Using U.S. News & World Report Academic Insights To Benchmark Your Online Program

Blogging the Online Learning Consortium International Conference 2014

Presenter:  Evan Jones (U.S. News & World Report, USA)

A little background on U. S. News and World Report. Their rankings are online here, and for a variety of categories, including online programs. From 1983 to the early 1990s, the rankings were reputation based. In the early 1990s they started doing statistical surveys. In 2012 they launched the best online programs rankings for a few select categories.

Their thesis for rankings is to provide applicants and parents transparency into college options.

Academic Insights

Recently they started thinking that institutions might want to use this data for peer bench marking and performance assessment. This data is not  publicly available; it’s for institution use within the Academic Insights website. The online data was added in January, so this is really new.

They created it with several university teams in mind: senior administrators, enrollment management, marketing & communication, and institutional research.

The data in the site includes history USN survey data 1988 bachelors; 1994 grad; 2013 online; and will continue to have additional data added.

In the demo, we saw the different features:

  • You can create user defined peer groups to compare your data against others. The platform is built around creating peer groups and metric groups i.e. how our data compares to other schools that matter; can filter by state, name, can see +/- 10 during 2014 for example; see who is close to you; you can create as many groups as you like; then you can share this group with everyone else in your institution
  • You can make metric groups also – academics, admissions, cost, etc. and do comparisons on those metric groups.
  • You can export charts and raw data files
  • Data elements include: ranking indicator scores, raw data files
  • There’s a report card where you can make a direct comparison between one school and another school
  • You can export data to csvs of the data if you need to; there’s a download center for the Institutional Research office to look at more data
  • There’s a leaderboard view that’s a dynamic spreadsheet, can then sort metrics by metrics and see whether you are behind or ahead
  • Explorer is a user defined scatterplot with three dimensions – x, y, z

The cost is per data set, and includes full exporting; new data will automatically come in as each new year’s data is added; subscriptions are the calendar year from your subscription date.

Reflection: This is an amazing example of a data dashboard – and making data available in a way that administrators can explore their research question without having to ask anyone. It’s also a great selling point on the usefulness and importance of completing the surveys. It’s useful not just for rankings but for your own institutional learning and growth.

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