In-Depth Study of Online Degree Programs Offered by Wisconsin Higher Education Institutions Identifies Top Performers in State

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BestSchools.com, the first resource for prospective online students that goes beyond basic data rankings, launches with in-depth interviews of top Wisconsin colleges and universities that offer online degrees.

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Over 1,000 US colleges offer fully online degree programs. 22 of these schools call Wisconsin home. Some of these colleges and universities are regionally focused while others cater to students from anywhere around the world looking for a degree from a research institution.

As online education in the US has grown, so has the number of groups and reports that attempt to evaluate and rank colleges and universities that offer online degree programs. However, many of these tools miss the mark on what matters most to students and the data may be misleading.

BestSchools.com is the first resource that combines quantitative data analysis and qualitative feedback from members of administration at several institutions. The interviews provide rich insight into what makes certain online degree programs successful and sustainable.

The Top 10 Wisconsin Online Colleges:
1. University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
2. University of Wisconsin-Platteville
3. University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse
4. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
5. Concordia University Wisconsin
6. University of Wisconsin-Superior
7. University of Wisconsin-Madison
8. University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
9. University of Wisconsin-Stout
10. University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

The findings of our research demonstrate that quality education and educational experience is accessible to students in an online format from traditional and reputable Wisconsin schools. While each of these institutions has a bricks-and-mortar campus, many of them also have a long history of distance education. Several of the UW campuses started offering distance education in the 1970s. Online instruction is simply a new method of course delivery.

Schools like UW-Green Bay and UW-Whitewater offer in-demand majors like business and education to online students. While each school employs some experts as adjunct faculty to teach online courses, students will primarily be taught by the same full-time faculty who teach on-campus. Beyond academics, online students have access to similar services that traditional students do. UW-LaCrosse, for example, works to ensure that all services available to on-campus students are also available online.

Qualitative criteria that were incorporated into the rankings explored institutional commitment to online education, ability to create a sense of community for online students, and strategic adoption of new technologies.

“We offer a three-week online instructor training course, which has been huge,” says Brian Uderman, UW-LaCrosse’s Professor and Director of Online Education. “We’ve had 200 or so faculty complete that.”

Online students will find differences that can be difficult to identify from websites and other rankings. For example, UW-Platteville aims to provide programs in niche areas in addition to popular majors. Some schools encourage building relationships among students using Facebook or LinkedIn in addition to what takes place during classes and others focus primarily on the classroom environment.

There are also commonalities across these schools that ensure both an identical education outcome and similar student experience for online and residential students. Every school interviewed allows and encourages online students to participate in commencement activities. Online students receive the same diplomas as students who complete their programs on campus.

BestSchools.com asked each person interviewed for advice for prospective online students. Stephanie Douglas, Online Student Services Coordinator for the College of Business and Economics at UW-Whitewater, says “understanding personal goals for earning a degree is a great help to students interested in online degree programs.”

The complete list of Wisconsin schools and full interviews can be found here: http://www.bestschools.com/online-colleges-in-Wisconsin/.

About BestSchools.com
BestSchools.com is the first resource and guidebook created for prospective online students that blends data analysis with qualitative feedback from the staff and faculty of accredited colleges and universities. Rather than creating another flawed ranking system, BestSchools.com aims to identify the nuanced strengths and details of each school so students know which institution is the best fit.

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Melanie Jones
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