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Earning a degree online

Today, students have more options than ever when it comes to pursuing higher education. The rise of online degrees in particular has opened new doors for those previously unable to earn a degree through traditional means. But how do these online degree programs stack up to their on-campus counterparts? And what options are available to online students today? Find the answer to these and more frequently asked questions below.

  1. Can I get a bachelor's degree online?
  2. Can I get a master's degree online?
  3. Can I complete my degree online?
  4. Is an online degree as good as a traditional degree?
  5. Are online degrees reputable?
  6. Are online graduate degrees respected?

Can I get a bachelor's degree online?

Not long ago, bachelor's degrees -- and any other degree, for that matter -- had to be earned through brick-and-mortar institutions. This often meant students had to put their lives on hold while they attended school every day. Today, online bachelor's degree programs have opened the door to higher education for those who have other obligations, such as a family or full-time work.

Online degrees are becoming a popular option

Many years ago, online degrees were offered primarily through for-profit institutions, and those degrees might not have been of the highest quality. Today, private not-for-profit schools and public schools offer online degree programs at a rate that far surpasses that of for-profit schools, according to the 2013 Survey of Online Learning Report from the Online Learning Consortium. The number of online offerings, as well as the number of students who enroll in them, has increased steadily since the first Consortium report issued in 2002.

Though the master's, associate, and specialty degrees are still the most common among online colleges, numerous reputable schools offer online bachelor's degree programs. According to a 2012 report on online education by EducationDynamics, 75 percent of all online students are pursuing a degree. Out of those, two-thirds of undergraduate students are pursuing their bachelor's.

Popular majors for online bachelor's degrees

When it comes to online learning, some fields are more in-demand than others. The EducationDynamics report found that one-third of fully online students opt for study in business. Social sciences and health professions are always popular at the bachelor's degree level, and the STEM disciplines -- including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics -- are gaining ground with students.

In many cases, bachelor's degrees can be completed entirely online. However, there are some degree programs that may require hands-on training before a degree is awarded; examples of this include nursing and some engineering fields. Degree programs that have a hands-on requirement can be completed through a hybrid of online courses and classroom instruction, or through online education in addition to internships that give students the real-world experience necessary to complete their degree.

Those who have completed part of a bachelor's degree program in a traditional classroom setting may be able to finish their degree through online means. Online bachelor's degree completion programs offer students an opportunity to pick up their studies where they left off, finally earning the degree they were forced to abandon for other obligations or financial reasons.

Online versus traditional: Which is better?

There has long been debate over which method of learning is best, but in most cases, the answer to that is up to the individual student. Some students need the experience of interacting with others in a classroom, as well as the one-on-one opportunities presented by having a teacher in the same room. But other students learn best when they are working on their own, using online tools to get the information and help they need.

When it comes to quality, courses taken online are comparable to those attended in a classroom, as evidenced by the many major universities now offering online options. For instance, Arizona State University offers an art history bachelor program in both online and traditional formats. The information and intensity are the same, though the time to complete the online program may be shorter than the time necessary for the traditional course.

This illustrates one of the potential benefits of earning a bachelor's degree online: a shorter time period from enrollment to completion. Most online bachelor's degree programs offer accelerated courses, giving students the chance to graduate up to a year earlier than they would if pursuing a degree through a brick-and-mortar setting. In addition, online learning allows for flexible class scheduling, a boon for those who have family or work obligations.

Prominent colleges offer online education

Numerous colleges offer online degrees in a wide variety of subjects. Places like Central Michigan University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Florida, and many more were ranked by U.S. News and World Report as offering the best online bachelor's programs in the U.S. Most of these degrees are entirely online, available to anyone who can meet the admissions requirements of the university, and usually have a cost that is comparable or identical to that of a traditional degree.

Accreditation is an important point to consider when choosing any bachelor's degree program, whether online or on campus. Accreditation means that a college or program has been studied by an independent body and found to meet the criteria of a high-quality education. By sticking with accredited programs, students can be sure to avoid "diploma mills" or other pitfalls that can undermine the online educational experience.

Can I get a master's degree online?

Master's degrees are often sought after by those who are already deep into the workforce and want to expand their employment horizons. Fortunately, there are numerous master's degree programs available online for those who don't have the time to sit in a traditional classroom. Here's what students need to know about earning their master's online.

Why choose an online master's degree program?

