Colleges Should Post Detailed Data on Student Outcomes

To the Editor:

“Colleges Measure Learning in More Ways, but Seldom Share Results” (The Chronicle, January 21) highlights the recent report from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment that shows colleges and universities are doing a better job at measuring learning outcomes. The problem is, they are not doing enough to leverage that data to improve their students’ experience, nor are they sharing that information publicly so that prospective students and others can make informed decisions about their education choices. So while the momentum is clearly in the right direction, the bigger opportunity is not yet being captured.

A commitment to transparency regarding learning outcomes is critical for the future of higher education. In a time of escalating financial constraints for schools and students alike, and rising voices questioning the value of a college education, more students and policy makers are demanding detailed outcomes data. And they should be, given the high stakes.

As the NILOA report indicates, assessment results seldom leave the campus; in fact, less than one-third of colleges post such results on their websites, and that needs to change. Colleges and universities have a responsibility to provide detailed information regarding what their students are learning and whether their graduates are experiencing career success as a result of their education. That is why it is encouraging to see the work of initiatives such as the Voluntary System of Accountability’s College Portrait, which aspires to showcase learning outcomes at member schools using the Association of American Colleges and Universities Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education rubrics. Capella University has also launched, a website that exists solely for the purpose of showcasing our students’ learning outcomes and life and career successes. These are examples of the type of information today’s college students need to make informed decisions, especially those who are working adults who need to carefully consider the return on their investment of time and money in their education.

The name of the NILOA report is “Knowing What Students Know and Can Do,” and that’s exactly what colleges and universities should be sharing with the rest of the world. We owe it to our students, and the future our higher education system depends on it.

Scott Kinney
Capella University

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