Colleges are quick to post certain kinds of data on their Web sites, such as the number of admission applications received, the SAT scores of incoming freshmen, and favorable rankings by U.S. News & World Report.
The same isn’t true of more meaningful numbers, however. A report released on Tuesday by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment found that most colleges don’t fully reveal what they do to assess learning outcomes on their campuses. The report was based on a national study of the information published online by 725 two- and four-year institutions.
“Institutions have more student-learning-outcomes assessment activities under way than they report on their Web sites,” write the report’s authors. They note that descriptions of those activities don’t appear on many admission home pages—the very portals designed for consumers.
The report concludes that colleges must make information about learning outcomes more transparent—not to mention understandable—to prospective students and their parents. Among the authors’ recommendations: Colleges should publish information about learning outcomes, including examples and resources, on various parts of their Web sites, and update such information regularly; explain the results of such assessments in plain terms; and make the information easier to navigate.
Colleges wouldn’t want families to base admission decisions solely on superficial perceptions of institutional prestige, now would they?