You don’t necessarily need a master’s degree to enter into the job market arena of computer science, but higher salaries, more management opportunities, and specialized areas all make that Master of Computer Science degree look more and more attractive. But does pursuing that degree mean uprooting your life and current commitments? Not if you join the ranks of the online student! The Master of Computer Science is one of the most popular online master’s degrees, and for good reason–taking the courses you need to advance in the field but not having to give up your current job and family obligations is definitely a win-win.
Quick Links to Our Top 10
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Johns Hopkins University
- Removed by request
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- University of Michigan-Dearborn
- University of Southern California
- New Jersey Institute of Technology
- Illinois Institute of Technology
- Purdue University
- University of Minnesota
Specific degree types represented in this ranking include the following.
- Online Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS)
- Online Professional Master of Computer Science (MCS)
- Online Master of Science in Computer and Information Science
- Online Master of Science in Computing
- Online Master of Software Engineering
- Online Master of Science in Computer Information Systems (MSCIS)
- Online Master of Science in Information Technology (MS in IT) Software Application Development
- Online Master of Science in Applied Computer Science
- Online Master of Science in Software Engineering (MSSE)
Our methodology: We approached this ranking by observing several common factors that were presented as attributes on the websites of schools and universities offering an online Master of Science in Computer Science (or similar) degree program. We computed data by examining other publicly available sources like U.S. News and World Report and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in addition to the websites of the schools, to pick the 50 best online programs. The common elements which set the programs apart and by which we came up with the ranking are as follows:
- Affordability and degree customization- 25% (average out-of-state tuition and number of specializations offered)
- Length of program and flexibility- 25% (how many credit hours are required, the average length of time it takes to complete them, and the extent to which they can be completed entirely online)
- School reputation-25% (being ranked or recognized by independent, reputable sources such as U.S. News)
- Student support services and testimonials-25% (student resources and feedback/experiences that are easily accessed both programmatically and on the school’s website)
During Reconstruction after the Civil War, the need for a technology school in the mostly agrarian South became evident. As a response to the strongly-industrial North, the Georgia School of Technology was founded in 1885 in Atlanta, Georgia. Three years later the school welcomed its first students—84 young men. The only degree offered originally was in mechanical engineering, but over the next six decades the school would develop from a trade school into a broader-based technological institution. In 1948 the name was changed to reflect the growth: the Georgia Institute of Technology, known more commonly as Georgia Tech. In 1952 women were admitted for the first time, and by 1961 the first black students were admitted—making Georgia Tech the Deep South’s first university to admit African-American students prior to desegregation court orders. This public research university currently enrolls almost 30,000 students and is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Program Details: Georgia Tech’s online Master of Science in Computer Science (unofficially nicknamed OMS CS) degree program is offered through the College of Computing collaboratively with corporate partners Udacity and AT&T. This partnership allows Georgia Tech to provide a stellar Computer Science program at a fraction of the cost of most other programs. Requiring 30-credit hours to graduate, there are four specializations from which to choose: Computational Perception and Robotics, Computing Systems, Interactive Intelligence, and Machine Learning. The specializations consist of fifteen to eighteen credit hours (depending on which one is chosen), and the remainder of the program is constructed from the student’s selections of electives, with class offerings such as “Cyber-Physical Design & Analysis,” “Computational Journalism,” and “Compilers–Theory and Practice.” This exciting, innovative program gives students access to a student portal that links them with program resources and student services, as well as an OMS Newsletter filled with program information and important updates.
The city of Baltimore in Maryland benefited greatly from the goodwill of a wealthy, heir-less Quaker in the 1800s. Legendary entrepreneur and abolitionist Johns Hopkins made arrangements in his will that his estate would fund a hospital and a university in his beloved town. Upon his death in 1873, $7 million went towards establishing two institutions that would bear his name—Johns Hopkins University and The Johns Hopkins Hospital. The largest gift of its kind at that point in time, the money allowed the school to open three years later. Hopkins had desired the university to be in his home, but because he had added the stipulation that none of his bequeathment be used for construction, the school needed to be located elsewhere in the downtown Baltimore area. After outgrowing this original location, the school settled on the 140-acre site of the Homewood Estate. Now this private research university provides education to over 24,000 students, and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education provides regional accreditation.
Program Details: Students of the Johns Hopkins Engineering for Professionals online Master of Science in Computer Science degree program reap the benefits of nearly two decades of innovative online learning technology, which has produced a “carefully constructed course content built specifically for the online environment.” Starting with a virtual New Student Orientation, online students have a deep pool of resources from which to draw from Johns Hopkins Engineering. The expected online student support services, such as advising, career services and tech support, are supplemented with extra resources for the online community, such as tutoring and wellness services. The Computer Science program consists of ten courses–three required foundational courses in Software Engineering, Computer Architecture, and Algorithms–and offers a concentration in Communications and Networking and a choice of ten tracks. The focus areas range from Bioinformatics to Science and Cloud Computing to Human-Computer Interaction and Visualization to Systems, and allow students to truly customize their degree in this rigorous and respected program.
