The University of Connecticut has received a high accolade for its online master’s degree in accounting, earning a spot in the top 10 nationwide among scores of online business programs ranked by U.S. News & World Report.
UConn’s program, run by the School of Business, was ranked No. 8 among 213 online graduate business degree programs that the publication’s editors reviewed at colleges and universities nationwide. The rankings were announced Tuesday.
UConn’s online master’s of science degree in accounting (MSA) received particularly high scores for the credentials and training of its faculty, along with factors that measure student engagement such as retention, selectivity, graduation rates, and class sizes.
U.S. News also praised the program last year in a broader review of online business school learning initiatives, though it did not issue overall rankings then. Making the top 10 this year is an honor and delight, according to UConn officials associated with the program.
“There are exciting innovations planned for the next year to continue keeping the MSA on the cutting edge. New tools will increase interaction and continue to develop strong online community ties,” says Amy Dunbar, the MSA program’s faculty director and an associate professor of accounting.
UConn’s MSA program started in 1999 and transitioned to a completely online program in 2003. It’s particularly popular with working professionals who want to boost their careers with advanced credentials. The average age of new entrants is about 28 years old, and the student body is split almost evenly between men and women.
Dunbar and John Phillips, also a UConn associate professor of accounting, taught the first online courses in the MSA program in summer 2001. Many MSA students were missing classes because they were traveling for work, Dunbar says, so they proposed teaching their courses online. Additional classes were added with the approval of the MSA director, Andrew Rosman, who then had the vision to create an entirely online program, Dunbar says.
The program is designed to give students the knowledge they need for successful careers in public and private accounting, allowing current CPAs to expand their skill set and helping aspiring accountants meet the 150-hour educational requirement to seek CPA testing and licensing in most states.
New full-time students attend a one-week class in May at the Storrs campus to become familiar with the program, technology, instructors, and each other. They then take courses online during the following summer, winter, and spring semesters to complete the program’s requirements.
There are also several part-time options, including completing the degree over two summers or taking 10 courses over multiple semesters.
The course content is delivered through course-specific websites on a School of Business server. As a result, the activities do not have to take place at the same time for all students. That gives students flexibility to finish their work on their own timeframes, as long as it is completed by the assignment’s deadline.
The MSA is designed to give students a chance to interact with each other and their faculty through HuskyCT (Blackboard) tools.
The latest innovation has been to set up Lync accounts for the MSA students and MSA instructors, an initiative that the program leaders credit to the efforts of Jeremy Pollack, the information technology leader in the School of Business
Lync is similar to Skype, but the advantage is that everyone is using University-supported technology. It allows Dunbar to work synchronously with students and instructors wherever they are located, helping develop online community ties.
“When I see the MSA instructors and students online on Lync, I know there is a real person a click away and that thrills me,” Dunbar says. “I love teaching online and how technology supports education.”
The program has been recognized by the United States Distance Learning Association for best practices in the field, and it is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).