Answering More Questions About U.S. News's Online Education Surveys

Here's a second set of FAQs about U.S. News's surveys and data collection for our online ed rankings.

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As noted previously in this blog, U.S. News is in the midst of collecting data for a revamped online education section. As promised in last week's entry, below are answers to more commonly asked questions about completing U.S. News's online degree surveys:

Q: My school is unable to provide statistical data for some of the survey questions. Should it still submit surveys?

A: Yes. We recognize that most schools will not complete every cell in every question, especially this first year. The methodology for calculating rankings will depend on the robustness of data collected, meaning that the questions that schools respond to most frequently are the ones most likely to be used as ranking variables. A school that does not provide enough data to be ranked at all will still have a profile of its online degree program included in U.S. News's free searchable directory.

Q: If my school's online bachelor's degree program enrolls mostly degree completion students, should it still complete the survey?

A: Yes. We know that the majority of online bachelor's degree programs are primarily providing continuing education.

Q: My school operates a "blended" program that integrates online and face-to-face students. Should I still complete the survey?

A: Yes. Prospective students are sometimes in the market for both blended and fully online programs and may want to review both types of programs together.

Q: My blended program does not distinguish online and face-to-face students on an individual student level. How can it report data just on online students?

A: Provide honest estimates. For example, in some cases a truly blended program may infer that some measures of central tendency (e.g. mean, median, mode) for its entire student body are applicable to its subset of online students. In contrast, responses to questions asking for counts—such as total online student enrollment or total admitted online applicants—must be estimated by some other approach, possibly by using course registration data to determine what percentage of students are taking courses online, then multiplying this percentage by total enrollment.

Q: What is online faculty?

A: This is all instructors who taught one online course in the program during the specified time. If a blended program does not distinguish faculty members as being online or face-to-face on an individual level, it should provide best estimates of its total online faculty counts. For example, this could be done by multiplying the total number of all program faculty by the percentage of credit-granting classes in the program that are online accessible.