#3. School removed from ranking by request
Illinois Industrial University was established as one of the original beneficiaries of the Morrill Act of 1862. The school was founded in 1867, and as one of the original land-grant universities was able to use federal lands as a means of raising money to fund the school. These land-grant institutions could sell the land and use the money to apply towards construction of a school that would emphasize agriculture and mechanical arts education. The University was located in in the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana, and officially opened in 1888 with just two instructors for the 77 students. Although the first President of the school, John Milton, wanted a liberal arts curriculum, the majority of the university leaders wanted to focus solely on industrial arts and agriculture. Milton would resign in 1880 after thirteen frustrating years of opposition, however his vision for the school would continue to influence it. By 1935, the school became University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, and it is a public research university with regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Details: The CS @ ILLINOIS Professional Master of Computer Science (MCS) degree program is offered entirely online through the College of Engineering Department of Computer Science. A 32-credit hour, non-thesis program, the MCS can be completed in three years on a part-time basis. Students choose a specialization or focus area and can even “develop cross-disciplinary programs in consultation with their advisers” for an individualized degree. There is also a fully online MCS in Data Science (MCS-DS) track offered jointly between the Graduate School of Library and Information Science and the University’s Department of Statistics. The MCS-DS degree is also 32-credit hours and “builds expertise in four core areas of computer science: data visualization, machine learning, data mining and cloud computing.” Whichever path is chosen, the Engineering Online programs offer mirror degrees of the on-campus programs and fully support online students through course demos, fellow student support, and many resources and services.
In 1956, the Ford Motor Company announced a gift of over six million dollars to the state of Michigan for the creation of a university. Another gift from Ford was more than 200 acres in Dearborn, Michigan, which secured the site of the campus within the Detroit metropolis. The gifts were an partially a way for the company to guarantee a steady supply of college-trained engineers to supply the growing Ford. The University of Michigan–Dearborn (UM–Dearborn or UM-D) had a first class of thirty-four students in 1959, and the degree offerings included just Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Business Administration. This public research university is one of the two regional campuses of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor—the other regional campus is in Flint. Part of The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, UM-Dearborn is highly committed to community engagement and works closely with Detroit to make a positive impact on the city. The Higher Learning Commission grants regional accreditation to UM-Dearborn.
Program Details: UM-Dearborn presents a Master of Science in Computer and Information Science degree through the College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) Computer and Information Science department (CIS) and the Rackham School of Graduate Studies. The program can be accessed entirely online; students are required to complete 30-credit hours and have their choice of a thesis option or project to culminate the degree. There are nine required core courses for both program choices, and students who opt to complete a final project are expected to take four courses from each of two concentration options (out of the seven predetermined concentrations). Students are guided by faculty advisors through a unique advising model that “not only addresses accessibility and availability but also provides a comprehensive and effective advising experience.” Other services and resources are also available to the online CIS UM-Dearborn student, such as “professional development and career preparation” through the CECS Graduate Education Office.
The wild west that was Los Angeles, California in the late 1800s led local judge Robert Maclay Widney to rally residents to advocate for a university. He developed a Board of Trustees and solicited donations of land and monetary endowments from three of the wealthiest Californians to fund the school. Over 300 lots of land secured the site of the future college’s campus. In 1880, the University of Southern California (USC) welcomed ten teachers and 53 students to the rustic area. The mascot is a white horse named Traveler, but before then the unofficial mascot was a scruffy mutt (in keeping with USC’s original rough-around-the-edges frontier vibe) named George Tirebiter. The oldest private university in Southern California, USC is designated as both a sea-grant and a space-grant institution, and enrolls over 40,000 students currently. USC has been regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges continually since 1949.
Program Details: MS in Computer Science degree students at USC Viterbi School of Engineering are able to engage in the Department of Computer Science program entirely online through DEN@Viterbi. The “innovative and proprietary electronic delivery system” known as DEN@Viterbi is unique in that online students have access to the exact same classroom experience as their on-campus counterparts. A minimum of twenty-eight units are required for graduation, and students generally complete the degree in two to three years. Twelve units of core courses and twelve of electives comprise the general track degree requirements, but students are given the option of choosing a specialization. Online specializations requiring 32 units to graduate include Computer Security, Data Science, or Software Engineering. The MS in Computer Science-Scientists and Engineers track is for students who have “limited background in computer science” and need a foundational component. This program requires 37 units to graduate, and, as with all of the computer science programs, is fully supported by a wealth of online student service offerings.
A New Jersey legislative act in 1880 paved the way for three schools to open in the state to provide industrial arts education. The Newark Technical School was founded in 1881 as a result and opened a few years later—a blizzard couldn’t deter the first class of 88 students. Instruction for this Newark, New Jersey institution was initially held in rented space, but the school quickly outgrew it. In 1886, the cornerstone was put in place to begin construction on the campus. The school continued to grow in size and academic focus, and the name was changed to Newark College of Engineering. This name would serve for many decades, but in 1975 the name was changed one last time to provide a more comprehensive view of the scope of the thriving school: New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Now with six schools and more than 120 academic degree programs, NJIT educates over 11,400 currently enrolled students. This public research university is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Program Details: Before an applicant has even applied to the NJIT 30-credit Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) online degree program, enrollment advisors are available to help students get started with a “smooth, stress-free, and positive enrollment experience.” The support doesn’t end there for this program that can be completed in under two years, and degree customization is possible with three different specialization tracks. The Generalist, Networking, and Databases & Data Mining specializations all require the same four core courses (Data Structures and Algorithms, Operating System Design, Data Management System Design, and Internet and Higher-Layer Protocol) but offer specialized focus courses in addition to electives to complete the degree. For prospective students, NJIT regularly holds Online Program Open House events to learn more about the programs and opportunities. A bonus for MSCS degree students–the program is entirely online with no on-campus requirements.