Online learning is booming across all degree levels. The master's degree is one of the most popular, especially among those who already have an established career. A 2012 study by EducationDynamics found that 90 percent of all students who pursue online degrees do so because of reasons related to their career; 46 percent plan to enhance or advance their current career, 12 percent want to stay up-to-date in their field, and five percent need the education in order to meet new licensing or credential requirements. The study also found that when someone chooses to go back to school and earn an online degree, 33 percent of them do it in order to qualify for a raise or promotion.

One of the concerns about pursuing a master's online is the question of whether the degree is strong enough to compete against those from brick-and-mortar schools. This fear stems from the fact that in the beginning, many online degrees were offered through for-profit schools that might not have been of the highest quality. Today, the quality of for-profit schools has improved dramatically, thanks in part to competition from not-for-profit and public schools getting into the online education game. Today, two-thirds of all students enrolled in online courses attend not-for-profit institutions.

Popular fields for master's degrees

According to a 2014 report from the Online Learning Consortium, master's degrees are second only to associate degrees in terms of how many students pursue them online. Master's degrees are just as common as specialized degrees and much more common than bachelor's or doctoral degrees. Students who choose the master's degree typically pursue a business field, followed closely by education, according to EducationDynamics. Other popular online master's degree programs include those in engineering, information tech, nursing, and STEM fields.

In most cases, the master's degree can be completed entirely online. Since most students have already fulfilled any hands-on or internship requirements during their pursuit of the bachelor's degree, master's degrees are often filled with courses that can be completed through online means. In fact, online master's degrees are usually designed to cater to the working professional, so programs can typically be completed at a student's own pace.

Advantages to pursuing your degree online

There are numerous reasons why students choose to study online, and many arguments for the online master's degree in particular. Online master's programs have been offered by major universities for many years, and the degree earned is generally of the same quality as one earned in a classroom setting. The U.S. News and World Report list of the best online graduate programs offers up some very familiar names: Columbia University, Indiana University, Virginia Tech, University of California, and Arizona State University, just to call out a few. These colleges are well-versed in online master's degree programs, and their degrees conferred in this manner hold the same weight as those issued to students in a brick-and-mortar setting.

Flexible scheduling is another good reason to pursue a master's degree online. Many master's programs are tailored to working professionals, so students can learn at their own pace and complete assignments on their own time. Speaking of time, many students earn their master's degrees online in less time than it would have taken in a traditional classroom -- another benefit for those who want to move ahead quickly in their education or career.

How to find the best online education

As with any college decision, there are numerous factors to consider. One of the most important points is accreditation. Accreditation is awarded by an independent body that has researched the school or program and found that they meet the highest standards of a rigorous, quality education. Accreditation ensures that the program, whether online or in a classroom, will result in a degree that will be recognized for that high quality. To learn more about accreditation, visit The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

One of the problems with online education in the past was "diploma mills," or schools that offered a degree very quickly for a minimum amount of work. Often, these degrees were not accredited, leading many students to find that their degree, once earned, wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. By sticking only to colleges that have earned accreditation, students can avoid such unfortunate situations.

Online master's degree programs require students to meet the same standards that are required for those attending the school at a campus location; these include a minimum grade point average, minimum scores on entrance exams, and the like. In most cases, the cost of an online master's degree is comparable to that of in-person tuition.

Students interested in online master's degree programs can learn more through the College Affordability and Transparency Center. This service of the U.S. Department of Education offers clear information about tuition and other costs at for-profit, private not-for-profit, and public institutions across the United States. More detailed information about financial aid, enrollment, and more can be found through the admissions office of chosen schools.

Can I complete my degree online?

Not everyone who starts on the path toward a college degree is able to finish. Fortunately, a growing number of colleges and universities now offer online bachelor's degree completion programs in a wide range of subjects of study. These programs offer immeasurable value to students, since they essentially allow them to pick up where they left off and forge ahead in pursuit of their degree. And since online courses can be completed at any time and place, they are often the most convenient way for students to get back on track as quickly as possible.

How do online degree completion programs work?

