The fact that avid learners can find just about any course online is amazing in itself. Perhaps more amazing, the distance-learning landscape continues to evolve as far and as fast as the technology it uses. Colleges and universities across the nation routinely invent new ways to engage, assess and teach students at multiple levels. But which schools are taking the biggest leaps forward – distancing themselves from the pack in either method or mode, or both? AC Online has researched thousands of colleges in the U.S. to answer that very question. Here’s what we found.
Tufts University offers a revolutionary online course called “Simple Robotics” to enrolled and visiting students. In this course, students are loaned the tools necessary to build and program robots at home. Assignments include uploading videos of the robots and sharing projects with their cohort.
Washington University in St. Louis has the unique distinction of offering one of the only top-tier law degrees that can be earned entirely online. Prospective students must pass the same rigorous admissions standards as on-campus law students. However, once they’ve completed the program, they earn an identical diploma.
Wellesley College offers “Introduction to Human Evolution,” a free open-access Anthropology course through EdX that relies on cutting-edge technology to create a virtual excavation. Students are able to examine 3-D fossils and “virtually” visit archeological sites around the world.
With over one hundred online programs offered, University of Florida is committed to online learning, with credited undergraduate and graduate courses, in addition to non-credit professional development classes. In fact, their online business MBA program is ranked #1 in the state. Looking to the future, University of Florida plans on opening the country’s first online-only public university in 2014.
Berklee College of Music offers a twelve-week Jazz Improvisation course with Grammy winning musician, Gary Burton. Using audio recording equipment, students can turn in assignments and gain feedback on their improvisation work via the Internet. This course can be taken for credit or non-credit.
Clarkson College provides many online degrees, and even offers dual degree choices. But, what sets Clarkson apart is the “externships” that the Nursing programs rely on for field experience. With a majority of online students holding employment while enrolled, Clarkson encourages them to complete their externships while they work.
Princeton University boasts a free, open-access class, via Coursera called “Networks: Friends, Money, and Bytes” that explores technology and networking. Structured around twenty commonly asked questions about the internet, this course has a rare added element of involving venture capitalists to judge assignments for potential funding.
The New School in New York City now offers transfer students and those that have let a few years lapse in their educational pursuits, earn a bachelor’s degree online. Through their New School for Public Engagement nontraditional students can even enroll in a combined and accelerated Bachelors-Master’s degree.
Washington State University is leading the way in online education regarding healthy food. Washington offers the nations’ first undergraduate certificate in “Organic Agriculture” in order to prepare students for future employment within the organic food industry.
Michigan State University offers a Master of Science in Packaging degree that can be earned through online classes. The program focuses on topics such as tamper evident packaging, permeability, and shelf life. This course can be completed in approximately three years and does not require a thesis.
Utica College provides enrolled students the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Science in Economic Crime Investigation through their online courses. The only online BS Economic Crime Investigation program in the country, students have a further choice of two concentrations, Financial Investigation or Fraud Prevention and Detection.
Purdue’s “Extended Campus” offers distance learning through a variety of master’s level online programs. Graduate programs include Master of Science in Building Construction Management, Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Master of Science in Industrial Engineering. Purdue even offers dual degrees, in collaboration with Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business to offer a Dual Master of Science in Engineering- Master of Business Administration.
Ferris State University boasts the #1 ranked online Nursing program in the country according to US News and World Report. A public institution, these graduate level programs are 100% online and specialize in Nursing Administration, Nursing Informatics, or Nursing Education.
Daytona State College offers many associate degrees and certificate programs online. But, what sets Daytona State apart is the 2+2 track for students earning an online Bachelor of Science degree. Students can complete an associate of science degree via distance learning, and then continue to baccalaureate degree courses, all via the Internet.
Pace University has been ranked the best Online Bachelors Program in the country by US News & World Report. Through their iPace Degree Completion Program students can gain the same degree online as the on-campus students earn. Pace also provides their online students with a Career Services team to develop interviewing skills and a strong resume.
Yeshiva University now provides students the ability to earn a Master’s degree in Jewish education online. Note that students must have access to an approved Jewish day school or yeshiva to complete student teaching requirements. Yeshiva also offers a thirty weeks long online program for Jewish educators to learn how to teach and design their own online learning environments.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is a not-for-profit accredited graduate school that offers Master’s degrees in Psychology to students earning credits online. The school offers many concentrations including Child and Adolescent, Sport and Exercise, Organizational Leadership, and Gerontology. Note: Applicants must already have a Bachelor’s degree and at least five years of relevant work experience.
