WKU online programs recognized in annual ranking

Andrew Critchelow

When it comes to distance learning, WKU offers some of the best online programs in the country, according to a new ranking by the U.S. News and World Report. In the media company’s annual ranking of the best online degree programs, WKU was ranked as one of the top schools in the country in five different areas.

“It’s very rewarding to see all the hard work and commitment of so many faculty and departments across campus culminate in a national ranking,” Cindy Troutman, Program Manager at WKU Online said. “We consider it an honor to be recognized among the top schools in the country, and will continue to strive to work together to make online learning a great experience for all involved.”

WKU was ranked fifth in the country in the Best Online Bachelor Degree Programs category, 15th in the Best Online Criminal Justice Graduate Programs category, 21st in the Best Online Nursing Degree category, 35th in the Best Online Graduate Education Programs category and 61st in the Best Online MBA Programs category.

The U.S. News and World Report calculated these ranking based on categories including faculty credentials and training, student services and technology, student engagement and peer reputation.

Beth Laves, Associate Vice President of Division of Extended Learning and Outreach, said  she largely credits the success of WKU’s online programs to those who have made them possible over the years.

“From my perspective, WKU online programs stand out because of the outstanding faculty who develop and teach these programs,” Laves said. “Their passion and interaction with students in these programs help students connect to our university and to the content.”

WKU’s online programs include several departments including the Academic Technology and the IT Help Desk, Library Services, WKU Online, Distance Learning, the Online Writing Center and Academic Advising. Offering its first online courses in 1998, WKU now offers 90 online degrees and certificates.

“The majority of today’s students can benefit from a more flexible schedule,” Troutman said. “Most students work either part-time or full-time. Online classes allow increased flexibility for students of traditional-age who have increased responsibility, while online degree programs benefit adult learners who work full-time and have other obligations.”

According to a 2015 survey by Babson Survey Research Group, 5.8 million students in the U.S. took online courses in the fall of 2014. At the time, that number added up to over one-quarter of the total college student population in the country. At WKU, there were 7,400 students taking at least one online course in the fall of 2016, with about 2,400 of those students taking only online courses.

“Without the flexibility of online learning, going back to school may not be an option for some,” Troutman said. “It’s important for students to be reasonably comfortable with technology and have a willingness to ask for help, if needed.”

In addition to the recognition from U.S. News and World Report, WKU’s online program has also been ranked 1st in CollegeChoice.net’s “50 Best Online Colleges for 2016-2017” list, 17th in the 2016 “Best for Vets 4-Year College” list by the Military Times Edge magazine and 14th in the “Top 30 Best Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Degrees 2017” list by The Best Master’s Degrees.

Despite these recognitions, Troutman said her main focus is helping students succeed in learning online.

“Our belief is that we should first and foremost focus on our students, any recognition that comes as a result of that is a nice bonus,” Troutman said.

Reporter Andrew Critchelow can be reached at 270-745-6288 and [email protected].