In 1890, Dr. Frank Wakely Gunsaulus, a minister in the Congregational Church, delivered to the congregation in his South Side Chicago church what has come to be known as the “Million Dollar Sermon.” He stated that with that money a school could be built to educate all peoples in the industrial arts. This inspired the Armour family to start the Armour Foundation with a donation of $1 million, and three years later the Armour Institute opened. Two years later another school opened on the west side—the Lewis Institute was funded by the estate of Allen C. Lewis, and it provided liberal arts as well as some industrial arts education to both men and women. In 1939 both schools began discussing a merger, and in 1940 they solidified as Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech or IIT). Over 7,000 students are now enrolled at this private doctoral research university in Chicago, Illinois, and regional accreditation has been granted by the Higher Learning Commission continuously since 1941.
Program Details: Students can engage in the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Science Master of Computer Science (MCS) degree program entirely online through IIT Online. Requiring 30-credit hours, this Professional Master’s degree program offers online students eight specializations or a general track to customize the degree. The core courses required come from three areas in computer science: Programming, Systems, and Theory, and students have their choice of several class options in each area. The program can be completed in two years, but students who do not have a solid background in computer science will be required to complete prerequisite classes. Each student can choose between a coursework-only program or opt to complete a final Master’s Project. In order to culminate the program with a Master’s Project, students must have the support and advisement of a faculty member, form a “project-defense committee,” and successfully defend their creation at the end of the program.
Three years after the Morrill Act of 1862 was passed, the Indiana General Assembly decided to establish “Indiana’s Land-Grant University.” Tippecanoe County, local residents, and wealthy businessman John Purdue secured the university in their area with donations of money ($150,000 from Purdue and $50,000 from the County) and 100 acres of land. Tippecanoe County would be the location of the school, and it would be called Purdue University (as Purdue requested). Classes began in 1871—three professors were on staff to educate the 39 enrolled students. Initially a school for men, women were admitted as students in 1875. The land-grant designation was taken literally by Purdue’s early leaders—the liberal arts education was heavily influenced by the industrial arts. Now this public research university located in West Lafayette, Indiana has more than 40,000 enrolled students and is the flagship institution in the Purdue University System. North Central Association of Colleges and Schools provides Purdue with regional accreditation.
Program Details: For individuals who already hold a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or Engineering, the Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) offered through Purdue’s College of Science is a 30-credit hour, non-thesis degree program for career professionals. An Interdisciplinary Master of Science (MSE/MS) Engineering degree with a concentration in Computer Science is also offered online, and is “ideal for professional engineers looking to explore knowledge in a discipline different from their undergraduate studies.” Both programs have a large degree of flexibility in the coursework, and they both allow students to interact with an advisor to help them detail a Plan of Study (POS) to maximize their time while distance learning at Purdue. Computer Science courses are offered in topics such as “Bioinformatics and Computational Biology,” “Theory of Computing and Algorithms,” and “Machine Learning,” just to name a few. Prospective students can sample online learning classes to acclimate them to Purdue’s distance learning methods and resources.
Seven years prior to Minnesota gaining statehood, a college preparatory school was established in Minneapolis in 1851. Still a fledgling school, the Civil War caused financial turmoil for the school and it was forced to close until 1867. Philanthropist and future-politician John Sargent Pillsbury, known as the entrepreneurial co-founder of the Pillsbury company, allowed the school to transition into the University of Minnesota in 1869 with his financial contributions and leadership. He is credited with being “The Father of the University,” and served as University regent. His political influence also provided support, as he secured the land-grant designation (and subsequent funds from federal lands) for the school when he was a state senator and then the governor. Located in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (U of M) is the flagship institution and largest and oldest of five universities in the University of Minnesota System. This high-research public university is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Details: UNITE Distributed Learning is the University of Minnesota’s online delivery method that allows students to earn a 100% online Master of Computer Science (MCS) degree through the College of Science and Engineering (CSE). Requiring 31-credit hours, the MCS degree program “offers coursework from across a broad spectrum of theoretical and applied computer science.” Students choose one class from within each of three breadth subject areas (Applications, Architecture, Systems and Software, and Theory and Algorithms) with classes such as “Modern Cryptography,” “Animation & Planning in Games,” and “Computational Aspects of Matrix Theory” as options. This degree program is primarily for individuals who want to “expanding their skills but are not interested in the research aspects of computer science,” and most current students have been out of school for a while and working in the field. Students get to select a faculty member to serve as a Graduate Student Services Coordinator to help guide them through the program and access online student resources.
#11. Syracuse University
The City of Syracuse and Methodist Bishop Jesse Truesdell Peck promised funding towards the establishment of a university in response to the State of New York issuing a charter in 1870 to locate a school in Syracuse. Just a year later the school began offering classes in the downtown area—students took written examinations to determine if they would be admitted into the four-year classical study program or the three-year scientific-focused programs. The school was coeducational from the beginning, with seven women joining the 34 male students. More four-year programs were added the following year, and by the end of the decade construction on the permanent campus would begin in earnest. The campus currently encompasses almost 700 urban acres, and nearly 23,000 students are enrolled in the academic degree programs offered in the school’s thirteen schools and colleges. Syracuse University is a private nonsectarian research university, and regional accreditation is granted to the school by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Program Details: Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science delivers an online Master of Science in Computer Science degree program that can be completed in fifteen months. An on-campus immersion is offered every first weekend of the semester–online students are required to attend one as part of the program. The Computer Science program requires twelve credits of core courses and eighteen of electives. The 30-credit program is flexible and customizable, and “combines live classes, interactive coursework, and collaborative group exercises” for a fully-immersive classroom experience. Student support is a hallmark of the program, and all students of Syracuse, whether on-campus or online, are part of the Syracuse family and “bleed orange.” The online programs at the College of Engineering and Computer Science in particular provide “comprehensive support and guidance before, during, and long after” a student graduates with the MS in Computer Science degree.
