07 October 2008

Higher Ed Accountability: VSA and its URLs

There is much to applaud about the College Portrait program that represents a Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) and I'll offer that applause this week. So, today's post merely gets the "location" issue out of the way.

I was aware that VSA's sponsoring organizations (AASCU and NASULGC) had selected "org" for the type of domain for this program, so I started with the obvious test of the URL*. Had the selection of URLs included singular and plural versions of the program name? It had. The web page is produced by either of these URLs:


But if a user types in the singular version with .com as the extension, the resulting page is the NCES College Navigator.
= http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/

And if the user types the plural version with .com, the result is U.S. News & World Report's Rankings (including colleges, grad schools, high schools, hospitals, and about a half-dozen more "best" lists).
http://www.collegeportraits.com = http://www.usnews.com/sections/rankings

One last test, singular with .net, produced the Princeton Review College Rankings.
http://www.collegeportrait.net = http://www.princetonreview.com/college-rankings.aspx?uidbadge=

URLs are becoming less obvious to users via google searches and intuitive hyperlinks (e.g., "College Portrait" proceeding directly to the correct page without a text display of the URL except, in some browsers, a preview of the URL at bottom of window). Add to that the growing practice of using a hyperlink to generate a search or to link to a web site's other pages about the highlighted word. In short, hyperlinking is evolving and is not as predictable as in the past. The problem with the URLs surrounding VSA's College Portrait site is that for a project aiming to promote transparency, there's an awful lot of web sites that may be accessed by anyone trying to type in a URL.

The positive aspects of the project will be highlighted starting tomorrow. (And there are a lot of positive aspects.)

* URL = Uniform Resource Locator, the unique address of a web page on the Internet.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. Email contact: bold[AT]marybold.com. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as legal or professional advice. Bold is the co-author of Reflections: Preparing for your Practicum or Internship, geared to college interns in the child, education, and family fields. She is a consultant and speaker on assessment, distance learning, and technology.

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