Western Governors University is the first exclusively online university to offer an accredited Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT). Using a competency –based approach instead of accumulated credit hours, Western Governors is changing educational formats.
The University of California, Irvine provides many online courses through UC Irvine Extension, their continuing education unit. In fact, more than 40 of Extension’s certificate programs, such as Investor Relations, Medical Product Development, and Personal Financial Planning, are completely online. UC Irvine is dedicated to accessible education, and its director of OpenCourseWare is the current president of the global OpenCourseWare Consortium. The school offers unique classes, such as a course based on AMC’s “The Walking Dead” TV show.
New Jersey Institute of Technology offers many degrees and certificates online, such as Construction Management, Data Mining, and Engineering Leadership. Significant is NJIT’s tuition for these online classes. New Jersey residents can pay in-state tuition, and all other students can avoid out-of-state tuition via the new online tuition pricing.
The University of Tennessee Extension – Department of Family and Consumer Sciences offers a unique online program called “Love Your Money” for students to explore personal finance. Topics include 401k programs, identity theft, and building wealth. Free and open to the public, the University of Tennessee is supporting open access education.
Ohio State University recognizes the importance of flexibility for online students and so their Fisher College of Business offers classes in colored “Belt” certification levels. These tracks allow the student full control over schedule, progress, and on-demand access to all multi-media course content.
Clemson University boasts an eight-week online course titled, “Sustainable Energy Innovation” that asserts it gives students the chance to change the course of history. The assignments are built around the development of students’ sustainable energy solutions.
Southern Methodist University is broadening its educational reach by offering approved enrolled students a chance to participate in live, online courses from other prestigious universities. SMU, a pioneer in this format, is a Charter Affiliate Partner with Semester Online. The classes will be taught via other universities, but are awarded as SMU credits.
University of Georgia has instituted a revolutionary way of transitioning non-traditional students into their collegiate careers. Through their electronic core-curriculum [eCore] students can complete their first two years of coursework via online learning. With transferable credits, low tuition rates, and flexibility, eCore is an innovative educational format.
Syracuse University has been a part of the online education movement from the inception. In fact, their School of Information Studies has been offering online courses for twenty years. The “iSchool” program offers identical degrees as those earned on-campus, and access to the “WISE” consortium, which allows students to take classes from other partner schools.
Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension program offers many online certificate programs for busy professionals. But what makes this program even more unique is a system that allows employers to verify earned certificates. Through the website, employers can confirm certificates by entering a certificate code.
University of Minnesota’s College of Continuing Education recognizes that learning is a lifelong endeavor. To support continuous education, Minnesota offers residents, who are 62 and older, the ability to audit classes free of charge. If the enrolled senior would like to earn credit, tuition is reduced to $10 per credit.
Virginia Tech is a leader in online education, offering a staggering 356 courses online. Just as impressive is the 79 entire programs that can be completed via the Internet. But the most revolutionary element of Virginia Tech’s online format is the “Math Emporium.” Virginia Tech’s largest classroom, where 8,000 students a year complete self-paced online introductory math classes.
Graceland University is dedicated to early education that is exemplified in their ACE program for approved 11th and 12th grade high school students to earn college credit through online classes. In fact, ACE students are given automatic acceptance into Graceland University and up to a 50% discount on tuition.
Harvard University has partnered with EdX to offer free, open-access courses online. One of these groundbreaking programs includes a course called “Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science” where scientists and chefs work together to explore scientific principles that can be examined in the kitchen.
Rutgers University, offering one of the first “iSchool” programs, is continuing to revolutionize online learning. Rutgers Center for Management Development now provides the first ever online “Mini-MBA” program, with unique courses such as “pay-per-click” advertising classes.
University of Vermont is leading the green movement with 100% online Sustainability Training certificate programs. These courses concentrate on sustainability in business settings, and also in Campus Operations.
University of Colorado – Boulder’s Center for the Advanced Engineering and Technology Education (CAETE) offers a pioneering program teaching “Cable-Supported Pedestrian Bridge Design” via the Internet. Providing this type of course to online students, CU is empowering those in developing and rural populations, and teaching them how to build access within their community.
Drexel University offers a variety of undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, and certificate programs through online learning. However, it is Drexel’s Educational Partnerships program that sets it apart from other institutions. Drexel currently works with over 250 corporations, schools, and professional associations to offer their employees and members reduced tuition rates.