#12. Columbia University
Because Columbia University was started as King’s College in New York, New York due to a royal charter by King George II of England in 1754, it is the oldest university in the state, as well as the fifth oldest in the nation. Eight students began classes in the Anglican-affiliated school located in a newly-constructed schoolhouse adjacent to Trinity Church. The American Revolution caused the school to pause from 1776 until reopening in 1784 with the new name—Columbia College—and a new vision of education for a more diverse student body. The school gained full university status in 1896 and was renamed Columbia University in the City of New York (known as Columbia University or simply “Columbia”), and the following year the school would find its permanent site in Morningside Heights. One of the most selective schools in the United States, Columbia enrolls almost 30,000 students in its twenty schools. A private high-research Ivy League university, Columbia has been granted regional accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Program Details: The Computer Science MS Program at Columbia University’s Computer Science Department in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences offers eight concentration areas from which students must choose. Breadth requirements cover the basics in the three groups of Theory, Systems, and AI & Applications, and in addition to a concentration choice, students must choose one course from each of the groups. All concentrations, including the general Computer Science track, are available online and require 30-credit hours. From Computational Biology to Natural Language Processing (NLP) to Vision, Graphics, Interaction, and Robotics, each concentration “provides a unique opportunity to develop leading-edge in-depth knowledge of specific computer science disciplines.” Specific track advisors help students as they navigate the program and their chosen concentration, and other student services, such as career counseling are available to online students.
#13. Marquette University
Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s first Catholic Bishop had a dream to open an institution of higher education in the tradition of the Society of Jesus religious order for the German immigrant population. The Most Reverend John Martin Henni was appointed as Bishop of the new Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 1843, but it would be decades before a school would be opened, and Bishop Henni had to travel to Belgium to seek funding from businessman Guillaume Joseph DeBoey. Marquette College finally opened in the fall of 1881, and it was named after the Reverend Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit missionary explorer and pioneer in the 17th century American Midwest. In 1907, Marquette became a university but still only had one full-time lay instructor on staff. The first students were all male, but when the school admitted women as students in 1909, it set the precedent as the very first coeducational Catholic institution of higher education. Now with over 12,000 students, Marquette University is one of the largest private Catholic universities in the United States. Regional accreditation is provided by the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Details: The Graduate School at Marquette offers an online Master of Science in Computing degree program for students who are interested in a degree that encompasses more than just computer science. Computing is a “family of disciplines that includes computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, information systems and information technology,” and students can engage in as many of these disciplines as they like to customize their degree. In addition, there are specialization opportunities for this 36-credit hour program in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense, Big Data and Data Analytics, and COSMIC (Career Change Opportunity, Start MS in Computing). COSMIC is the perfect starting point for students who did not major in computer science or other computer-related field in their undergraduate work. As a specialization it provides “the prerequisites for the MS in Computing program with a 7-credit foundations course,” and like the other specializations and the general track MSC degree, takes about two years to complete online.
#14. DePaul University
St. Vincent’s College opened in Chicago, Illinois in 1898. Priests belonging to the Vincentians order, also known as the Congregation of the Mission (a Catholic order following Saint Vincent de Paul), started the school for Roman Catholic children of immigrants. Seven faculty members operated the school without a designated president that first year, and enrollment was around 70 students. The school grew in construction and in students–by 1907 the school was chartered as DePaul University, and classes were now open to students from any religious background. Within the next few years women were admitted, and the school became coeducational. Today, DePaul is the largest Catholic university in the nation with over 22,000 enrolled students. This private non-profit Catholic university has campuses across Chicago–the main campus in the Lincoln Park residential area, another campus in the “Loop” business district, and a third campus near O’Hare airport. Regional accreditation comes from the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Details: The DePaul University Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) is unique in that the program is not an online degree program. Rather, it is the same degree program that is offered on campus at the College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM), but students can opt to participate in all of the classes online through the Course OnLine (COL) system. A series of introductory courses may be waived for students who have a background in the coursework or demonstrated experience. Beyond those prerequisites, 52-credit hours are required for graduation–these credits are comprised of foundational coursework such as “Concepts of Programming Languages” and “Object-Oriented Software Development,” and electives chosen from areas like Artificial Intelligence, Game and Real-Time Systems, and Data Science. For prospective students, DePaul presents CDM Student Ambassadors to answer questions and share their experience about the program.
#15 (tie). Penn State
A gift of 200 acres in Centre County, Pennsylvania, would be the location of Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania. The school was established in 1855 as a full degree-granting institution, and after the passage of the Morrill Act of 1862, would become the state’s only land-grant university. When it was designated as a land-grant school, the areas of agricultural, mechanical arts, and military tactics became the focus of the curriculum, and the name was changed to the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania. Twelve years later the name would change again to Pennsylvania State College, and in 1953 once more to The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). The original 200-acre campus now encompasses more than 10,000 acres, and there are twenty-four campuses across the state to join the original, flagship main campus in University Park. Over 47,000 students are enrolled in this doctoral university, and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools provides regional accreditation.
