DSU online programs ranked 4th
By ELISA SAND, Staff Reporter
Dakota State University's distance courses were ranked fourth best among other universities in the nation, according to a study by SR Education Group.|
The 2013 Guide to Online Schools, which includes a college ranking. That list placed DSU No. 4 and South Dakota State University No. 2.
Universities are ranked primarily on student feedback about the courses. Other metrics used include retention rate, tuition repayment rate and tuition costs. DSU is listed with a 72 percent repayment rate and a 64 percent retention rate. SDSU is listed with a 76 percent repayment rate and 77 percent retention.
SR Education Group released the 2013 list, presenting the online universities in four categories -- an overall category; a ranking for associate and certificate programs; a ranking for non-profit institutions; and a ranking specifically for the for-profit institutions.
SDSU and DSU appeared on both the overall list and the non-profit ranking. SDSU ranked No. 2 on both lists. DSU dropped to No. 5 on the non-profit list.
In reviewing the college rankings released by SR Education Group for the past few years, this is the first time DSU or SDSU has appeared on the list.
Peg O'Brien, director of extended programs at DSU, said the recognition is exciting.
"I'm very proud and happy. We're ranked up there with some pretty good universities and schools," she said. "For a school of our size, I'm very proud and happy."
DSU's current enrollment is 3,110, which includes students enrolled in DSU programs at the university centers, 100 percent distance students and on-campus students. Of those students, she said, 61 percent of the undergraduate students and 91 percent of the graduate students take at least one online course. DSU offers multiple programs online from certificates, minors and associate degrees to bachelor and graduate programs. According to a recent distance education report released by the South Dakota Board of Regents, DSU offers 25 programs via distance. SDSU offers 29 and the University of South Dakota offers 37. USD leaps ahead of SDSU and DSU, offering six options for its graduate program in administrative studies and seven options for its educational administration program.
According to O'Brien, DSU has 111 undergraduate distance courses available to students this semester and offered a comparable number of courses last semester. Another 62 distance courses are offered to graduate students.
This number is in addition to the 352 sections available on campus.
Across the state, the number of distance courses offered to students continues to grow. According to the Regents' report, 1,522 unique courses were offered during the 2012 fiscal year, which is up from 836 courses in the 2008 fiscal year.
Regents Executive Director Jack Warner said that as a whole, the state universities are currently offering 2,300 courses annually.
Warner said the increasing number of distance courses helps with a number of initiatives within the university system. Not only do distance courses help adults further their education in a more convenient format, they also allow students who have an incomplete degree take courses necessary to complete their degree.
"It also extends the scope of our offerings nationwide and worldwide," Warner said.
Additionally, Warner said that distance courses are becoming more popular with on-campus students.
The Regents' study shows that 71 percent of the distance students are from South Dakota, but the remaining 29 percent are scattered across the country. O'Brien said DSU currently has international students enrolled in distance courses, along with military personnel stationed overseas.
"It's not just South Dakota and the U.S.," O'Brien said. "It is a huge endeavor, and I'm very excited about it."
Both O'Brien and Warner said the rankings will help bring recognition to the programs available.
"It's always good news," Warner said. "People are attracted to quality programs and quality delivery."
"I think anyone with a quality program is providing a great service to a huge population that wouldn't otherwise be able to go to college or return to college," said O'Brien. "It allows more flexibility in the student's schedule, but being flexible is not enough. It also has to be a meaningful experience."
O'Brien said each of the courses at DSU goes through a quality assurance process to ensure it meets a set of standards and that the student receives the highest quality course available.
"How we put them together to make sure the learning is still achieved is part of this quality assurance process," O'Brien said.
Another key is student satisfaction. Faculty use a variety of tools to communicate with students, from e-mail and telephone calls to internet-based calls using Skype.
O'Brien has been director of extended programs at DSU for seven years.
"I've seen huge strides in how the faculty have embraced it (distance education)," she said. "I think our faculty are the most student-oriented. They want to have a quality experience for the students. You don't always see that."
Warner said he anticipated continued growth in distance programs.
"Online delivery allows you to expand your existing markets," Warner said. "It will level off when numerous providers have taken advantage of it."