Though most MPA students are from the inland region, the Jack H. Brown College MPA program’s outstanding reputation continues to grow as it is one of the largest programs in the state for public universities with 250 students. But Anderson pointed out that all its full-time faculty teach both online and on campus.
“It’s the same instructors, the same people who do all of this and it’s our attention to quality,” Anderson said. “We tell students, ‘This is not an easy degree. You’ll be challenged, but you’ll be better off for it.’”
The program’s reputation is also enhanced by its accreditation by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), the Global Standard in Public Service Education.
Anderson said it took about eight months to receive his certification, which was accomplished by working with designers from the university’s Academic Technology & Innovation department, which is a driver of new technology in the classroom and across the CSUSB campus.
When teaching online, “you have to conceive how you will deliver that material in an online environment rather than a lecture environment so you’re moving away from the so-called ‘Sage on the Stage’ to a more student-driven teaching environment,” Anderson said. “You have lots more activities that they do and a lot more engagement between students in an online class than in a face-to-face class.”
The key is to develop, produce and teach the best possible course.
“I am passionate about making sure the MPA program has quality online classes. Online is what students are demanding, that’s where new students will come from if they get a good product with a good reputation,” Anderson said. “They’re going to pass the word and the word continues to get out. We have a growing program.”
Before joining CSUSB, Anderson was a professor of public administration at the University of Alaska Southeast, an assistant professor of public administration at Walden University and a visiting professor at Indiana State University.
Anderson has a doctorate in public policy from Indiana University, an MPA from American University and a bachelor’s degree in history from Colorado State University.