U.S. News & World Report has expanded its ranking system once again, giving extra attention in the 2016 listings to colleges and universities known for their innovation. In a survey of college presidents, provosts, and admissions deans, U.S. News & World Report asked for nominations of up to 10 schools making innovative improvements to their curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology, or facilities.
As in their other ranking lists, editors split schools up into four categories: national universities, liberal arts colleges, regional universities, and regional colleges. Read on to find out about the innovative programs some of the top schools have implemented.
Arizona State University's recognition as the most innovative national university will come as no surprise to many. The 83,000-student public institution near Phoenix has been a leader in online education and related innovation for years. It now offers the Global Freshman Academy, in partnership with MOOC provider edX, to learners all over the world interested in taking free introductory courses online. ASU is also taking massive open online courses a step further than many of its peers, offering the courses for credit to students willing to pay for them. When it comes to graduation requirements, students who finish their first year online through the Global Freshman Academy can arrive on campus as sophomores with the same status as their peers who arrived the year before.
ASU has been increasing the number of computerized learning courses over the last few years, adding adaptive learning elements and other innovations to keep students engaged and move instructors away from the role of pure lecturer. Introductory lecture courses have traditionally been high profit centers for colleges, but efficiencies from the more interactive formats mean fewer instructors can manage more students. Analytics helps instructors keep track of how students are doing at any given point. Data has also shown positive results when it comes to retention and completion.
Liberal Arts Colleges
Bard College in Annandale-On-Hudson, NY, earned the top spot among liberal arts colleges in U.S. News & World Report’s inaugural list. Its hallmark has been curricular innovation. Though it is primarily a four-year school, Bard operates a number of early college programs and partners with other institutions to offer students a path toward a master’s degree.
The college has about 2,000 students in its undergraduate programs and 5,000 students around the globe working on early college through graduate school. It boasts a worldwide network of dual-degree campuses and programs, encouraging interdisciplinary majors to train well-rounded students. Bard also expands its reach through the nation’s largest prison initiative of its kind, offering incarcerated men and women a chance to earn credits toward a bachelor’s degree while serving their sentences.
Regional Colleges and Universities
Southern New Hampshire University was nominated as the top innovator among regional universities in the North. The university serves 20 times more students online than it does in its Hooksett, NH, campus. While other institutions are considering mergers or closing their doors because of declining interest from prospective students, SNHU claims to be one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. It has figured out how to harness the potential of distance learning in the digital age and continued to find new audiences for its higher education product. The university recently inked an agreement with Anthem Inc., to open its digital degree programs to the health insurance company’s 55,000 employees all over the country.
SNHU was founded in 1932, and its leaders say it has been “relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since.” For an institution to reach 60,000 students online, building off of an on-campus population of 3,000, there can be no other way.
Champlain College, which earned the top spot for regional colleges in the North, has a similar design. It’s small campus in Burlington, VT, holds just a portion of its student body. The college has expanded an established online presence with aggressive partnership-building over the last two years. Champlain has forged more than 60 partnerships with corporate and governmental entities, gaining access to their employees as prospective returning students in addition to their leaders as subject matter experts who can improve Champlain's courses more broadly.
For the full lists of the US News & World Report's Most Innovative Schools of 2016, click here.
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