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ERIC Number: ED535121
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Mar
Pages: 30
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 26
Transparency & Accountability: An Evaluation of the VSA College Portrait Pilot. A Special Report from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment for the Voluntary System of Accountability
Jankowski, Natasha A.; Ikenberry, Stanley O.; Kinzie, Jillian; Kuh, George D.; Shenoy, Gloria F.; Baker, Gianina R.
National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment
The Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) is a vehicle for public four-year universities to report comparable information about the undergraduate student experience via the College Portrait, a common web reporting template. The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) was asked by the VSA to evaluate the effectiveness of the student learning outcomes pilot project within the College Portrait. The evaluation was conducted over a five-month period, October 2011 through February 2012, drawing on a variety of data sources. These included focus groups, interviews with leaders from the policy arena and regional accreditation agencies, institutional surveys, and analyses of results from the VSA-conducted survey of participating institutions, and College Portrait database statistics and Google Analytics. The authors' review found widespread agreement that the launch of the VSA in 2007 was a necessary response to the demands of the time. Accountability demands and public interests are transitory in nature and while the press for transparency persists, the environment in which the VSA exists is different from when it began. While seen as "necessary," many observers also expect the VSA to continue to evolve. They also found that the standardized tests of student learning originally approved for inclusion in the pilot lack credibility and acceptance within a broad sweep of the higher education community which, in turn, serves to undermine institutional participation in the VSA. Given this mixed picture, they asked, "Should the VSA College Portrait be continued?" With some exceptions, the response was affirmative, suggesting "mend it, don't end it" regarding the value of the VSA and the College Portrait. They recommend the VSA College Portrait be recast as a state-of-the-art electronic communication tool targeted for specific audiences, including prospective and current students, parents, and guidance counselors; alumni; faculty and staff; trustees; employers; accreditors; public policy makers; and media. They also urge that information presented on the College Portrait be presented around questions of particular interest to students and other relevant audiences to tell a contextualized, institution-specific, evidence-based story--possibly incorporating video or other media. Finally, to expand viewership of the College Portrait, they recommend consideration be given to the creation of a College Portrait template that could be adapted and used by all postsecondary institutions, public and private, community colleges and others. A common template for all of higher education, while challenging to achieve, would serve as one access point for the public and thereby attract increased viewer traffic to the site. Appended are: (1) Voluntary System of Accountability: An Overview; and (2) Methodology. (Contains 5 figures and 4 footnotes.)
National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. 340 Education Building MC 708, 1310 South Sixth Street, Champaign, IL 61820. Tel: 217-244-2155; Fax: 217-244-5632; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Lumina Foundation for Education; Teagle Foundation
Authoring Institution: National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment