Following the inaugural release of the Top Online Education Programs rankings, U.S. News reached out to the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) to answer questions from their members and to establish an ongoing dialogue with the organization. This was done to initiate a process that potentially will improve the degree program rankings and program-level data collection in future years.
WCET—an organization that works to advance and evaluate the most effective uses of technology in higher education—had authored a review of the new rankings in January. The review presented critiques that bear resemblance to many cited elsewhere in specialized media that cover online education. U.S. News believes these critiques often rest on faulty assumptions about the rankings methodologies.
Fortunately, WCET has expressed a mutual interest in establishing a relationship with U.S. News, so that in the future its members can more formally share their views on the rankings and the survey instruments used to collect the rankings and directory data.
In the meantime, members' written questions were selected by a representative from WCET and submitted to U.S. News on January 25. The questions and their responses were published and made accessible today from WCET's blog. The full set of questions and answers can be found on this .pdf file.
Here is a sample of questions on the online degree rankings that were addressed:
• Will future surveys focus more on adult learners and transfer students?
• Were schools hurt in the rankings for not responding to certain questions?
• Did the rankings favor programs which blend distance students with on-campus students?
• Was synchronous delivery favored in the rankings over asynchronous delivery?
• How will U.S. News improve school participation—both the number of schools that participate and the extent they participate?
• Of what value are the rankings to prospective online students?
• Will the online degree rankings be modified in future years, and if so, how will U.S. News solicit input?