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UA Little Rock online graduate programs listed among the nation’s best by U.S. News and World Report

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has been recognized as having some of the best online programs in computer information technology in the country. U.S. News & World Report ranked UA Little Rock 19th in its 2021 ranking of “Best Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs.” 

“Our university continuously encourages innovative academic programming to help students and faculty achieve academic success,” said Dr. David Montague, executive director of online learning and faculty mentoring. “This significant accomplishment in these prestigious academic rankings demonstrates commitment to academic excellence, optimal functionality, accessibility, innovation, universal inclusion, and user-friendly education.”

This ranking assesses online master’s degree programs in computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, information systems, and information technology. For UA Little Rock, this ranking includes the online Master of Science in information quality and Master of Science in information science programs. UA Little Rock also ranked 19th in the 2020 U.S. News list.

“We are really gratified to make the list again this year. The online degree market has become very competitive,” said Dr. Elizabeth Pierce, chair of the Department of Information Science, which houses both programs. “There are a lot of good schools offering good web-based degrees so we need to keep improving what we offer each year in order to stay a competitor.”

The online master’s degree in information quality is a 33-hour program that can be completed in as little as 18 months. The program is designed to prepare students for industry and government careers as well as advanced doctoral studies. Developed with support from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Information Quality Program, the curriculum balances information quality theory with industry best practices using state-of-the-art technology.

“The Information Quality Graduate Program was launched in 2006, and it’s the only graduate program in the U.S. devoted to the study of data governance and data quality management issues,” Pierce said. “The program is attracting a lot of attention from the chief data officers community due to the strong synergy between this program’s curriculum and the need for chief data officers to ensure their organization has trusted data that is available when needed.”

The online master’s degree in information science is a 33-hour program designed to familiarize individuals with the advanced knowledge, skills, and technologies for working with large amounts of complex data. Students learn how to compete in an industry with an ever-present demand for new innovations in data science and analytics, advanced information systems design and development, and emerging information technologies. Both degrees serve as a stepping stone for other advanced graduate degrees, such as UA Little Rock’s Ph.D. in computer and information science.

For the 2021 rankings edition, U.S. News evaluated schools on five categories, including engagement, faculty credentials and training, expert opinion, service and technologies, and student excellence.

Dr. Nitin Agarwal, Jerry L. Maulden-Entergy endowed chair and distinguished professor of information science who teaches online courses in the graduate programs, said the professors work hard to meet the challenges of online students. 

“Online students face a variety of challenges,” Agarwal said. “Aside from technological challenges, online students  miss peer-experience, engagement and participation during asynchronous classes, instant access to instructors and on-campus resources. We recognize these limitations of online education and make a concerted effort to improve students’ learning experience.”  

Pierce said that the success of the online programs is driven by several factors, including the use of innovative online technologies to deliver a live classroom webcast from video classrooms in the Donaghey College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, skilled instructors, and support from UA Little Rock.

“In our programs, we have worked hard to improve the delivery of the online learning experience,” Pierce said. “We encourage students as much as possible to take their classes synchronously online to get as much interactive engagement with their instructors as if they were physically on campus. In addition though, we do offer students the flexibility to view the recorded sessions anytime their schedules do not permit them to join the live session at the given time. The other part of the equation is the quality of the program’s instructors and course content. In addition to our regular graduate faculty, we recruit highly qualified individuals from industry to teach specialized content so that our students can get the best combination of real world experiences coupled with sound academic principles.”

Two of the information science professors who teach for the graduate programs, Dr. John Talburt and Dr. Richard Wang, were recently named to Chief Data Officer Magazine’s 2021 List of Leading Academic Data Leaders.