Online degree completion programs act as a bridge between a student's first college experience and their long-term educational goals. Typically, these programs cater to students who have some college credit or an associate degree, and offer curriculum that is specifically-tailored to provide a continuum of educational offerings in a specific field. The following facts can help explain what online degree completion programs are and how they work:

  • Most online degree completion programs are geared toward students who want to earn a bachelor's degree. However, certain schools, such as Indiana University East, also offer completion programs that result in a graduate degree.
  • Entry requirements vary by school. However, most online degree completion programs require a certain number of transferable credits in order to qualify for enrollment. For example, the University of Washington's Integrated Social Science degree completion program requires students to have at least 75 transferable quarter credits as a minimum requirement for admission.
  • Some schools may actually require students to have an associate's degree in a related field to qualify for a bachelor's completion program. A good example is the University of Florida's Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Cell Science completion program, which requires a two-year degree at minimum for consideration.
  • Most online degree completion programs take at least two-years of full time study. However, programs do vary and some even give students the option to attend part-time.
  • Some online schools may let students move quickly through their program by proving their competence in the subject matter. This is often accomplished by taking and passing a sequence of tests in order to transition to the next segment or course. This can save students a considerable amount of time since they can "test out" of subjects they know well.

Which schools offer online degree completion programs?

Most schools offer at least one type of degree completion program, although the details of such programs vary. The following schools offer robust online degree completion programs with options to fit nearly anyone's educational goals:

Indiana University East offers a wide range of degree completion programs that can be completed entirely online. Entry requirements vary, but most require students to have at least 60 semester hours of transferable college credit with a GPA of 2.0 or above, or an associate degree at the community college level. Students can choose from the following programs:

  • Business Administration
  • English, Technical and Professional Writing
  • Communication Studies
  • General Studies
  • Criminal Justice
  • Mathematics
  • Natural Science and Mathematics
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • RN to BSN

The University of Florida also offers several online bachelor's degree completion programs through their distance learning center. Students who already have an associate degree at the community college level may apply to complete their degree in the following subjects:

  • Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • Digital Arts and Sciences
  • Fire and Emergency Services
  • Microbiology and Cell Science

What are the benefits of online learning?

A growing body of research indicates that Americans' trust in online education has grown steadily since it became popular over a decade ago. In fact, a Gallup poll released earlier this year shows that 37 percent of Americans agree that online colleges and universities offer high-quality instruction. Furthermore, according to recent enrollment data, as many as 33.5 percent of all college students were enrolled in at least one online course in 2012.

With so many benefits, it's not hard to see why many students choose to complete their degree online. Here are a few of the most common reasons students choose this route:

  • Most online degree completion programs can be completed anywhere with an internet connection. This makes an online education an excellent option for students who are on-the-go or need to complete assignments at various times throughout the day.
  • Students who wish to continue working full time can often complete their degree online during the evening or on weekends.
  • Online programs typically cost less than their on-campus equivalent, although that is not always the case. The cost savings can usually be attributed to the lack of a physical location for classes and the fact that online instructors can often teach hundreds of students at once.

How do I transfer to an online bachelor's degree completion program?

How your credits will be counted varies from school to school. However, there are a few steps you can take to ensure the smoothest transition possible. First, make sure to get a copy of your most recent college transcript with details on which courses you completed and your current or most recent GPA. Second, contact your transfer school to inquire about specific requirements for transfer credits. Ask questions that pertain to your situation. For example, do they accept transfer credits from community college?

Schools typically evaluate transfer credits on a case-by-case basis, giving preference to credits earned at a commonly-known institution. If a similar course is offered through your transfer school, they may offer to count your credit as credit in their own comparable course. If not, be prepared to supply the school with information on your courses, including the syllabi. The school may be able to offer credit after thoroughly researching the program you've completed and mapping it to a comparable course they offer.

Online bachelor's degree completion programs are an excellent option for students who began their college career with good intentions but had to stop due to work, family responsibilities, or life in general. And, no matter how long it's been, it's never too late to continue working toward a college degree. Students who want to learn more about online bachelor's degree completion programs can research online schools in their area or check out the U.S. Department of Education College Affordability and Transparency Center to see how different schools stack up when it comes to college costs.

Is an online degree as good as a traditional degree?

Just as is the case with campus-based degrees, the value of an online education depends on the reputation of the school, the quality of its instructors, and whether it has been granted accreditation. In fact, many online degrees are nearly identical to their campus-based counterparts in terms of rigor and curriculum, but simply delivered in a different manner. In many cases, institutions are now conferring the exact same or very similar degree to students, whether they have completed their learning online or on campus.

Advantages to online learning

Many campus-based programs and online degrees are similar in content, requiring the same number of credit hours and completion of the same curriculum. The only difference between the two is their delivery. Whereas traditional degree programs require students to commute to campus for classes, online learning gives students the opportunity to engage with one another through discussion boards, chat rooms, videoconferencing, and other virtual means that mimic student-teacher and student-student interaction in the classroom. "I believe that an online education integrates the best of all worlds with regards to education and employability," says Montgomery Beyer, an online instructor.

