Ball State online programs earned high rankings in the U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 “Best Online Programs.”
This year, the master's of business program ranked 12th, and the graduate nursing program landed in 13th nationally. Additionally, the graduate education program ranked 16th and the bachelor’s degree program took the 36th spot.
"Ball State has been very strategic about serving those learners who need a different experience than the main campus,” marketing and communications director of online and distance education Nancy Prater said.
Over 70 completely online programs at Ball State serve about 5,000 off-campus students, Prater said, and programs include undergraduate certificates, bachelor’s degrees and doctoral programs.
The secret to success, Prater added, comes down to the methodology behind the "work and the provision" of great faculty support.
This year the master's of business program ranked 12th. The graduate nursing program 13th. The graduate education program 16th. The bachelor’s degree program 36th.
Through the Integrated Learning Institute, also known as iLearn, Ball State students, faculty and administrators coordinate all aspects of online education. Eight instructional designers work one-on-one with professors to understand their curricula and then perform research to help turn education that normally happens face-to-face into an effective online format.
The cost of online tuition per credit hour is the same for on-campus students, but online students are not charged the recreation center or health center fees.
Most of the student population taking classes online consists of working adults, and 98 percent of time, those in the program are seeking advancement or looking to change careers., Prater said. Although there are currently more graduate students than undergraduate students enrolled, numbers for both are growing.
"Ball State is not marketing toward undergraduate individuals because we would rather see students have that transitional experience to adulthood,” she said. “But just because you are 18 does not mean you do not have adult responsibilities.”
For students like Kenna Lyons, Ball State's online program was what she needed to balance life as a mom and expectations as a student.
Lyons was accepted to the university her senior year of high school, but she had to change her plans and move to California with her boyfriend — who's in the marines — when she learned she was pregnant.
“I really thought that I had lost all opportunity,” Lyons said. “I
considered IUPUI, but I thought, 'oh my gosh, I will have to travel back
and forth to the campus,' and that was going to be a struggle because I
work full time in a kindergarten classroom.”
After her family moved back to Indiana, Lyons learned about Ball State’s online program options. Immediately, she said, she took advantage of the opportunity and applied.
“I had always felt like the older you get, the harder it is to get back into it,” Lyons said. “Even now, I know it will be a challenge for me, but I am determined to make it happen."
After living in California and being around "booming start-up businesses," Lyons said she was inspired to get a bachelor's degree in business and now hopes to open a place of her own.
The U.S. News and World Report uses information provided by universities to review and rank programs. Records come from the office of institutional effectiveness, financial aid, iLearn and the different departments offering online classes. Faculty credentials, whether they are or are not tenured, and the number of years they have been teaching are also considered. The exclusivity of the program also plays into the ranking determination.