USA: New Rankings to Be Added to 2021 Best Online Programs

USA/ 06 January 2021/ Source/

The Jan. 26 release will introduce rankings for online bachelor’s degrees in business and psychology, two popular fields.

By Eric Brooks and Robert Morse

ON TUESDAY, JAN. 26, the new 2021 Best Online Programs rankings will be published on These rankings assess master’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees administered mostly through distance education. Typically many of these programs have in-person attendance requirements involving orientations, testing and sporadic educational elements, although some are delivered 100% online.

Included in these rankings and their accompanying directory are online degree offerings designed entirely for distance learners. For example, the rankings credit institutions for having implemented best practices such as making use of certified instructional designers and listing specific instructor office hours.

Programs also perform well in the rankings for offering technologies and services catered toward remote learners, such as incorporating learning analytics platforms and adaptive learning, as well as providing remote access to admissions counseling, resume writing and career placement support.

In other words, programs that score the highest are those designed and scaled for distance learning.

The 2021 edition will rank the most online degree offerings in U.S. News Best Online Programs history, assessing 1,641 master’s programs in criminal justice/criminology, computer information technology, MBA, non-MBA business, education, engineering and nursing, as well as overall online bachelor’s degree programs that are aimed at students who earned some college credits previously and are looking to complete their degree. This figure is up from 1,609 the previous year.

One contributing reason for this increase is that the master’s in computer information technology ranking – which assesses online degree programs across computer science, computer engineering, information technology, information systems and software engineering – no longer requires institutions to house an ABET-accredited program in one of these fields in order to be surveyed and rank-eligible. Consequently, the total number of ranked programs increased from 62 to 81, resulting in some greater year-to-year movement than is typical in this particular ranking because many newly ranked programs entered at different spots.

In addition to the 1,641 ranked general programs are separate stand-alone rankings of specialty tracks in these disciplines. Examples include rankings in industrial engineering, finance MBA, special education and nursing administration/leadership.

New for this edition are two rankings of popular undergraduate specialties: business and psychology. Both only include institutions that reported to U.S. News offering these baccalaureate-level offerings online and are computed exclusively from peer assessment surveys administered to these programs during fall 2020. In total, there will be 145 ranked online bachelor’s in business degree programs and 27 ranked online bachelor’s in psychology degree programs.

Complementing the overall and specialty rankings will be updated Best Online Programs for Veterans rankings. These rankings at both the bachelor’s and master’s levels account for the overall academic quality of the programs as well their success at enrolling and financially supporting students with military experience who qualify for federal benefits.

Media representatives: To get access to 2021 U.S. News Best Online Programs rankings materials, please email




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