Unlike campus-based classes, which typically run 45 to 90 minutes in length depending on the course, discussion on a topic can continue much longer through online means. Therefore, it may come as no surprise that some students prefer this method of learning, and that 32 percent of all students have taken at least one online class, according to the report "Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States."

Online learning also provides other obvious advantages. Students can work full or part time, giving them the opportunity to earn an income to help pay for their degree or other life expenses while advancing their education. The flexibility of an online program also gives them the ability to complete assignments in the evening, on weekends, or even during a lunch break, opportunities typically not available to students participating in campus-based, daytime instruction.

"I think that there is a growing interest in programs at the undergraduate level because of the flexibility that online programs afford individuals," says La'Kendra Higgs, registrar for Dallas Colleges Online, the "virtual" campus of the Dallas County Community College District. "With already busy lives and competing priorities therein, online programs provide a way for people to enhance their skills, increase their marketability in the evolving job market, and advance their careers."

Students who live far from their local college campus can save money and time by avoiding a commute, the cost of gas, and parking fees. Additional wear and tear on a car is eliminated, and adults who are parents can circumvent costs for childcare. As well, online learning is available at the undergraduate and graduate level in a wide range of subject areas, providing increased access to people interested in advancing their education.

A closer look at online degrees vs. traditional degrees

Sometimes online programs are slightly different than their campus-based counterparts, either in name or number of credits required, but often they are quite similar. Take a look at the three schools offering online and campus-based options listed below:

Degree name

Credits required

Other

Purdue University

Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology

70

Minimum of 2.5-credits in electives required

Purdue University Distance Learning

Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology

70

2-credit elective required

Degree name

Credits required

Other

Penn State University

Bachelor of Science in Crime, Law & Justice

121

3-credit 200-level Research Methods class require

Penn State University Online

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

120

3-credit 200-level Research Methods class require

Degree name

Credits required

Other

Florida University

Bachelor of Science in Psychology

120

3-credit Laboratory Methods in Psychology required

Florida University Online

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

120

3-credit Laboratory Methods in Psychology required

Another option for students to consider is a hybrid program, which allows them to take some classes on campus and others online. For example, at Berkeley College in Clifton, New Jersey, students can combine class formats for the school's Associate of Applied Science in Health Services Administration, taking courses online or at one of seven area campus sites. The choice is up to them. The same is true for other undergraduate programs available at the school, including bachelor's degrees.

Rate of return for online degrees

It has long been suggested that higher education can lead to increased income. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median weekly wage for those with a bachelor's degree is $1,108 -- and $1,329 for those with a master's. That's compared to just $651 for high school grads without a college degree.

And acceptance of online programs is growing among professionals in academia, suggesting that online education can be another route for students seeking potential advanced earnings. The "Changing Course" study shows that 77 percent of academic leaders rated the learning outcomes for online learning as the same or superior to campus-based learning in 2012, up from 57.2 percent in 2002.

Many times, students have questions about the rigor of online programs, but as Montgomery Beyer, who teaches online courses in general management, suggests, students need to work as hard in an online format as in a true classroom to earn top grades. "I can tell you that in conversations with many of my peers, we are all very concerned with academic rigor in the classroom," he says. "I personally hold my students to a very hard line of achievement and participation. I do not give grades. Students earn them."

Accreditation helps to ensure students that a program or school has been thoroughly assessed for its offerings, faculty members, and curriculum. This can be done through a regional institution, a programmatic institution, or both. For example, Purdue University is accredited regionally by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, while both its online and campus-based associate degree programs in veterinary technology are programmatically accredited through the American Veterinary Medical Association. The U.S. Department of Education helps to set standards to assure quality education and any institution can undergo third-party review by an accrediting agency. Often, graduation from an accredited program is important to students seeking specific professional certification or wanting to apply for admission to an upper-level degree program.

Finally, when evaluating whether a particular online program will help lead to a job after graduation, students should ask prospective schools about job placement rates and where new hires have found employment. Some online programs even have job boards or career services to help graduates find employment opportunities.

Even with the amount of shopping, dating, news reporting, and other legitimate activity that takes places online today, the reputation of online degree programs remains a subject of debate. The truth of the matter is that there are online schools operating at all points on the respectability spectrum, and it's imperative that students educate themselves about online degree credibility so they can make informed decisions about their education.