Program Details: Penn State World Campus is the online degree portal for The Pennsylvania State University. The Master of Software Engineering degree program is offered entirely online through the World Campus, and students enter and progress through the program as a cohort. Requiring 36-credit hours, the Master of Software Engineering offers twelve courses continuously in consecutive seven-week terms over a period of two years. Courses such as “Pattern Oriented Design,” “Software Systems Architecture,” and “Applied Human Computer Interaction” are “highly interactive and collaborative” to take full advantage of the supportive cohort model. Distance learning has been offered by Penn State since the first correspondence course was presented in 1892. Having honed the delivery method of online learning, students can be assured that their program at Penn State has a curriculum “developed by faculty and technologists who understand the specific needs of learners in an online environment.”
#15 (tie). University of Michigan-Flint
University of Michigan-Flint started in 1956 as a satellite program of the University of Michigan, which is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, although the impetus for the school had been around since 1944. Local support in both cities (both financial and through community involvement) enabled the school to open as a commuter campus for junior and senior university students. Within the school’s first decade, the two lower grades were added and the school became a full four-year university. By 1971, University of Michigan-Flint (UM-Flint) became accredited as an individual institution, and in 2008 residence halls were opened to transition the school into a residential campus. Five schools and colleges provide over 100 academic degree programs to the nearly 9,000 enrolled students. UM-Flint has an alumni network of 40,000 graduates, and the school is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Details: Through the Office of Extended Learning, UM-Flint aims to provide “a solid understanding of the principles of computers and computing, not only in the context of problem solving, but also in technical support, education and training, and software/hardware management.” The Master of Science in Computer Science and Information Systems with a Concentration in Computer Science is a truly exceptional program with high marks from past and current students. This 30-credit hour program can be completed entirely online and requires twelve credits of core courses, twelve credits of computer science electives, and a six-credit hour thesis. Alternately, students who choose the non-thesis option can choose six more credits of electives. Core courses include classes, for example, in “Advanced Computer Networking” and “Algorithm and Complexity Analysis.” A new component of the program is the Cyber-Classroom, which when coupled with the online delivery method Blackboard®, transforms the student’s online education “from a completely virtual, on-line learning experience to a completely in-class, on-campus experience.”
The North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts was established in Raleigh, North Carolina by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1887 as a land-grant institution. The school opened two years later with six instructors, a single building, and 72 enrolled students (all white males at the time. Women would be allowed admission in 1899 and African-Americans in 1956). Expanding on the key elements of agricultural training, the school was able to send representatives to rural parts of the state (thanks to the Smith-Lever Act of 1914) to provide training to local farmers. In the 1960s the school went back and forth with several names before becoming officially North Carolina State University at Raleigh, although the last two words are very rarely used, even in official capacities. Known as NCSU or “NC State,” this public university is also a sea- and space-grant school, and enrolls over 34,00 students currently. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges regionally accredits NCSU.
Program Details: With a “nationally recognized faculty . . . of approximately 40 tenure-track professors,” the online Master of Computer Science (MCS) degree program at NCSU promises a “world class education.” The MCS curriculum is comprised of 31-credit hours that can be completed entirely online–no on-campus residency, thesis or exam are required. NC State’s “WolfWare” website allows students to access their courses and interact with professors and fellow students. Coursework covers foundational core requirements, theory, and systems with classes such as “Automata, Languages and Computability Theory,” “Computer Science Graduate Orientation,” and “Database Management concepts and Systems.” Offered through the College of Engineering, the program expects incoming students to possess an undergraduate degree in computer science or sufficient undergraduate coursework in computer science. Distance education students generally take two courses a semester and are allowed up to six years to finish the degree.
Old Dominion University (ODU) is a public metropolitan doctoral research university located in Norfolk, Virginia. Founded originally as an extension of the Norfolk Division of The College of William and Mary in 1930, the school has been an independent institution since 1962. Old Dominion obtained university status in 1969, and the six colleges of Arts and Letters, Business and Public Administration, Education, Engineering and Technology, Health Sciences, and Sciences, provide an energetic community for the 25,000 enrolled students. With more than 200 academic degree programs and a student to faculty ratio of 18 to 1, Old Dominion takes pride in its mission to be a “dynamic public research institution that serves its students and enriches the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world through rigorous academic programs, strategic partnerships, and active civic engagement.” Regional accreditation for Old Dominion comes from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Program Details: Ideal for students who have a solid background in computer science, ODU’s Master of Science in Computer Science degree program is offered through the Department of Computer Science in the College of Sciences. Three options are available within the program–students can participate in a courses-only 34-credit hour program, a 34-credit hour program with a culminating three-credit hour Masters Project, or a 31-credit hour program with a six-credit hour Masters Thesis. All three options require a one-hour colloquium. Foundational core courses such as “Computer Architecture” and “Foundations of Computing” are the basis of the degree, and students can also pursue an online Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity. In addition to the rigorous and relevant coursework offered, ODU Online provides a wealth of information to prospective and current online students such as tutorials on the online learning environment, easy access to advising and support services, and an online learning quiz to assess online learning potential.
