Editor's Note: In the world of online education, school accountability can be tough to find. Without a national data set, or any requirements by the government for schools to report success rates, there is no source for reliable, consistent data on online colleges. At Get Educated, we’re big fans of the efforts by independent educational groups that offer free, honest evaluations of online universities. CollegeChoicesforAdults.org is a non-profit devoted to helping you learn about learning outcomes in online universities and degree programs. From the project director, Cali Morrison:
As an adult, the concept of returning to or starting college can be a daunting one. How do you know what institution to choose? What program of study will help you gain the knowledge and skills to pursue the career path you’re interested in? How can you find the best online university? In a web full of marketing messages and websites whose only mission is to redirect you to high-paying clients’ schools, how do you find information you can trust?
Visit CollegeChoicesforAdults.org. Our site came out of a collaborative of regionally accredited, adult-serving institutions that wanted to improve access to information on distance learning for adult learners. Our site provides data, not marketing fluff, for you to evaluate programs and institutions. We don’t provide rankings – we want to leave the decisions on what elements are most important to you up to you when choosing an online school.
Our site is different because our approach is different: Our member institutions voluntarily provide data on student outcomes; data that is hard to find elsewhere. We supply things like online college graduations rates, and more. Then it is quality-assurance reviewed by the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) before being posted to the web. In addition to program-level learning outcomes, or in plain English – what a program expects its students to learn – we provide a new metric called learner progress. This is comprised of two elements – learner retention and completion. ‘Retention’ looks at a group of students (called a cohort) to see if they are still enrolled, or have completed a degree, one year after joining that cohort (for most, that means one year after enrolling in the institution.) ‘Completion’ looks at how many students completed a degree within 150 and 200 percent of ‘normal time,’ which is defined by National Center for Education Statistics as two years for an associate degree, four years for a bachelors degree, two years for a masters degree, and four years for a doctorate.
Our cohort is especially relevant in that it measures part-time and transfer-in students in addition to first-time full-time students, which are relevant online education statistics, Other retention/graduation statistics available on the web measure only consider first-time, full-time students. As a result, we provide you with a more broad measure of how adult students, at our member institutions, persist and complete degrees. Our measure lets you gauge how learners like you - those going to college part-time while balancing the many demands of adult life - perform at our partner institutions.
About the Author: Cali Morrison is the project director for Transparency by Design which powers the College Choices for Adults website. All of her post-bachelor’s work was completed while working full-time, volunteering in her community and taking care of her family. She understands adult learners because she is an adult learner.