Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-14-2017


In the first part of the 21st century, community colleges in the U.S. have embraced exclusively online coursework as a major part of their curriculum. Yet students at community colleges face a variety of impediments--including socioeconomic and cultural barriers--to their success in online coursework, and research at community colleges has revealed that success in those online courses has varied widely for the diverse student populations of those colleges. Such selective success of students lends itself to inquiry regarding why online learning has become such a prominent educational arrangement at community colleges. A review of the history and policy context of community colleges suggests an incongruous nature to the adoption of online education at those colleges, with ideological discourses newly influencing these institutions and their classrooms. Online “quality” assurance programs like Quality Matters (QM) have emerged to try to resolve issues attached to online courses by locating the problems of online learning within the design of courses, with no acknowledgement of the political and ideological context for the arrangement. Given the contradictions of the online learning arrangement at community colleges, this study subjects the QM rubric to a critical discourse analysis (CDA) in order to analyze its language practices and their discursive functions. Through that CDA, this study demonstrates that the Rubric serves as a naturalizer and ideological imprimatur for the online learning arrangement. Furthermore, this study’s CDA identifies multiple dimensions of ideological discourse within the QM Rubric, revealing various instrumental and econometric frames for its evaluation of online courses and a set of discursive practices that bolster specific pedagogical orientations, neoliberal political substrates and administrative trends, like managerialism, within community colleges. The study then considers the broader impacts of ideological discourse on the classrooms, faculty and students at community colleges, including inhibitory impacts on critical pedagogy and other oppositional educational practices at those institutions, and offers a model for those processes. Finally, the study examines if change in the QM approach to “quality” in online learning is possible, and how it might be achieved within community colleges by the actions of faculty and other democratic means.


Quality Matters, neoliberalism, ideology, critical discourse analysis

Document Type




Degree Name

Educational Leadership

Level of Degree


Department Name

Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy

First Committee Member (Chair)

Sherri Williams

Second Committee Member

Ricky Allen

Third Committee Member

Tyson Marsh

Fourth Committee Member

Ignacio Hernandez