Voted into existence by the Florida Legislature in 1961, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) opened for the first classes in 1964 with 867 students. Located in Boca Raton, Florida on a former army base, FAU started as an institution for college juniors, seniors and graduate-level students. Known as the founding father of the school, Tom Fleming was instrumental in assuring the initial success of this public university in the southeastern part of the state. A member of the State University System, FAU welcomed freshman and sophomore students for the first time in 1984 when the school became an official four-year degree-granting university. With a main campus in Boca Raton plus five satellite campuses across Florida, FAU enrolls more than 30,000 students in the nearly 200 academic degree programs offered through the ten colleges. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges regionally accredits FAU, and The Carnegie Foundation declares it as having high research activity.
Program Details: The Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at FAU presents a Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) degree program online from which students can choose a thesis or a non-thesis option. Requiring a minimum of 30-credit hours, both options are constructed of a curriculum made up of coursework in the three core groups of Theory, Software Development, and Computer Systems. Students take classes such as “Theory and Philosophy of Computation,” “Object-Oriented Software Design,” and “Introduction to Neural Networks.” Faculty members are the same both on-campus and online, and actively participate in current, cutting edge research and practices to assure that FAU MSCS students are receiving a relevant education. An eLearning Support Team is dedicated to the goal of preparing and supporting online students in order to “foster online student success,” and many resources–such as online tutoring, career services, library services and disability access–are provided to students to achieve that goal of success.
As a member of the Association of American Universities, the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) is a public research institution that aims to equip its “students, faculty and staff with the tools they need to create a community of thinkers and doers who can benefit humanity locally, nationally and abroad.” Located in Boulder, Colorado, CU Boulder was established in 1876, several months before Colorado became a state. Over 31,000 students are enrolled in this flagship institution in the University of Colorado system, and of that enrollment, almost half participate in community service. As a space-grant university, CU Boulder is part of a consortium of schools that performs outer-space research. The community service focus and research aspect of the university are direct results of the key guiding points that CU Boulder claims as “strategic imperatives”—shaping tomorrow’s leaders, being the top university for innovation, and positively impacting humanity. Regional accreditation comes from the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Details: Graduate students of computer science at the CU Boulder Graduate School have three completely online degree options. Students can earn a Computer Science Master of Engineering degree, Non-Thesis Master of Science degree, or a Professional Master of Science degree. The Professional MS and the ME programs both require 30-credit hours of coursework, whereas the MS program also requires 30-credits broken down into 24-credit hours of coursework and the remaining credits towards the thesis. Ten areas of study–Artificial intelligence, Computational biology, Database systems, Data science and engineering, Human-centered computing, Numerical & scientific computing, Programming languages, Software engineering, Systems and networking, and Theory of computing–make for a comprehensive degree with plenty of customization available. Courses offered are also vast and diverse, so students are sure to be stimulated and challenged academically. In addition to exacting academics, CU Boulder provides student resources to motivate and support online students through their studies.
The flagship institution in the Colorado State University System, Colorado State University (CSU) was created as a land-grant school in 1870, six years before Colorado became a state. Donated parcels of land established the school as “Colorado Agricultural College” in Fort Collins, and classes would begin in 1879. The eight colleges of CSU offer over 150 academic degree programs to the over 30,000 currently enrolled students, and because CSU has actively worked on increasing diversity at the school, the school has enjoyed “two years of record-breaking diversity” in the incoming first-year student body. Another point of pride for CSU is its recognized and celebrated achievements in sustainability. With green practices, buildings and “way of life,” CSU received a STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™) Platinum rating in 2015—the first platinum rating in history. This public research university also boasts a 17 to 1 student faculty ratio, and regional accreditation is provided by the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Details: Taking only two years to complete (but allowing students to self-pace for a longer time frame if needed), the online Master of Computer Science (MCS) degree program at Colorado State University provides students with “opportunities to take part in current research and specialize in focused areas of interest” for an innovative and customized experience. Acquired through the Department of Computer Science, the MCS degree requires 35-credits in topics such as “Introduction to Analysis of Algorithms,” “Software Product and Process Evaluation,” and “Foundations of Fine-Grain Parallelism.” As a coursework-only degree, students do not have to complete a project, thesis or exam in order to graduate. An online student services portal provides resources to online MCS students, so no student is without the advisement or support that they may need while participating in this comprehensive program that equips students “with the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the ever-evolving demands of the profession.”
Missouri University of Science and Technology (“Missouri S&T”) was founded as the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy in 1870. The school was established in Rolla, Missouri “as one of the first technological institutions west of the Mississippi” in order to take part in the benefits of the Morrill Act of 1862. The first classes were held in 1871 with 28 enrolled students—currently Missouri S&T boasts a student body of over 8,800. Over 98 academic degree programs are offered, but no matter what academic area a student chooses to pursue, they get to conduct research within one of Missouri S&T’s four “Signature Research Areas”—Advanced Manufacturing, Advanced Materials for Sustainable Infrastructure, Enabling Materials for Extreme Environments, and Smart Living. Part of the University of Missouri System, Missouri S&T is designated as both a land- and a space-grant institution. The Higher Learning Commission provides regional accreditation to this coeducational public university.
Program Details: The Master of Science in Computer Science degree program at Missouri S&T is presented entirely online through the highly-regarded Global Learning’s Distance & Continuing Education (DCE) Department. Two emphasis areas are offered in this 31-credit hour program–students can focus on Critical Infrastructure Protection or Software Engineering. There is also the choice of pursuing the program with either a thesis or the non-thesis option, and students who opt to complete a thesis are required to complete six credits of research. Most student complete the program in three to four years, but can take up to six years to complete the degree as needed. Class presentation is determined by the professor, so the courses can be synchronous or asynchronous, although the majority of classes are archived as videos for student convenience. A web portal helps distance students keep up to date on their account and class information and also provides a series of helpful tutorials on many topics.
