Transparency by Design

College Choices for Adults logo

The Transparency by Design initiative was a collaborative collection of regionally-accredited, adult-serving, distance education institutions with a mission to help adult learners become informed consumers of distance education. A project of the Presidents' Forum of Excelsior College, in 2008, WCET was engaged to serve as project management and third-party data quality assurance reviewer for the forthcoming product website of the initiative. In 2009, Transparency by Design launched College Choices for Adults, an innovative resource to help adult learners utilize data, not marketing fluff, to match their professional and personal goals with an appropriate distance learning program.

Resources developed by the Transparency by Design initiative:

College Choices for Adults, and the Transparency by Design initiative had three key differentiators from other college search sites or voluntary systems of accountability:

  1. The website provided program-level learning outcomes (aka what students are expected to learn in each program of study), measures of those learning outcomes, and how well recent students have performed. This type of data is rarely shared publicly, but TbD partner institutions chose (completely voluntarily!) to share publicly on the web. This allowed adult learners to align their personal and professional goals with educational opportunities which have matching program-level learning outcomes.
  2. All of the data on the College Choices for Adults site went through a third-party quality assurance review by the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET). Other sites post data without any review by an outside party. Transparency by Design institutions voluntarily submitted to this review to ensure quality data to help adults make their college choice.
  3. Institutions involved in Transparency by Design provide distance learning** options for adult learners*, thus the primary focus on adult learners. Other sites often focus on the priorities of traditional-aged students, such as campus life. College Choices for Adults concentrated on informing adults on how they can progress toward personal goals.

* enroll students 23 years and older.
**distance learning encompasses online, hybrid, competency-based and other flexible learning formats.

At the beginning of 2013, the College Choices for Adults website was shut down, after a unanimous decision of the Transparency by Design Executive Committee. Though a worthwhile project, the College Choices for Adults website was ahead of its time in accountability measures and thus was unable to reach self-sustaining membership levels.

A Video Review of the College Choices for Adults Website

For a look at the functionality of the College Choices for Adults website, we have created the following videos:

CCFA Project Overview:

CCFA The Guide:

CCFA Institution Program Data


Russ PoulinRuss Poulin
Director, Policy and Analysis
Phone: 303-541-0305