by Colton Campbell

Students who Go West by going online receive a top-ranked education, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 Best Online Programs rankings released this week.

Student studying on a laptop while taking an online classThe rankings took into account schools’ engagement, faculty credentials and training, expert opinion, student excellence, and services and technologies. Nearly 300 schools were ranked in an effort to help students compare programs.

The University of West Georgia earned coveted spots on the publication’s lists of Best Online Programs, Best Online MBA, Best Online Computer Information Technology graduate degree, Best Online Education graduate degree and Best Online Nursing graduate degree.

“We are pleased to consistently earn U.S. News & World Report recognition in the annual ranking of online programs,” said Dr. Micheal Crafton, provost and vice president of academic affairs at UWG. “To be ranked across multiple programs is a credit to the efforts put forth by the student support staff, instructional design team and faculty, who are the keys to making UWG a national leader in online education.”

Online graduate programs performed particularly well in the rankings. UWG’s online master’s degree in applied computer science was ranked No. 41 in the nation, with the university’s doctoral degree in nursing education coming in at No. 53; online master’s degree in business administration ranking No. 90; and College of Education degrees listed at No. 132.

“Our online offerings attract working professionals who are looking for the flexibility and access to faculty expertise we provide, combined with degree programs that have strong career outcomes associated with them,” said Dr. Denise Overfield, who serves as the dean of UWG’s Graduate School. “There’s a growing awareness that even as we grow in the number of offerings, the graduate experience is very personal, even when it’s online.”

Overfield credited UWG’s exceptional online faculty for driving more students online.

“Our students want to pursue their passions in a way that meets their needs, and learning online is a great fit for that,” Overfield said. “Our faculty members are experienced with teaching online, and they remain engaged – and engaging. They don’t see online education as the runner-up to face-to-face instruction. Rather, our faculty members take advantage of all the benefits technology can bring to a course, while also getting to know their students and caring about their educational journeys.”

To determine this year’s rankings, U.S. News looked at the following:

• Engagement: Quality online graduate education and bachelor’s programs promote participation in courses, allowing students opportunities to readily interact with their instructors and classmates, as is possible in a campus-based setting. In turn, instructors are not only accessible and responsive, but they are also tasked with helping to create an experience rewarding enough that students stay enrolled and complete their degrees in a reasonable amount of time.

• Services and Technology: Programs that incorporate diverse online learning technologies allow greater flexibility for students to take classes from a distance. Outside of classes, strong support structures provide learning assistance, career guidance and financial aid resources commensurate with quality campus-based programs.

• Student Excellence: Students entering with proven aptitudes, ambitions and accomplishments are better equipped to handle the demands of rigorous coursework. Furthermore, online degrees that schools award judiciously will have greater legitimacy in the job market.

• Faculty Credentials and Training: Strong online programs employ instructors with academic credentials that mirror those of instructors for campus-based programs, and they have the resources to train these instructors on how to teach distance learners.

• Expert Opinion: A survey of high-ranking academic officials helps account for intangible factors affecting program quality that are not captured by statistics. Also, degrees from programs that are well respected by academics may be held in higher regard among employers.

“Online programs can offer a flexible learning environment for students who have to balance classes with working a full-time job, caring for their family or other responsibilities,” said Anita Narayan, U.S. News managing editor of education, according to the press release.

Photography by Steven Broome

Posted on Jan. 16, 2019