#22. Drexel University
Founded as Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1891, Drexel University was engineered by philanthropic banker Anthony Drexel. Drexel wanted a coeducational school in his hometown to prepare “each new generation of students for productive professional and civic lives while also focusing our collective expertise on solving society’s greatest problems.” Begun in 1919. Drexel University’s cooperative education program is still a defining characteristic of the school—students can participate in eighteen months of paid work experience, focused on a field related to their major, prior to graduation. The main campus of the school is located in University City (a neighborhood of Philadelphia), and this private research university serves nearly 25,000 students on all three campuses in Philadelphia. Fifteen colleges and schools offer over 200 academic degree programs, and regional accreditation comes from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Program Details: Offering “career-oriented course work that places equal emphasis on theory and practice,” the Drexel University Online Master of Science in Computer Science (MS) degree program prepares graduates to “work on the cutting edge of technology.” Requiring 45 graduate credits to graduate and offering both a thesis and a non-thesis option, the program is uniquely organized into ten-week quarters to allow students to take more classes in a shorter period of time. Classes cover core topics such as “Theory of Computation,” “Programming Languages,” and “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.” For added customization, students can choose their electives from other Drexel University departments, such as Electrical Engineering, Information Science and Technology. In addition to the many support resources and services provided to online students, Drexel University Online provides a great deal of personalized military student support, from dedicated enrollment counselors to “specialized support from a veteran liaison” at the Steinbright Career Development Center.
Founded in 1881 as the Madison Normal School, Dakota State University’s (DSU) first purpose was to train teachers in the Dakota territory. Located in Madison, South Dakota, the school went through several names changes throughout its first century. Today, technology infuses all academic degree programs offered by DSU, and all all incoming students receive a laptop for their use. Four colleges make up this public coeducational university—the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business and Information Systems, the Beacom College of Computing and Cyber Sciences, and the College of Education—and over 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled. With a mission of providing “learning that integrates technology and innovation to develop graduates ready to contribute to local, national, and global prosperity,” DSU’s motto is “Embrace Innovation.” Regional accreditation comes from the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Details: Ideal for students who want a program that “emphasizes the practical application of computer science,” the Master of Science in Applied Computer Science (MSACS) degree is offered completely online at DSU. Still covering the foundations of computer science systems and computation theory, the program proudly moves “beyond the theoretical to the real-world application” for a different kind of degree. A five core course requirement allows for a great deal of customization in the remaining fifteen credits of electives. If students so choose, they can concentrate all of their elective choices in a Cyber Operations Specialization, participating in classes such as “Secure Software Engineering” and “Cryptography.” Electives can also be chosen from other related programs, such as Information Assurance (MSIA), Analytics (MSA), or Information Systems (MSIS). A final comprehensive exam completes the program, and students have up to five years to complete all 30 required credit hours.
Two schools that were chartered in 1895 would go onto to become the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (UMass Dartmouth or UMassD). New Bedford Textile School in New Bedford, Massachusetts and the Bradford Durfee Textile School in Fall River, Massachusetts both expanded through the years before merging as the Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute in the 1960s. This school would be located on a 710-acre campus in North Dartmouth, which was in between the two previous schools’ locations. By the early 1990s, this institution would join the University of Massachusetts system as one of the five campuses. Recently recognized as a Doctoral Research University, UMassD enrolls over 8,600 students in more than 160 academic degree programs. With a student to faculty ratio of sixteen to one, almost 400 faculty members are employed by the school. Regional accreditation for this public coeducational university is granted by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Program Details: With a curriculum that maintains a good “balance between theory, systems, and applications” and a solid focus on software design, the online Master of Science Computer Science (MSCS) degree program through UMass Dartmouth University Extension prepares graduates for careers in a myriad of settings. Students can complete the 30-credit hour program in four semesters or take up to six years if their schedules dictate a more relaxed pace, and can choose between a culminating thesis or a final project. Classes cover topics such as “Algorithms and Complexity,” “Software System Specification,” and “Advanced Bioinformatics,” and students are assigned advisors to help them construct the best course outline for their goals. For students who do not come from a traditional computer science or computer engineering background, UMassD offers a MSCS Online Preparatory Program made up of four online courses covering computer science basics. The program can be completed completely online within a year to help students get to the level they need to be to excel in the MSCS program.
#25. National University
Founded in 1971 by retired Navy lieutenant commander David Chigos, National University (NU) is located in La Jolla, California. This private, non-profit university was created to cater to working adults with its degree-specific, non-traditional academic approach. The original class of 27 students in 1972 has grown to a student enrollment of almost 25,000 in the multiple California campuses, Nevada campus, and many online programs. NU has served as the flagship institution of the National University System since its creation in 2001, and offers colleges and schools such as the School of Business and Management, Sanford College of Education, School of Engineering and Computing, School of Health and Human Services, School of Professional Studies, and the College of Letters and Sciences. Regional accreditation for National University has been continuously provided since 1977 by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Program Details: For individuals who want to be “of immediate benefit to the computing industry,” the online Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) degree program at National University is a good place to start. The curriculum focuses on providing “rigorous scientific and analytical techniques” that produces not just strong computer science professionals, but also professionals who are guided by good industry ethics and interpersonal skills. Students coming into the program who have an undergraduate degree in computer science, information technology or systems, or software engineering are required to complete 54 quarter units in order to graduate, and they must pick between three specializations options (Advanced Computing , Software Engineering, and Database Engineering). Some students may be required to take more or less credit hours depending upon their previous academic experience–students who participated in a transition program during their undergraduate years may be eligible to earn the degree with only 45 quarter units.