Are online degrees reputable?

Online degrees over the last 10 years

Recent reports by the Online Learning Consortium, formerly the Sloan Consortium, tell the same story that online education statistics have been telling for years: enrollment is on the rise and learning outcomes are improving. Here are a few specifics reported by the Consortium in a 2013 publication, based on data collected by the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board:

  • Online courses saw 6.1 percent enrollment growth in 2012, which translates to more than 400,000 new courses taken.
  • Among 21.3 million postsecondary students in 2013, the study counted 7.1 million online students taking at least one course in the virtual classroom, meaning online students accounted for 33 percent of total enrollment.
  • More than 75 percent of academic leaders polled in 2012 and 2013 believe that online education is important to the long-term strategy of their institution.
  • The percentage of chief academic officers who view online learning outcomes as equivalent or superior to traditional courses rose from 57.2 to 74.1 percent between 2003 and 2013.

Despite all these positive results, some educators remain slow to get on board. A 2012 survey shows that although faculty esteem of online education did increase between 2002 and 2012, it rose by less than five percent.

Respected institutions give respected degrees

A law degree from an Ivy League school typically garners more respect than one from a less prestigious institution, and similar dynamics come into play with the reputation of online degree programs. Employers and college registrars tend to pay more attention to an institution's name than whether a degree was earned online or traditionally.

Here are some of the top online undergraduate programs, according to data compiled by US News and World Report in 2014:

  • Arizona State University
  • Central Michigan University
  • Pace University
  • Penn State University
  • St. John's University
  • University of Florida
  • University of Illinois -- Chicago
  • University of Wisconsin -- Superior

What's more, according to US News rankings, half of the schools above are also listed among the top American public schools for traditional degrees:

  • Penn State University
  • University of Florida
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Wisconsin

Students can also find online schools that are known for their strength in particular subject areas. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, for example, widely known in the transportation and aerospace industries, placed among the top five online bachelor's programs in 2014's US News rankings.

The importance of accreditation

Every once in a while, the term "diploma mill" pops up in the news. It's important for prospective online students to avoid these organizations at all costs, and checking for accreditation is one of the surest ways to do so.

Put simply, accreditation ensures that an institution meets national standards of quality and accountability. All legitimate colleges are accredited by a regional, career-related, or faith-based agency approved by the Council for Higher Education (CHEA).

Dr. Scott C. Hammond, clinical professor of management at Utah State University, offers this warning about dubious online programs, and some advice to students seeking a degree from an accredited institution:

"Phony for-profit schools have associations that they buy into to look like they are accredited. If you really want to know if you are going to a good online school, apply these tests:

  1. Does it have a solid reputation with traditional degree programs?
  2. Are credits transferable to any quality school?
  3. What kinds of jobs have graduates from that program been able to secure?"

It can also be helpful to look up a school's accrediting institution in the CHEA database, or to search for the institution directly at the U.S. Department of Education's Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

Building a reputation: Online degree credibility moving forward

Of course, schools with recognizable and respectable names weren't always the established institutions that they are today. Plenty of online schools are working hard to build a reputation by offering a wider range of subjects, improving their teacher-student ratios, and holding the work of their students and professors to the sort of elevated quality standard that will give their degrees an extra edge on the open market.

Studies show that retention and graduation rates are one area where online schools may have a lot of work to do -- U.S. News reports that some fully online colleges have retention rates of less than 50 percent, which is practically unheard of at traditional universities.

Final thoughts on online education

Retention rates are an important part of a college's credibility, but that's not the only reason they're a valuable statistic. By many accounts, they're also a bellwether of student satisfaction and engagement, which is actually more important to some students than the prestige conferred by their degree after graduation. By doing the right amount of research, students can find a comprehensive and respected online degree that challenges them mentally, advances their career goals, and enriches their lives.

Are online graduate degrees respected?

Employers and academics have varying degrees of familiarity with online master's degrees, which makes for a wide range of ways in which they might be perceived. Those who have first-hand experience with online school, either teaching or attending, typically have a better understanding and fewer negative preconceptions than those whose experience with online learning is largely hearsay.

