Online College Ranking

Written by Seth Cotterell
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Online college ranking is an interesting issue for close examination. At question are the processes used in compiling rankings and the validity of those rankings. Ranking any school is a difficult task and online college ranking presents its own unique set of considerations. Some of the issues in question are specific to online colleges, others are applicable to ranking any educational institution.

Problematic Online College Ranking

The first question we've got to address in compiling a ranking is how exactly do you rank the quality of a school? Is faculty the main thing that determines quality of education? How then do you rate a faculty member? Do you use student satisfaction surveys? Do you go by the number of publications or the amount of research produced? How about student-teacher interaction? In this last question, you can see how it becomes even more difficult to rank online colleges. Many have outstanding faculty but by the very nature of an online program, it is difficult to quantify and rank this criteria. Can you compare online schools only with other online schools or can they be compared to traditional colleges as well?

Of course, quality of faculty is going to be a major component of the computation, but what other factors are considered in an online college ranking? Affordability should be consideration, as well as degree programs offered. Highly ranked schools will most likely be the ones that offer the most degrees and the highest level of degree programs. Can you compare an online school that confers bachelors degrees with one that awards Ph.D.s in other programs?

I hope you are beginning to understand some of the difficulty inherent in any online college ranking system. The problem is that we Americans are obsessed with ranking things. We love highly structured numbered lists where one thing is clearly superior to another. This is impossible to do with certainty, however, because there are just too many things to consider. I suggest less focus on rank and more research on schools that sound interesting to you. There are so many extremely high quality online colleges in this country, you're sure to find one where you will thrive.

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