Several Oklahoma colleges and universities were featured in a ranking of online higher education programs released this week.
U.S. News and World Report released its 2013 Best Online Education Programs ranking on Tuesday.
This year's list is the second of its kind the publication has released, and the first to assign numerical ranks to schools on the list.
Three Oklahoma universities — Rogers State University, Cameron University and Oklahoma Wesleyan University — were included in the Best Online Bachelor's Programs list.
Rogers State ranked No. 73, Cameron No. 101 and Oklahoma Wesleyan No. 111 out of the 160 institutions that were ranked on that list. Topping the list were Pace University, a multicampus school in the New York metropolitan area; Daytona State College in Daytona Beach, Fla.; and St. John's University in Queens, N.Y.
Myra Haulmark, director of Rogers State's Center for Teaching and Learning, said the university began offering online courses in 1992 as a way to reach students in rural northeast Oklahoma. As the program has grown, she said, the focus has remained on those students.
“It's still a very rural area, and so we have a lot of students in those areas who otherwise would not be able to attend classes,” she said.
In the program's early days, she said, most of the online offerings were courses in business and liberal arts. In 2000, the program was accredited and began offering full online degrees. Today, the university offers five bachelor's degree programs and four associate degree programs entirely online.
Marcia Piper, a spokeswoman for Oklahoma Wesleyan, said the university rolled out its online offerings in 2009, and has been adding courses every year for the past several years.
Oklahoma Wesleyan also came in at No. 147 on the magazine's ranking of best online graduate programs in business.
University officials view online programs as a way to extend the university's reach, Piper said. A quality, Christian-based education is a relevant service today, she said, and online degrees allow the university to provide that service to students who don't live within easy driving distance of the Bartlesville campus.
Cameron University Provost John McArthur said the university began offering an online European master's of business administration in 1999, and launched its undergraduate programs in 2001.
Initially, the program was targeted at military students, he said. Many of the university's students are military service members stationed at nearby Fort Sill, and online courses give those students a way to continue taking classes when they transfer to other military installations.
Although the online courses are still popular among service members, McArthur said, military students no longer make up the majority of students in the program. Today most of the students live within 25 miles of Lawton. Often, he said, those students also take classroom-based courses, but enroll in online courses because they're more convenient.
“They're mix-and-matching,” he said. “I am amazed at the number of students who live in the dorms and are taking online classes.”
Oklahoma State University's Spears School of Business ranked No. 37 on the business graduate degree program list. Larry Crosby, dean of the school, said online courses were an extension of the university's land grant role.
“We believe in giving smart, dedicated and accomplished individuals a pathway to further professional development regardless of their situation or where they might live,” Crosby said. “It is the OSU way.”
Cameron, Mid-America Christian University and Southern Nazarene University were also included in the ranking of graduate programs in business, but the schools' ranks weren't published. Likewise, OSU was included in a listing of graduate programs in engineering, but its rank wasn't published.