Advancements in online education

Despite the variety of individual opinions, the fact remains that the general perception of online graduate degrees today is more positive than it was even 10 years ago. The reasons for this are numerous and diverse, but here are a few of the big ones:

  • Advances in videoconferencing software have helped facilitate face-to-face interaction between professors and students during online lectures, counseling sessions, and office hours.
  • More online programs at traditional universities enter the field every year, offering degrees with better name recognition and raising the academic standard for online education.
  • Online degree programs have developed methods for better data security and improved academic dishonesty prevention.

Online schools have also worked to increase student engagement and raise graduation and retention rates for students across disciplines, which are some of the weightier criticisms leveled at distance education programs.

Accreditation means a better reputation

Back when online graduate programs were still establishing themselves on the education market, so-called "diploma mills" made a lot of noise about cheap, easy, and quick "master's degrees" that turned out to be little more than expensive pieces of paper worth less the ink used to print them.

Regional accreditation makes all the difference between a diploma mill and a legitimate college, and today's students have a whole host of legitimate online graduate degrees to choose from. A quick check on the U.S. Department of Education's Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs can help separate the good eggs from the bad.

Are online master's degrees respected?

Bob Hadick, president of recruiting firm Russ Hadick & Associates, provides some perspective on the matter. "For the most part," Hadick says, "companies do not care if an employee has an online degree or not, as long as it came from an accredited university."

In certain fields, online master's degrees have become so commonplace that online instruction is virtually indistinguishable from instruction received on campus. Online Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees are a great example, with more and more aspiring organizational leaders choosing to earn their MBA online while remaining active at work.

Online MBAs have become so well understood by top brass in the business world that legendary businessman Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric and Fortune Magazine's Manager of the 20th Century, has taken on the role of executive chairman at an eponymous online school of management. Welch conducts videoconferences with students, corresponds with them over email, and provides guidance to the authors of the program's curriculum.

Traditional schools offering online degrees

The sheer numbers of graduate enrollment continue to rise, as well, with nearly 30 percent of 2012 graduate students taking at least some of their coursework online. That's more than 866,000 online students enrolled at traditional universities, and a publication released in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Education indicates that enrollment continues to grow rapidly.

It can't be stressed enough that the individual institution's reputation takes great precedence over the online or offline nature of the degree. "If an employee has a degree from a good engineering school like Purdue University," says Hadick," it doesn't' matter whether the degree was online or campus-based. It matters that the school has a good reputation of graduating very good engineers."

U.S. News and World Report releases yearly rankings of graduate programs, both online and on-campus, and the results can be a great place to start the search for a credible master's degree. Here are a few schools that ranked high for both traditional and online MBA and Master of Education (M.Ed.) degrees:

  • Boston University: #8 online MBA; #45 traditional MBA
  • Temple University: #9 online MBA; #48 traditional MBA
  • University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign: #9 online M.Ed.; #26 traditional M.Ed.
  • University of Nebraska - Lincoln: #11 online M.Ed.; #48 traditional M.Ed.

Perhaps the most notable traditional institution that's also had success with online degrees is Pennsylvania State University, commonly known as Penn State, which placed among the top 50 in all four categories listed below:

Penn State Program Rankings
Online MBA 17
Traditional MBA 41
Online M.Ed. 25
Traditional M.Ed. 33

It's important to note, here, that one factor sticks out when analyzing Penn State's success in both the online and traditional realms: experience. The brick-and-mortar university has nearly 160 years of history behind it, and the Penn State World Campus online program was founded in the digitally ancient year of 1998.

Add to those figures the fact that the most prestigious traditional universities in the U.S. are also some of its oldest -- Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Penn are four of the five oldest institutions in the nation -- and it bears assumption that online degree offerings from reputable institutions will only grow in respectability, as long as they continue to operate with an eye toward creating valuable experiences for their students.


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"Online College Students 2012: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences," EducationDynamics, July 2012, http://www.educationdynamics.com/getattachment/Market-Research/White-Papers/Online-College-Students-2012-FINAL-%281%29.PDF.aspx
"Online Degree Completion Programs," Indiana University East, 2014, http://www.iue.edu/online/
"Our History," The Pennsylvania State University, http://www.psu.edu/this-is-penn-state/our-history
Penn State, http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/criminal-justice-bachelors/courses, http://sociology.la.psu.edu/undergraduate/majors/crime-law-and-justice/crime-law-and-justice-b.s
Purdue University, College of Veterinary Medicine, http://www.vet.purdue.edu/vettech/DL/curriculum-overview.php, http://www.vet.purdue.edu/vettech/files/documents/AAS Curriculum.pdf