The University of Arkansas at Little Rock takes pride in its online graduate programs and has now been acknowledged for having some of the best online programs in computer information technology in the country. UA-Little Rock’s demographics consist of a large population of non-traditional students due to having vast options of online programs for undergraduate and graduate degrees. UA-Little Rock ranked 19th in the U.S. News & World Report in its 2021 ranking of “Best Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs.”
“UA-Little Rock is unique in that it is the only university to offer graduate degrees in Information Quality. The MSIQ [Masters of Science in Information Quality] degree was created in 2006 with support from the MIT Information Quality program and Acxiom Corporation,” said Dr. John Talburt, coordinator for the Information Quality master’s program.
Dr. John Talburt has a long-standing history with UA-Little Rock working in what was previously known as the computer and information department from 1983 to 1995. During his time away, the department split into two different, more specific departments. He has been with the information science department since 2005.
The university is ranked among the top 20 along with some of the top public universities in the nation. This report evaluates online master’s degree programs in computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, information systems, and information technology. The ranking includes both the online Master of Science in information quality and Master of Science in information science.
“Many universities are flocking to offer education online, because of the covid pandemic. Although face-to-face instruction can be better in some ways, online instruction is better in other important ways – time, convenience, gas money, even parking lot, and classroom construction,” said Dr. Daniel Berleant. “Luckily the online information science graduate program began before all of this, so we have experience and a jump start on universities that are just getting into it now. Our online program also noted for its reasonable cost.”
Dr. Daniel Berleant has worked for the University of Arkansas system for over 20 years, starting at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville as an assistant professor and then associate professor in the computer science and computer engineering department from 1991-1999. He has worked for the information science department since 2006.
Both programs require 33 hours of course work to graduate and are rigorous in their structure. Since its launch in 2006, the online master’s in information quality has made a great impact on its students. It is career-oriented focused on practice, skills, and theory. The curriculum is centered around information quality theory and implements the industry’s best practices using state-of-the-art tools and technology. The program was developed with the guidance of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Information Quality Program.
Dr. Talburt expressed how the UA-Little Rock information quality stands out from other programs in the country.
“Many companies recruit our [Information Quaility] and [Information Science] graduates because of the growing emphasis on data quality, data governance, data engineering, data analytics, and data science. The MSIQ and MSIS programs prepared students for these kinds of roles,” said Dr. Talburt. “Also, both programs use a synchronous on-campus and online webcast delivery so students have the same experience and quality of education regardless of whether they are on-campus or online.”
The online master’s degree in information science is intended to give students advanced knowledge, skills, and technologies for working with large amounts of complex data. Students learn to design database schemas, maintain databases, the privacy of personal data, and much more. Both degrees can serve as a step towards a Ph.D. in the field or a great job in the growing industry of information technology.
Both departments are focused on seeing their students succeed after graduation. They ensure that students are heard and helped when needed and provide resources for their continued learning.
“We want our students to have wide and deep knowledge and well as project skills and leadership ability that they can use to contribute to their organizations after graduating,” said Dr. Berleant. “We focus on getting students to succeed. By teaching at the level that enables students to learn the most, not too easy, not too hard, but just right, learning can be delivered most efficiently and successfully.”
Dr. Talburt has a similar ideology in helping his students succeed and understands the complexity of the program can sometimes prove difficult to navigate. However, the department’s hard work and experience in the field have allowed them to maintain a high-quality program.
“Many of the faculty have worked in industry and some are still actively engaged in consulting in their subject areas. Because of the uniqueness of the program, the graduates have formed a close network in which they not only help each other but also reach out to students currently in the program,” said Dr. Talburt. “Many of the program’s graduates are now in leadership roles in large companies and when hiring, contact faculty members to post openings and to recommend current students.”
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.
With the great leadership that both programs have, their hope is to have continued success for the years to come.