Online education provides an unprecedented opportunity to transform higher education from an intuitive art to a data-driven science.
By increasing transparency and integrating continuous and systematic quality assessment into a process that once took place behind closed classroom doors at the discretion of independent-operator professors, we have new opportunities to improve outcomes for students who have been underserved or excluded by traditional higher-education providers.
As we see in Complete College America’s 2011 report, "Time Is the Enemy," the challenges of working with nontraditional students are universal. Even among the nation’s best public four-year institutions, where large cohorts of traditional students post impressive graduation rates, lurking in the shadows are vast numbers of nontraditional students whose outcomes tell a very different story.
It is highly unlikely that institutional quality in the traditional sense is at fault for the poor outcomes of part-time students at these institutions, since presumably the strong-finishing traditional students are in the same classes as those who fare less well. The problem is that what makes for a prestigious institution doesn’t necessarily make for an effective educational environment for students who have a multitude of challenges.
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