Higher Education Consortium Reports Findings of National Benchmarking Initiative

June 15, 2005

San Francisco, C.A. -June 13, 2005 – Benchmarking for quality in distance learning remains inconsistent across post-secondary institutions. Dr. Richard T. Hezel, president of the education consulting firm Hezel Associates, with the support of the National University Telecommunications Network (NUTN) today released the initial findings of the Benchmarking for Quality in Distance Learning study. The study found that 54 percent of participants use benchmarking to measure their institutions’ distance learning programs against those at similar institutions. Among those who report benchmarking, few similarities exist in the types of data being benchmarked, or the types of institutions against which they benchmark.

Presenting the findings at the NUTN 2005 event in San Francisco, Hezel noted that the goal of the distance learning benchmarking study is to assist college and university distance learning organizations in building their own benchmarking capacity. “Industry has been using benchmarking to measure internal progress and external standing for years,” Hezel said. “Providing higher education institutions with a measurement tool to evaluate their distance education programs will benefit the institutions and the students they serve.” The initial survey was designed to examine in detail how quality is defined and measured in four assessment areas associated with distance learning: administrative, academic, student support, and student outcomes.

Some of the strongest results occurred in the administrative assessment section of the survey. Respondents ranked enrollment, finance, and technological capacity as the three most important administrative assessment areas to their institutions. The percentage of respondents indicating they are measuring these three assessment areas varies greatly for both internal and external benchmarking. Enrollment is measured more than any other assessment area-97 percent of respondents collecting data for internal use and 57 percent for benchmarking. Just 32 percent of respondents reported benchmarking data on technological capacity while 16 percent benchmark finance.

“The results of our initial study reveal how benchmarking is currently being used,” said co-presenter Josh Mitchell, benchmarking project coordinator. “Now we’re excited to move into the second and third phases which will ultimately allow us to provide participants with a tool for internal and external benchmarking.”

Based on the results of the initial survey, to which more than 65 institutions responded, participants will complete a follow-up survey designed to clarify the types of data related to distance learning collected by institutions. NUTN and Hezel Associates are now in the developmental stages of an instrument that will aid participants in benchmarking by helping them measure their progress and identify where they stand against peers and competitors. They can then use this information for improvement. For more information about the Benchmarking for Quality in Distance Learning study or join the study, please visit www.hezel.com/benchmarking.

Headquartered in Syracuse, N.Y., Hezel Associates provides research, evaluation and strategic services to national and international clients in education, technology, publishing and business. The firm has earned a distinguished national reputation as a leading expert in distance education research and consulting. Clients such as the U.S. Department of Education, Arizona Board of Regents, Habitat for Humanity International, the Public Broadcasting Service, Regis University and the United Way have relied on Hezel Associates’ recommendations to make strategic decisions, and create and implement policies. The company was founded in 1987 by Dr. Richard T. Hezel, a leading research-oriented consultant in the field of education technology. For further information about Hezel Associates, visit www.hezel.com

The National University Telecommunications Network (NUTN) is committed to providing dynamic leadership and support of applications of new and emerging technologies in distance education. As a premier distance learning professional organization, NUTN provides vision and experience to higher education institutions and professionals serving numerous constituencies and organizations.