U.S. News has redesigned and expanded its online education section to not only develop top degree program ranking lists, but to also build online degree program profiles and advanced online program search functionality.
The number of students enrolled in online degrees is growing rapidly. Those prospective students—a very large proportion of whom are working adults—lack needed information to help them determine the relative strengths and weaknesses between online degree programs that they are considering attending. U.S. News undertook this project in an effort to begin filling this information gap.
U.S. News determined that strong online programs share many of the same academic standards as reputable traditional programs. These include having institutional or program-level accreditation and significant numbers of Ph.D.'s employed by the institution. These programs do well for distance learners when they pair such inputs with online practices that ensure students are truly engaged in their courses and grant them remote access to key program resources and services found in traditional brick-and-mortar environments.
As this is the first time U.S. News has ranked top online education degree programs, we expect that the rankings methodology will evolve and become far more sophisticated over time as online programs are better able to report information that can be used to measure the academic quality of their programs.
Five disciplines at the master's degree level have been ranked: business, computer information technology, education, engineering, and nursing. Additionally, U.S. News ranked online bachelor's degree programs combining data from all undergraduate level disciplines. Within each graduate degree program there are four indicator rankings; within the undergraduate ranking, there are three indicator rankings. These rankings are all at the program degree level.
These are 23 top online degree program indicator rankings that will be published:
1. Online Bachelor's: Student Engagement and Assessment
2. Online Bachelor's: Student Services and Technology
3. Online Bachelor's: Faculty Credentials and Training
4. Online Business: Student Engagement and Accreditation
5. Online Business: Student Services and Technology
6. Online Business: Faculty Credentials and Training
7. Online Business: Admissions Selectivity
8. Online Nursing: Student Engagement and Accreditation
9. Online Nursing: Student Services and Technology
10. Online Nursing: Faculty Credentials and Training
11. Online Nursing: Admissions Selectivity
12. Online Education: Student Engagement and Accreditation
13. Online Education: Student Services and Technology
14. Online Education: Faculty Credentials and Training
15. Online Education: Admissions Selectivity
16. Online Engineering: Student Engagement and Accreditation
17. Online Engineering: Student Services and Technology
18. Online Engineering: Faculty Credentials and Training
19. Online Engineering: Admissions Selectivity
20. Online Computer Information Technology: Student Engagement and Accreditation
21. Online Computer Information Technology: Student Services and Technology
22. Online Computer Information Technology: Faculty Credentials and Training
23. Online Computer Information Technology: Admissions Selectivity
There will be no numeric rankings on overall program quality this inaugural year. Instead, U.S. News created non-numerical honor roll lists of online programs. There will be one honor roll list for each of the six surveyed areas (with the exception of master's in computer information technology). Each list includes programs that performed well across a series of the numeric indicator rankings listed above. Detailed methodology explanations of the indicator rankings—which are based solely on statistical data gathered directly from each program—and the honor roll lists will be announced January 10.