Back in July, we posted that U.S. News and World Report plans to introduce rankings for online colleges. Well that time is almost here. On January 10th, 2012, U.S News will launch their inaugural rankings exclusively on usnews.com, using data compiled from all online bachelor’s degree programs and five master’s level education programs in the United States. The 5 master’s programs that will be ranked are:
- Computer Information Technology
The number of students enrolled in online degree programs is increasing, and quickly. According to one study, “Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011,” it is reported that more than 6.1 million students took at least one online class during fall 2010. 10.1 percent more than the previous year.
Information regarding the quality of online education programs is lacking. Currently, prospective students don’t have the information that would aid them in determining the strengths and weaknesses of online degree programs they are considering enrolling in. U.S. News reported that they took on this project to begin filling this information gap.
Since this is the first time U.S. News has attempted to rank online education degree programs, it should be expected that the rankings methodology will fluctuate and become more sophisticated as online programs are better able to keep record of information that will be useful in evaluating the academic quality of their programs.
Besides the initial rankings, U.S. News plans to expand their directory of online programs with more detailed information and searchable data. For the past three decades, U.S. News has published rankings for traditional brick and mortar institutions and they’re aiming to bring the same quality and style of rankings to online programs. Despite controversy over the credibility of ranking systems, their popularity among students considering college cannot be ignored. Any information available to help students make an informed decision can only be seen as a positive. Don’t forget to check U.S. News on January 10th for the first-ever rankings. Feel free to share your thoughts below.