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Online Education Programs Land UNCW On 'Best Value' List

By Jenny Callison, posted Dec 7, 2015
Three online master’s degree programs offered by University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Watson College of Education helped land UNCW on a “best value” list just published by Value Colleges.

UNCW  was ranked 20th on Value Colleges’ Top 50 Best Value Online Graduate Education Programs of 2016. The ranking organization, according to its website, is an independent online guide to what it determines to be the institutions providing the best values in undergraduate and graduate college education.

“The Watson College of Education offers several well-regarded online education degrees, including the Master of Education (with many concentrations such as Educational Leadership, Policy, and Advocacy, English as a Second Language, and Language and Literacy); a Master of Arts in Teaching; and a Master of Science in Instructional Technology,” Value Colleges stated in its ranking narrative. “With tuition around $266 per credit for graduate students, UNCW is a low-risk investment.”

Watson College dean Van Dempsey credited his faculty for the quality of the school's programs.

“We are proud of the work of our faculty and staff in our online programs," he said Monday in an email. "As in our face-to-face learning contexts, we are committed to offering creative, innovative and challenging experiences. It is an honor, and evidence of their hard work, to see our programs achieve such a ranking.”

To be effective, the online programs have to use technology effectively, according to Jeffrey Ertzberger, Watson College's director of technology, who said that the school's focus has been on putting the latest technologies into the hands of the best faculty members.
"Our programs have been recognized as outstanding because we have endeavored to pair the flexibility of online courses with high-quality faculty/student interactions," he added.

Quality of programs is an important aspect of the ranking consideration, said Value Colleges officials in a Monday news release.

“The ranking highlights the online Master of Education degree programs that provide the best possible balance between cost and quality,” the release stated. “Ranking only reputable, regionally accredited institutions, Value Colleges alerts prospective students to the best choices for their tuition dollars.”

Other North Carolina institutions also on the list were East Carolina University (40), N.C. A&T State University (50), N.C. State University (4) and UNC-Greensboro (42)

Explaining its methodology, Value Colleges stated in its release that it ranks schools’ programs using data from the U.S. News & World Report's 2015 Online Education Ranking, PayScale's 2015-16 College Salary Report and factoring in the actual cost per credit as reported on the individual colleges’ websites.

As online education becomes more widespread, affordable online programs for teachers are especially important, noted Value Colleges’ editor Carrie Sealey-Morris in the release.

"Many working teachers want to earn a master's degree but cannot stop working to go back to school," she said in the release. “Most teachers enter the classroom right out of college and long hours, coupled with after-school responsibilities, make it difficult for working teachers to take regularly-scheduled courses.

“Education has long been a good candidate for distance education, since teachers tend to be dedicated and self-motivated students,” she continued. “It's a natural progression for colleges and universities to begin offering graduate degrees in education online."
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