According to the 2021 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Programs rankings, Virginia Tech’s online master’s degree in information technology is the nation’s fourth best and is ranked No. 1 for veterans. The online graduate engineering program has also maintained a position in the top 20 of the Best Online Master’s Engineering Programs this year, with a ranking of No. 16.

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has had transformative effects on the online learning landscape, among them the moves made by universities to transition to online instruction at an unprecedented pace and volume. Virginia Tech faculty, across all colleges and academic programs, have focused on and been successful in building community within their online classes and creating opportunities to engage and interact directly with students. 

The university has also taken a highly collaborative and student-centered approach to developing networks, resources, and academic communities of practice that support both faculty and students in transitioning to online instruction while preserving a structure for active learning. In 2020, for instance, more than 1,400 faculty and graduate students attended 183 workshops for online teaching and learning, hosted by the Professional Development Network (PDN) in the Division of Information Technology’s Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies, the attendance marking a 278 percent increase in participation in that category of workshops since 2019.

In turn, the pandemic has drawn attention to online graduate programs offered around the country. Maintaining a spot in the U.S. News & World Report's top 20, Virginia Tech's online graduate engineering program reflects in its No. 16 ranking a steadfast dedication to enabling students to succeed in the workforce, either as first-time working professionals or as those making career transitions.

“At the College of Engineering, we have continuously expanded our online offerings over the years to meet the needs of working professionals, and the demand is only growing,” said Julia Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering. “We see that growth in online learning reflected in a 26 percent rise in applications and a 34 percent increase in enrollment.”

Currently, the college’s engineering online group offers five master’s degree programs, numerous collaborative graduate level programs, and four certificate programs. The group’s efforts to improve flexible study have included increasing coursework delivery options, redesigning courses to focus on instructional design methods that create student-centered materials, and partnerships like the Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program. 

With a decades-long legacy of evolving as an online graduate engineering program, Virginia Tech Engineering Online has become home to experts in providing high-quality experiences for online learners, said Glenda Scales, the associate dean for global engagement and chief technology officer at the College of Engineering. 

“We have excellent faculty who are committed to the student experience,” Scales said. “This continues to help us maintain high-quality programming and recruit top talent.”

In the 2021 U.S. News & World Report online program rankings, the online master of information technology program, a joint venture offered through the College of Engineering and the Pamplin College of Business, maintains a No. 4 ranking. The top placement attests to the program’s enduring commitment to supplying professionals in the field of information technology with the interdisciplinary and emerging skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing world.

“The VT-MIT program appeals to individuals interested in the intersection of the more technical information technology capabilities and the people skills needed to manage today’s complex workplace,” said Parviz Ghandforoush, the program’s executive director and an associate dean for graduate programs. “This program effectively combines expertise from a faculty highly recognized for their cutting-edge research in IT, a student body with a myriad of professional backgrounds, and an interdisciplinary curriculum designed to address the needs of today’s tech-based organizations.”

The program combines a variety of departments within the College of Engineering and the Pamplin College of Business, including the Department of Computer Science and the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, both in the College of Engineering; and the Department of Accounting and Information Systems, the Department of Business Information Technology, and the Department of Management, all in the Pamplin College of Business.

“The VT-MIT program’s top rankings and the appreciative testimonials of our students and graduates underscore the superior quality of our program and its critical relevance for anyone seeking to move ahead professionally," said Pamplin College of Business Dean Robert Sumichrast. "In today’s innovation-centered workplace, business knowledge and technology expertise have become critical dual strengths for career advancement.”

Sumichrast added that the national success of the 100 percent online master of information technology program has also guided Pamplin in developing its new, fully online MBA.

This year, U.S. News & World Report also ranked the master of information technology program as the No. 1 Best Online Master's in Information Technology Program for Veterans.

“We are pleased to have been recognized as the nation’s top-ranked program for veterans,” Ghandforoush said. “For veterans looking to enter the corporate job market, the VT-MIT program offers courses and certificates to mitigate the shortage of professionals in such IT fields as cybersecurity, data analytics, big data, health information technology, and software development.”

According to U.S. News & World Report methodology, veterans and active-duty service members gain the most from distance education that is affordable, accessible, and reputable. The 2021 Best Online Programs for Veterans rankings measure these factors in consideration of financial benefits available specifically to people with military experience.