Ever since the rankings started eight years ago, the U.S. News & World Report has shown the differences in college online programs, which “helps prospective students who are trying to find a quality and meaningful online program,” Nancy Prater said.
More than 20 years ago, Ball State offered a master’s in nursing as its first online program. Now in 2020, Ball State has received recognition in the top 30 in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Online Programs,” which analyzes more than 300 other online programs.
This year’s awards in the category include master’s in curriculum and instruction, master’s in nursing education, masters in educational administration programs and more.
Ball State also ranked in the “Best Online Programs for Veterans” list: 10th in master’s degrees in education programs, 11th in masters degrees in business administration and 22nd in bachelor’s degrees.
Prater, executive director of market development division of online and strategic learning, said graduate programs and other classes aimed at nontraditional students have been the specialty for Ball State’s online learning.
Ball State University has ranked in the top 30 for several online categories in the U.S. News and World Report, which the programs were weighed against more than other schools. Overall, 1,600 programs were assessed to see which colleges offered the best online programs.
Best Online Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction (out of 309 other online programs)
Arizona State University (Phoenix) 1.
Michigan State University (East Lansing, Mich.) 2.
University of Florida (Gainesville, Fla.) 3.
Ball State University (Muncie, Ind.) 4.
University of Virginia (Curry) (Charlottesville, Va.) 4.
Florida State University (Tallahassee, Fla.) 6.
University of Georgia (Athens, Ga.) 7.
Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio) 8.
George Mason University (Fairfax, Va.) 9.
Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas) 9.
Best Online Master’s in Nursing Education Programs (out of 10 other online programs)
Duke University (Durham, N.C.) 1.
Drexel University (Philadelphia) 2.
Duquesne University (Pittsburgh) 3.
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (Indianapolis) 4.
Ball State University (Muncie, Ind.) 5.
East Carolina University (Greenville, N.C.) 5.
Oregon Health and Science University (Portland, Ore.) 5.
Texas Woman’s University (Denton, Texas) 5.
Loyola University New Orleans (New Orleans) 9.
Sacred Heart University (Fairfield, Conn.) 9.
Best Online Master’s in Education Programs for Veterans (out of 37 other online programs)
University of Georgia (Athens, Ga.) 1.
Pennsylvania State University — World Campus (University Park, Pa.) 2.
Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas) 3.
Arizona State University (Phoenix) 4.
Florida State University (Tallahassee, Fla.) 4.
Purdue University (West Lafayette, Ind.) 6.
University of Nebraska (Kearney, Neb.) 6.
George Washington University (Washington, D.C.) 8.
North Carolina State University (Raleigh, N.C.) 8.
Ball State University (Muncie, Ind.) 10.
Best Online Master’s in Educational Administration Programs (out of 309 other online programs)
Ball State University 11.
Best Online Master’s of Business Administration Programs (out of 335 other online programs)
Ball State University (Miller College of Business) 15.
Best Online Master’s of Business Administration Programs for Veterans (out of 80 other online programs)
Ball State University (Miller College of Business) 11.
Best Online Master’s in Special Education Programs (out of 309 other online programs)
Ball State University ranked 16
Best Online Master’s in Nursing Programs (out of 183 other online programs)
Ball State University ranked 17. (Tied with East Carolina University, Oregon Health and Science University, Seton Hall University, University of Alabama and University of Colorado)
Best Online Bachelor’s Programs (out of 353 other online programs)
Ball State University ranked 29. (Tied with Daytona State College, University of Arkansas and University of Massachusetts — Lowell)
Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans (out of 97 other online programs)
Ball State University ranked 22. (Tied with Daytona State College, University of Arkansas and University of Massachusetts — Lowell)
Best Online Master’s in Education Programs (out of 309 other online programs)
Ball State University ranked 35. (Tied with Georgia State University College of Education and Human Development, University of Colorado — Colorado Springs, University of Massachusetts — Boston, University of Mississippi, University of Northern Colorado, University of Texas — Arlington)
“Ball State was an early entry to online education, and a lot of that was to meet the needs of those working adults who really want a career advancement, maybe career changes,” Prater said. “Now most of those students are … the students who started a college degree and maybe didn’t finish.”
She added that this report is more in-depth as opposed to other ranking lists. The report will send detailed surveys to colleges in August with anywhere from 250 to 280 questions asking about how each college is delivering its courses.
“I always feel confident that this really is a pretty accurate gauge, and how we compare with others,” Prater said. “I would also say that very small changes can take you from fourth to eighth.”
Senior Michaela Baker, business administration major, said she likes online classes because it allows for a flexible school schedule. Baker has taken a mix of face-to-face and online classes in the past two years. Last semester she took all of her classes online because she wanted to work full-time.
“I like not being committed to a schedule,” she said. “If I have class at 12:30 [p.m.] on Tuesday/Thursday, then I obviously can’t go to work at that time if I need to or if I have appointments … so I like just being able to have that availability.”
She said she’s taken online classes from both Ivy Tech and Ball State.
“I think with Ball State’s classes you do learn a little bit more information because you’re required to do more work for the class,” Baker said. “I think, at the end of it, you end up coming out with more knowledge than you would have.”
Besides switching from Blackboard to Canvas, Baker said she hasn’t noticed a lot of change in how classes are run in the past two years. She said she thinks this is because each class varies with the professor and the program.
“For example, my residential property classes a lot of times are due on Monday at 9 a.m. whereas a lot of my other normal classes are just due Sunday at 12 a.m.,” she said.Keeping students updated on due dates and changes can also be difficult because communication like announcements can be missed easily, Baker said.
“I think that’s the tricky thing with online things too,” she said. “You have to pay really close attention to what’s going on in the announcements and things like that because, if not, it’s just so easy to miss things.”
Prater said Ball State’s desire to make quality classes that are meaningful is what has made it a leader among online programs in the U.S.
“Over and over again our students will tell us that, what I learned in my class the night before, I'm using the next day in my workplace,” Prater said. “They're getting that experience; they're passing that on to others and you can't pay for that – you have to work for it.”
Prater said it’s important that all of Ball State’s online classes have weekly assignments which they can do within a certain time frame.
“You might have something due Sunday night, but you know early on when it is you can fit that in,” she said. “Maybe you'll have it all wrapped up by Friday because the weekend’s too busy for you.”
She added how important flexibility is for nontraditional students balancing family and work alongside classes. At this point in someone’s life, she said, education comes last on the priority list.
“A sick kid (or) a heavy duty deadline at their workplace will mean they have to put education third, so having that flexibility is incredibly important for them to be able to manage all those balls,” Prater said.
Prater said Ball State is proud of its success but plans to use these ranks as fuel for the future.
“I think we're, proud we're humbled, but we're also just really thinking about the future,” Prater said. “What's great today may not be great in the future – someone's constantly evolving and we've got to stay on top of it.”
Contact Bailey Cline with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BaileyCline.