(WAVY) — Two Hampton Roads universities that have been emphasizing online learning long before the pandemic have been ranked by US News & World Report as the best in the commonwealth.
The magazine’s national rankings for online undergraduate programs for 2021 have Regent University tied for 53rd nationally, the best for a Virginia college or university, and Old Dominion University tied for 86th nationally and second in Virginia.
Regent has topped the USN&WR list in Virginia for nine years running.
The university’s emphasis on distance learning made it especially agile when the pandemic began.
“We have both on-campus and online versions of every program we offer at Regent,” said Gerson Moreno-Riano, executive vice president for academic affairs. “So it was not difficult for us to turn one off and turn the other one on.”
Both schools have had robust online degree programs since the early 1990s.
“We are one of the national leaders, so it’s really great to see other entities outside the university recognizing our accomplishments,” said ODU provost Austin Agho.
The pandemic will make ODU carry out its five-year plan for further development of online programs “faster than we had planned,” Agho said.
“These are not faculty that we pick up who are living across the country as adjuncts. These are the world-class faculty of ODU that are teaching these courses,” said Andrew Casiello, associate vice president for distance learning.
Virginia Wesleyan also made the magazine’s rankings, coming in at 211th nationally, and 56th for online bachelor’s in business.
Regent officials say they can use the ranking to attract students when it comes to the Christian university’s mission and emphasis on distance learning.
“They attest and validate those things,” Moreno-Riano said. “It’s one thing for us to say something and not have the accolades to show it.”
Casiello says ODU uses a holistic approach when designing online courses.
“Very few other institutions within Virginia have the kind of infrastructure that ODU has to develop online programs and courses.”
Nationally, the magazine ranked ODU 27th for best online master’s in IT, 45th for online master’s in engineering, and 67th for best online MBA.
Regent was ranked 21st nationally for best online bachelor’s in psychology and 35th for online bachelor’s in business.
Moreno-Riano says many institutions of higher learning, large and small, public and private, have yet to embrace online learning.
“They will do it if they have to do it, but they don’t see it as a first choice. Not every student can pause their lives for three, four or five years of their lives to study at a bricks-and-mortar institution. Demographics will continue to change. We have to be proactive and go where the student is.”