Serving Adults at a Distance? Join Transparency by Design

We are happy to welcome Ed Klonoski, a long-time friend of WCET.  His guest posting invites you to take another look at Transparency by Design and its College Choices for Adults website.

I am Ed Klonoski, President of Charter Oak State College in Connecticut, and currently Chair of the Executive Committee that manages the Transparency by Design project for the President’s Forum of Excelsior College.  OK, now that the formal introduction is finished, let me take a few moments to tell you why I and Charter Oak are enthusiastic supporters of the work that TbD, as we like to call it, is doing.

Approximately four years ago, a group of leaders at non-traditional, adult serving colleges and universities began a conversation about the best way to provide the public useful information about our respective performance.  In short, we needed to create a transparent lens through which prospective students could compare us.  But the key in this planning was that we did not want to regurgitate the typical information that colleges put on their web sites, and we most certainly did not want to create a marketing or sales venue.  What we imagined was that each institution could explain its mission, its approach, its demographics, and its success at achieving its program level learning outcomes.  That last goal is the Holy Grail at the center of our efforts.

The conversations around this simple goal were actually quite complicated, but with pressure in Washington increasing for greater accountability in higher education, the leaders around the table clearly understood that if we didn’t create a system for such accountability ourselves—one that we believed added value for all students—one would be created in Washington for us.

College Choices for AdultsWell, with substantial support from Lumina Foundation for Education and in partnership with WCET, we succeeded in creating the College Choices for Adults website (see www.collegechoicesforadults.org) which contains the mission, approach, demographics, and program level outcomes for 17 institutions.  Those participating institutions include one community college, state colleges, private colleges, and for profit institutions.  All of them are regionally accredited, and all of them are willing to cooperate with the data requirements that TbD has designed for its website.  WCET is our neutral third party partner, responsible for the website and the data consistency and integrity.

So why am I and Charter Oak enthusiastic supporters?  That’s simple.  The College Choices for Adults website represents our sector’s answer to the legitimate request for greater accountability and transparency by higher education.  As a state college, Charter Oak believes that TbD offers a meaningful way for us to demonstrate our commitment to student learning and offer transparency to our funders, students, and prospective students.  We believe that TBD has created a model that can move the discussions around academic quality and program level learning outcomes to the next level.  And the 18 participating institutions haven’t just proposed a model; they have built it, and are dedicated to growing participation.

So come take a look at what we are doing. Eligibility is simple.  To join, an institution must be regionally accredited; serve adult students; have some programs offered at a distance (including online, hybrid, competency-based and flexible learning options); be willing to report program level learning outcomes, assessments and recent results of those assessments for at least two programs; and be willing to pay the dues to keep the reviews going and the site running.  Tell your institutional leaders about it.  Come join us. If you have questions about membership, contact Cali Morrison or I’d be happy to give a President’s perspective about why you should join this important initiative.

Ed Klonoski

Ed Klonoski, President, Charter Oak State College; Executive Committee Chair, Transparency by Design College Choices for Adults

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