Ascending the online ranks

UND climbs to a sterling U.S. News & World Report online bachelor’s program ranking

Renard Bryant

UND student Renard Bryant navigates through the web on his computer. New rankings, released today by U.S. News & World Report, indicate UND’s online program foundation is strong, and will only grow stronger. Photo by Jackie Lorentz/UND Today.

UND is soaring up the ranks in yet another national survey, this time in the realm of online education.

Today, U.S. News & World Report released its annual list of Best Online Programs, which this year ranks UND’s online bachelor’s program offerings as 66 out of nearly 350 ranked schools – a substantial rise from the bottom quarter of ranked schools in 2017 to the top 20 percent in 2018.

The Best Online Bachelor’s Program rankings are based on several factors, including student engagement, student services and technology, faculty credentials and training, and peer reputation.

As laid out in the One UND Strategic Plan Goal No. 3, the University is on a mission to offer more online opportunity to its students. The drive is a reflection of UND’s commitment to leading by action, a pledge that, in September, helped the University join premier institutions like Yale, MIT and Stanford on the U.S. News & World Report’s list of Top 25 Most Innovative Schools.

These U.S. News accolades indicate that UND’s online program foundation is already strong, and will only grow stronger.

“I couldn’t think of a better a way for our Goal No. 3 team to start the new year,” said Jeff Holm, Goal No. 3 project manager and psychology department chair. “This news makes all of the hard work the team has done worth it, and gives us a shot of energy to start our second semester of work. Most importantly, we have a goal now in our sights for next year – we have no doubt that we will make it into the top 25 in the country.”

Lynette Krenelka, director of UND Extended Learning, said UND has worked extremely hard on U.S. News & World Report surveys, which factor into to the rankings.  “UND has a lot to offer students – both on-ground and online,” she said. “We want students to be aware of UND’s quality online programs and help them with one of their most important decisions of their life – investing in their college education.”

UND Online Education

The UND Strategic Plan team in charge of Goal No. 3 – expanding UND’s online program reach – plans to do so through marketing efforts, enhanced support for faculty and more. UND Archival Photo.

Strategic connections

UND also found itself high in other U.S. News categories, including Best Online MBA (#36) and Best Online Bachelors for Veterans (#40) – an achievement that Tom DiLorenzo, UND Provost and captain of Strategic Plan Goal No. 6 (meeting the educational needs of the military/veterans), said proves UND is building on its strengths.

He added that the rankings shows the importance of tying together Goal No. 3 and Goal No. 6 – using the online education landscape to support those who have served or are currently serving our country.

UND took a big step in this regard in December, when it was approved as an Air University Associate to Baccalaureate Cooperative (AU-ABC) partner, offering General Studies as its first online AU-ABC program.

“The individuals at the Grand Forks Air Force Base are so excited about these online opportunities, and they want to be a part of helping to build that,” DiLorenzo said. “We hope we will continue to go up in the online rankings in the future, because we are putting significant resources into it.”

Keeping momentum

The Goal No. 3 team in charge of expanding UND’s online program reach plans to do so through marketing efforts, enhanced support for faculty, and more.

The University is currently examining a relationship with an online program management (OPM) company, in hopes of accelerating its capacity for high-demand program offerings. OPMs serve as partners in delivering educational content, offering support in areas such as market analysis, online program marketing, instructional design and student support. UND would retain control of the academic programs, course content, admissions criteria and financial aid.

“We understand that online higher education is a much more crowded and competitive place today than it was just a few years ago,” Holm said. “Our Goal No. 3 team believes that as long as there is even just one school that is considered to offer better online programs than we do, we will explore every possible option for bettering the online educational experiences we offer to students.”

Holm thanked the faculty, administration and staff who have been involved with online education at UND over the years, but paid special gratitude to the online learners themselves.

“The students have been our greatest advocates and supported us through their enrollment in our programs,” he said. “This U.S. News ranking attests to their faith in our ability to deliver a quality online education.”