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RMU jumps ahead in U.S. News & World Report Best Online 2017 rankings.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Pittsburgh, January 10, 2017 – All six Robert Morris University online degree programs listed in the U.S. News & World Report 2017 Best Online rankings released today have significantly improved their ranking positions from last year.

The university's bachelor's degree programs are now ranked among the top 10 percent in the country, at 28th out of 310 colleges and universities, climbing 30 spots from 58th place in last year's rankings. For graduate online programs, RMU's computer information technology degree offerings rose to 18th (from 25th), while education and nursing both rose to 35th (from 110th and 92nd respectively), non-M.B.A. business programs climbed to 37th (from 48th), and online M.B.A. was up to 55th (from 66th) nationally.

For all six programs, it is the second year in a row their rank has increased. Programs are evaluated by U.S. News based on data in four categories: student engagement, faculty credentials and training, student services and technology, and peer reputation. Graduate program rankings include a fifth category, admissions selectivity.

"I am not surprised at the results at all. All of us — including the leadership, faculty, and staff — are working to change the face of online education, and these rankings are proof of that," said Vice President and Senior Vice Provost Derya Jacobs, who oversees RMU's online programs.

"The university committed itself that if we are going to provide online education, we're going to provide the best online education, and we're going to support the faculty who do the teaching as well as supporting the students. We wanted to provide our online students with the same personal, positive, supportive experience that Robert Morris University is known for," Jacobs said.

Jacobs attributed the higher ranking to a comprehensive strategic plan that is guiding the university to continuously improve and provide the best online education. Among other changes last year, the plan added two new support positions for online students — a career coach and a wellness coach. The university also supports and promotes faculty use of advanced technology to foster an interactive learning environment beyond the typical use of technology, Jacobs said. Last year, RMU began requiring online undergraduate students to participate in the same "engaged learning" activities outside the classroom — including service and leadership projects — that traditional RMU students must complete in order to earn a diploma.

Many online students came to the university's Moon Township campus for the first time this past spring for a special online student recognition ceremony, Jacobs said.

"Our students drove 100 miles to the event. They brought their parents, they brought their children. It was very emotional and powerful, and it was exciting for them and for us to meet each other face to face. It made them feel connected to the university," she said.

With 645 people enrolled in undergraduate or graduate online courses at RMU, about one in eight of the university's students is online, ranging from bachelor's to doctoral students.