January 10th the US News and World Report posted the inaugural collection of their Top Online Education Programs. They noted that the time is right to provide consumers with this information as online education has come of age; more than 6 million students are taking at least one online course according to a Babson survey referenced in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The data US News gathered to determine who would place in their “Honor Rolls” included metrics on student services, student engagement, faculty credentials and admissions selectivity programs across 5 disciplines (e.g., from education to computer information technology).
While this was the first attempt to cluster top online programs, it is of note that none of their initial metrics or methods considered if web content could be accessed by all students, including those with disabilities. Assuming that online degree-granting entities will work hard to achieve Honor Roll status, this could be a powerful mechanism to assist in needed system-change. Based on the backlash and substantive feedback going into US News on their process, there will likely be tweaks in the future. Web accessibility for students with disabilities in online education appears to be consistent with the US News existing criteria of both “Student Engagement and Accreditation” and “Students Services and Technology”.
We at NCDAE hope that you provide your opinions to the US News Online Education staff, we certainly will.