Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Well Informed Customers Serve Institutions Best

There are many factors that go into high school students’ college selection processes. College Prowler (, a website dedicated to sharing students’ statistics on universities around the country, breaks the factors into twenty defining characteristics. However, academics are only at the top of the list because of alphabetical organization. Yet, students are hitting the nail on the head when it comes to what information they want to know about academics – relevance, effectiveness, and flexibility.

Does this mean that collecting quality assurance data should be left up to college marketing personnel – to be used only to attract prospective students? No, it means that there are opportunities for data use across an institution. Current university students’ voices are carried to prospective students – they are the primary source of information for both students and parents who are looking at higher education institutions. Thus, it is important that students are aware of quality assurance efforts at their schools and get involved in the process through regular course evaluations. But, students also need to be aware of assessment data that is collected in the classroom and how it is used to improve programs.

How can students realistically be involved in these processes? As institutions develop transparent means to collect assessment data, it can and will be more easily shared across institutional levels. This includes online course evaluations with immediately portable data. Assessment data recorded online can also be immediately portable and easily manipulated for various audiences including students. This information would be most appropriately shared with students through advising processes. Also, publishing feedback from alumni can be most valuable for institutions, faculty, current and prospective students.

The customer is always right is not an appropriate model for higher education – but well informed students, who understand institutional feedback loops, make great customers who share positive experiences with prospective customers – the next generation of [tuition paying] students.
Becky Joyce, AEFIS Team

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