2.6 million college students are enrolled exclusively in online courses, according the most recent stats from the National Center for Education Statistics.
But not all online courses are made the same, and that’s why US News (in addition to its slew of education rankings) ranks online degree programs. And a Chicago university comes in near the top for 2016.
University of Illinois-Chicago is ranked fourth in the US for its online bachelor degree program. The university offers two degrees, a bachelors in nursing and a bachelors in health information management. UIC is ranked behind Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Worldwide), Pennsylvania State University (World Campus), and Western Kentucky University.
UIC wasn’t the only local university that made US News’ online degree rankings. Here’s a look at how other online degrees from Illinois universities fared:
- Best Online Bachelor Degree Program: American InterContinental University (#20) University of Illinois-Springfield (#20)
- Best Online MBA: Indiana University Kelley (#2)
- Best Online Business Graduate Degree: Indiana University Kelley (#1)
- Best Online Education Graduate Degree: Northern Illinois University (#5), University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (#7), Indiana University (#22)
- Best Online Engineering Graduate Degree: Purdue University (#5), University of Illinois-Chicago (#21)
- Best Online Nursing Graduate Degree: St. Xavier University (#3), Rush University (#11)
So what makes a quality online degree?
Though UIC’s ranking dipped slightly from previous years (last year it was tied for second), Valerie Prater, assistant professor in the online health information management program, said UIC has been able to hold onto a top spot by making sure their program is accredited and building off of non-virtual success.
“The [accreditation] is differentiator for sure,” she said. “The other thing that makes a difference is the faculty…Are there full time faculty? What are their credentials? How long have the programs been around? Is there stability? And we certainly have that–the bachelors program has been on the campus for a long time before we launched it online. So this is not a fly-by-night idea. This is something that has been around for a long time at UIC.”
The online health information management program has only been around since 2012 (the nursing program has been around since 2008), but it has grown significantly in recent years: their online enrollment from five students in 2012 to 54 students this year. Prater pointed out that they rely heavily on learning management system tech tools such as videos, audio, blogs, and discussion boards to keep students connected given they’re not on campus.
“We’re fortunate to have some good technology tools here to give students a lot of ways to engage, and give quality content to students so they’re not just working on their own reading a book,” she said. “We try to give them a lot of ways to engage with faculty, with each other, work on projects.”
US News said their methodology is most based off student engagement, followed by faculty credentials and training, student services, and peer reputation.