The U.S. Open Government National Action Plans promote the Open Government Partnership’s principles of transparency, facilitating access to government services for the public, and citizen engagement. 18F has worked with several agencies to advance the these goals through projects like DATA Act, eRegulations, USEITI, College Scorecard, and the Public Participation Playbook.
Reliable information for big decisions
Higher education may be the single most important investment students can make in their futures, but finding reliable information about affordability and value can be difficult. The Department of Education wanted to bring together data from several agencies to help students make informed choices about what school to attend.
The Department of Education had worked with the U.S. Digital Service and other agencies to gather the data, but they needed help getting it online and making it usable.
Interactive and open data is usable data
Before we wrote any code, we started with research about how students, parents, and guidance counselors use data and how frustrating it is to find unreliable numbers. We used that research to create a cardboard prototype, then took that prototype to students to see if we were on the right track.
Ultimately, we decided to build several tools that would help get the data to the public:
- An API (application program interface) to help journalists, nonprofits, and private organizations access previously unreleased data from thousands of institutions.
- An interactive website where students can browse data about affordability, graduation rates, and how much students earn after graduation.
- A data site that supports academics, journalists, and researchers who are exploring college outcomes.
College Scorecard has become a go-to resource for students and provided the data for many other tools that guide students in their decision-making process — even Google has integrated the data into search results.
The process of building College Scorecard also had a profound effect on the Department of Education: their in-house digital service team has extended these iterative development and user-centered design techniques to other projects.
Related blog posts
Holly Allen came to 18F from Dreamworks Animation and the Public Library of Science. She joined 18F in pursuit of a way "to use technology to address big societal problems." After hearing about the U.S. Digital Service and 18F from US Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith, she was inspired to join.
How we worked with the Department of Education on new steps to help students, parents and advisers make better college choices, including a new College Scorecard, comprehensive and updated data on higher education institutions, and customized tools using this new data.