Transparency by Design

transparency-studentThe 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,WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (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.

College Choices for Adults, and the Transparency by Design initiative have 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 Transparency by Design partner institutions chose (completely voluntarily!) to share publicly on the web. This allows 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 athird-party quality assurance review by WCET. Other sites post data without any review by an outside party. Transparency by Design institutions voluntarily submit 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.

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.

Visit Transparency by Design on WCET for more information, resources developed by the initiative, or to view video reviews of the College Choices for Adults website. Questions can be addressed to Project Director and WCET Communications Manger, Cali Morrison at 303-541-0234 or email

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