The College of Education at the University of Texas at Brownsville fared well in the U.S. News & World Report ranking of 2013 Best Online Education Programs.
The report, released Jan. 15, ranked the college’s online graduate program 39th in the country out of more than 1,000 U.S. colleges and universities surveyed. In the category of Student Services and Tech-nology, the program was ranked fourth in the nation.
UTB’s ranking was based on the College of Education’s Master of Education in Educational Technology, the college’s only fully online degree program. UTB is the only institution in the UT System ranked in the top 100. UTB is one of only five institutions statewide to make the top 100, and ranks third among those five. UTB leads the state in the Student Services and Technology category.
Rene Corbeil, assistant professor with the college’s Department of Teaching, Learning and Innovation, said one of the reasons UTB scored so well is that the College of Education has been doing online educa-tion for a long time.
“We developed the very first online course for the university, and we’re talking back in 1996-97,” he said. “We were one of the first courses for the entire UT System that was fully online. That kind of got us started. From there it just took off and we’ve been doing it ever since.”
While online instruction has been happening around the country for a decade or so, it’s usually been a few university faculty teaching individual courses online as opposed to entire degree programs, Corbeil said.
“From the very beginning we said, no, we want to get the whole program online,” he said. “That’s where we had an advantage as well.”
Offering only some of a program’s courses online means students still have to come to campus, which limits the reach of the program. Students earning UTB’s Education Technology master’s degree never have to set foot on campus. Theoretically, they could earn the degree from anywhere in the world, at least anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.
Corbeil described the master’s in Educational Technology as a versatile degree in “instructional de-sign,” something graduates can apply in a number of settings, from K-12 and post-secondary education to public and private sector professional development training — even for military personnel.
“I compare it to being an educational engineer,” Corbeil said. “You build instruction. You build lessons. You build courses.”
Major companies have already moved their training online or at least made it computer based, which means more opportunities for instructional designers, he said.
“Also, now with the growing e-learning market they need people who can design courses to teach online,” Corbeil said. “And with the growth of electronic media, publishers are looking for people to con-vert the text books into electronic media.”
The Educational Technology program has been steadily growing in popularity over the years, he said. This semester it had the highest enrollment of any program at the university, Corbeil said. The program’s student retention rate for the 2011-12 academic year was 80 percent. Today 130 students are enrolled in it.
The College of Education also has launched undergraduate specialization programs in Educational Technology: Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences, Bachelor of Applied Technology, and Bachelor of Multidisciplinary Studies.
“Now we’re moving into the doctoral realm,” Corbeil said. “We have a specialization in Educational Technology toward Curriculum and Instruction.”
He noted that the college’s U.S. News & World Report ranking jumped from 91st to 39th in just one year on the strength of the Educational Technology graduate program alone. Corbeil said UTB’s ranking should only rise as more of its degree programs go online and more of UTB’s resources are devoted to it.
“It’s starting to move in that direction,” he said. “The university is starting to get more and more in-volved in online learning. We recognize that there’s a need to get our faculty trained and certified in online teaching. Those are things this institution is committed to and getting very serious about. There’s definitely a demand for it."