U.S. News Starts Collecting Data on Online Bachelor's Degree Programs

To be eligible, a program must offer at least 80 percent of its course content online.

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U.S.News & World Report recently started its first-ever effort to collect detailed data from all online bachelor's degree-level education programs in the United States. We sent surveys to around 1,800 colleges and universities that are regionally accredited by one of the six regional accrediting agencies in the United States for bachelor's level education. The school profile data, such as the technology used in online education, will be based on the current state of each school's online bachelor's degree program. In conjunction, we will give all regionally accredited colleges in the country a chance to say if they will have an online bachelor's degree program during the upcoming 2011-12 academic year. This process will enable us to achieve one of our main goals of the online data collection: to create the first-ever comprehensive list of all colleges currently offering online bachelor's degree programs.

In order to qualify as an online bachelor's degree program, the degree program has to offer at least 80 percent of its program course content online. U.S. News has adopted the industry standard definition (detailed on page 4 of this report) from The Sloan Consortium of what it means to qualify as having an online degree program. This does mean that some online programs on our upcoming bachelor's degree online directory, search engine, and rankings will have limited amounts of on-campus or other types of face-to-face requirements. (In other words, all the programs will not be delivered 100 percent online.)

In addition, all online bachelor's degree programs offered by private, public, and for-profit schools are eligible to participate in the U.S. News survey. This means that our new compilation of online bachelor's degrees will not only include programs at some colleges that are 100 percent online, but will also include those offered by traditional schools that have both online and classroom-based, face-to-face programs.

Many online bachelor's degree programs eligible to complete the survey are degree completion programs geared toward working adult students who have already earned some college credits and want to finish their bachelor's degree. Degree completion programs are an important aspect of online education at the undergraduate level.

For the first time, we are collecting unduplicated counts on students, faculty, and program graduates using a July 1 to June 30 academic year period. The many online degree programs we talked to when developing the surveys said that a one-year time period using unduplicated counts would yield data that would most accurately reflect the annual scope of each of these programs.

For more information about the actual start of the online data collection for the 5 graduate schools (the master's levels in business, computer information technology, education, engineering, and nursing), online program rankings, or the new online education site, please check this blog for updates.

Past posts our about online project include:

U.S. News to Collect Online Education Data

U.S. News Seeks to Fill 3 Gaps in Online Education Data

If your college has any questions about the online bachelor's survey, including which persons at your institution have access to our secure online data collection site, contact OnlineEd-Official@usnews.com.