WCET Joins Initiative to Bring More Accountability to Adult-Serving Higher Education

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Independent organization to ensure accuracy of results for transparency by design.

Adult students have to this point been unable to effectively compare and contrast the benefits of different education institutions

WCET (formerly known as the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications) has joined a group of 12 adult-serving higher education institutions in an important initiative to collect and share extensive data on student engagement and performance. WCET (http://www.wcet.info), an organization that promotes and advances the effective use of technology in higher education, will participate in this initiative, called Transparency By Design. WCET's role is to validate and publish accountability data, making it readily available and understandable for prospective students, and to conduct and publish research using the data.

Michael Offerman, Capella University's (http://www.capella.edu) vice-chairman of external university initiatives, announced the agreement with WCET today, at the fifth annual President's Forum meeting in Washington D.C. Addressing industry, media and policymakers, Dr. Offerman said the relationship underscores the commitment of Transparency By Design member institutions to make detailed outcomes-focused data available to prospective students and employers

"The members of Transparency By Design are united in the belief that students should be well-informed about their education options - what they will learn and how well other students have performed at a specific institution," said Dr. Offerman, who led the working group of the Presidents' Forum that shaped the Transparency By Design initiative. "To meet the education needs of adult students, we as an industry must provide them with trustworthy and transparent ways to choose among many available options and to gauge the potential of each one to further their careers and achieve their dreams."

"All of us are most grateful to WCET for recognizing the essential work of the Forum and especially its Transparency By Design initiative," said John F. Ebersole, president of Excelsior College, which launched the Presidents' Forum in 2002. "WCET's willingness to serve as a neutral repository for Transparency By Design data and to provide for consistency in reporting will help assure the integrity of the information provided by participating institutions."

Transparency By Design is focused on leading universities and colleges toward greater accountability and transparency. Participating institutions, which currently number 12, will issue Transparency By Design reports in the first quarter of each year, starting in 2009. The reports will include comprehensive data for each course of study, including student demographics, completion rates, costs, student engagement, and knowledge and skills learned. The reports will include outcomes at the program specialization level, allowing prospective students to assess how well a program will prepare them for their professional pursuits.

In addition to working with the Transparency By Design Institutions to publish information on student engagement and performance, WCET will create a standardized format for information delivery and will develop a central online resource for students to access and understand available information.

"Adult students have to this point been unable to effectively compare and contrast the benefits of different education institutions," said Louis Fox, WCET's executive director. "Transparency By Design will reshape the ways through which adult learners make decisions about their continuing education."

"This initiative is a courageous step by the adult learning sector," continued Dr. Fox. "In addition to generating the information that adult learners need to make informed decisions about their future, Transparency By Design will allow universities to constantly improve the quality of education being delivered and encourage other parts of higher education to do more to address this issue."

About Transparency By Design
Transparency By Design is a new initiative developed by a consortium of adult-serving higher educational institutions to elevate accountability and transparency in higher education. The initiative is designed to provide access to data that allows adult students to make informed decisions about their education. Participating institutions will gather data throughout 2008 and begin posting annual Transparency By Design Reports in 2009 on student demographics, completion rates, costs, engagement with the school and faculty, and program effectiveness. Transparency By Design Reports will include outcomes at the program specialization level, allowing prospective students to assess how well a program will prepare them for their professional pursuits.

Institutions that have committed to Transparency By Design at of October 22, 2007 include American Public University System, Capella University, Charter Oak State College, Excelsior College, Fielding Graduate University, Franklin University, Kaplan University, Regis University, Rio Salado College, Southwestern College, Western Governors University and Union Institute & University.

About the Presidents' Forum
The Presidents' Forum was established in 2002 by Excelsior College to provide adult-serving institutions the opportunity to exchange knowledge and perceptions of current models and tools, to discuss issues of common concern, and to foster change to benefit adult learners through the formation of new partnerships and learning networks. A strong focus of the group is educational quality and providing access to data that allows students to make informed decisions about their education investment. The Forum calls for regionally accredited, adult-serving institutions to join together in a voluntary commitment to a set of Principles of Good Practice and to post annual reports on items of importance to prospective students. For more information, visit http://presidentsforum.excelsior.edu.

About WCET
WCET is a cooperative network of member institutions and organizations that provides a leading source of critical thinking and expertise on the evolving role of technology in higher education. WCET's membership includes many of the top technology innovators from colleges, universities, non-profit organizations, and companies around the country--and the world. WCET develops research projects that focus on integrating technology into the teaching and learning processes, consults with higher education institutions, holds professional development conferences for practitioners, and supports its members in the planning and implementation of e-learning. Among WCET's contributions to advance quality standards for adult online learning include the "Best Practices for Electronically Offered Degree and Certificate Programs" later adopted by the regional accrediting commissions, a distance learners' guide for adult students, and the development of measures to evaluate the quality of online courses. WCET, based in Boulder, Colorado, was founded in 1989 by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). For more information, visit http://www.wcet.info.

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