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Thursday, January 24, 2013

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ODU Ranks Among Top Five of Nation's Online Computer Science Programs

Old Dominion's online computer science program was recently recognized as one of the best among U.S. colleges and universities.

The 2013 Online College Rankings from the Open Education Database (OEDb) lists ODU as having the fourth best online computer science program in the country. To determine the ranking, Houston-based OEDb used a methodology that graded 33 online computer science programs using criteria that included: ratio of full-time to part-time faculty members; percentage of students receiving financial aid; acceptance rate; retention rate; graduation rate; years accredited; default rate; job placement rate; and tuition cost.

"While no single ranking methodology can be a perfect solution for every type of student, we believe that this quantitative and objective data provides a sound foundation for individuals to compare online schools using our metric data or the raw data," OEDb noted, in a website explanation of its selection metrics.

OEDb began publishing its annual Online College Rankings in 2007.

Desh Ranjan, chair of ODU's computer science department, credited Steven Zeil, associate professor, and Janette Brunelle, senior lecturer, with helping to make the distance learning program "so good."

"Computer science is one of the leaders in distance education programs at the university, the state and nationally too," he said. "I'm very happy we've been recognized at the national level."

Andy Casiello, associate vice president for distance learning, said distance learning programs have been in place at ODU since the early 1990s, but in recent years the university has focused more on developing complete online programs that offer high-quality student experiences in a flexible environment.

"Enrollment in distance education programs is up 20 percent," Casiello said. "I definitely assign credit for that to the development of new programs that are in high demand. We needed to move away from television to online delivery. Distance education - especially online - is a very fast-growing aspect of the ODU environment, which is funding development of new programs every year."

ODU currently offers 87 online programs that range from certification courses to doctoral degrees.

Casiello said the university's focus is on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and health care programs that are in high demand. ODU aligns its priorities based on a number of factors, including jobs and Gov. Bob McDonnell's emphasis on the education needs of the commonwealth.

"Computer science is an excellent representation," he said.

At ODU, the big differentiator when compared to some other institutions is that distance learning courses are designed, developed and supported by "world-class" tenure-track or tenured faculty within the academic colleges working with distance learning instructional design teams, Casiello said.

ODU's distance learning program includes teams of instructional designers, graphic artists, engineers, videographers, editors, instructional technicians and programmers - all under one roof. Students access courses through a unique online environment called the "Personal Learning Environment," or PLE. This interface provides all the necessary support systems in a standardized fashion so students and faculty can easily navigate the courses. The PLE also provides aspects of automation and advanced interface activities that a standard learning management system like Blackboard does not support.

"We are very good at what we do here," Casiello said. "Because we've had a very large distance learning organization, where nearly a quarter of the student population participates in their education away from our main campus facilities, we have the resources, expertise and experience that no other institution can match."

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