A comprehensive public research university, the University of West Florida (UWF or “West Florida”) was founded in 1963 when the Florida Legislature voted to add a sixth member institution to the State University System of Florida (currently twelve institutions of higher education are within the system). Located in Pensacola, Florida, West Florida’s classes began in 1967 for upper-level students. Within the next twenty-five years the school would also admit underclass students and become a full four-year degree-granting institution in 1983. This space-grant designated school occupies the third largest campus of the State University System of Florida, sitting on a 1,600-acre main campus that is also a nature preserve. With nearly 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students currently enrolled, this coeducational university is the second largest flagship in the State University System, and regional accreditation comes from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Program Details: Offered through the Department of Computer Science in the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering, UWF’s Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) degree program has two specializations that can be completed entirely online. The Database Systems specialization focuses on “designing, implementing, maintaining, and managing database systems” while the Software Engineering specialization “concentrates on the process, specification, analysis, design, implementation, verification, validation, and software project management.” Both specializations require 30-credit hours and a offer a choice between a thesis or a Computer Science Project to complete the degree. There are some shared required courses, such as “Software Engineering Foundations: Java Programming” and “Software Engineering Practice and Tools,” but also classes that are specific to the specialization. Both specializations can be pursued by individuals who come from other undergraduate disciplines. In addition, the Online Campus of UWF provides a great deal of support for the online student, from tips on online learning to personal preparation.
#27. Bellevue University
Established in 1966, Bellevue University (Bellevue College at that time—the school would gain university status in 1994) had been initially planned at a meeting of the Bellevue, Nebraska, Chamber of Commerce in 1965. With a mission to effectively engage “students in earning awards and degrees that prepare them to thrive in a connected, competitive world,” Bellevue University has centered itself on providing a relevant, adult-oriented education to non-traditional aged students–over 75% of the current student body is over the age of 25. Quickly becoming the fourth largest private college located in Nebraska, Bellevue has nearly 13,000 students currently enrolled in a variety of programs—traditional bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, as well as accelerated programs and multiple online programs. Over 50,000 students have graduated from this non-profit university, and regional accreditation comes from the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Details: The Master of Science in Computer Information Systems (MSCIS) degree program at Bellevue integrates “hands-on, applied learning with theory” for a comprehensive degree that will “deliver a transformative student learning experience.” The program requires 36-credit hours, and twenty-seven core credits include classes in topics such as “Infrastructure,” “Information Technology Project Management,” and “Storage Systems.” The remaining nine-credit hours are devoted to one of three concentrations offered in Databases, Software Development, and Security (for students who did not major in computer science or a related field, up to six credits of prerequisite courses may be necessary). Faculty members go through a six-week training to learn the best techniques for online teaching, so each class is delivered by a professor who has both gone through the process of learning through an online class, and learned the most effective ways of teaching online classes. Online tools are offered for prospective students to help them assess their readiness, and current students are supported with various student services.
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) was established in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1932 by husband and wife duo Harry A.B. Shapiro and Gertrude Crockett Shapiro. Originally a business school called the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Secretarial Science, the school was created as a for-profit institution and would remain so until becoming a non-profit institution in 1968. SNHU would also transition to a full graduate and undergraduate degree-granting school and change names several times. Moving from its downtown location in the 1970s, SNHU is now located on a 300-acre campus on the border of both Manchester and Hooksett, New Hampshire. Six schools and colleges offer academic programs to the approximately 80,000 currently enrolled students—about 5,000 on-campus and more than 75,000 online. Known for the prolific online offerings, SNHU is one of the fastest growing schools in the nations, and this private coeducational nonsectarian university is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Program Details: The Master of Science in Information Technology
#29. Lewis University
Lewis University was begun in Romeoville, Illinois in 1932 as the Holy Name Technical School. Founded by the Chicago Archdiocese and Bishop Bernard J. Scheil to train young men primarily in aviation technology as a trade, the school received much financial support from altruistic Catholic benefactor Frank J. Lewis, who become the school’s namesake. A college since 1948 and a university since 1973, Lewis is a coeducational private Roman Catholic (in the tradition of the order of the Lasallian Brothers) university located in the Chicago, Illinois suburb of Romeoville. Approximately 6,500 undergraduate and graduate students are currently enrolled in the 115 academic degree programs offered both traditionally and as accelerated programs. Sitting on a 410-acre campus, Lewis is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Details: The Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) degree program presented by Lewis University is designed to prepare graduates who can “shape tomorrow’s technology in dramatic ways.” The fully online degree program requires a minimum of 32-credit hours for students who have a background in computer science and offers “targeted” concentrations in Cyber Security, Intelligent Systems or Software Engineering. Students who do not have sufficient coursework in the field will need to take an additional thirteen-credit hours of foundational courses. All students must take a two-credit Research in Computer Science course, and then get to choose a core course from within the three core areas of programming, systems, and theory. The remaining credits go towards the concentration electives and a final capstone project, and most students complete the program in two years. A selection of articles are made readily available to the program website to online MSCS students as computer science resources.
#30. Franklin University
The origins of Franklin University began as classes offered to working adults at the Columbus, Ohio YMCA in 1902 as the YMCA School of Commerce, and by 1933 the name would officially become Franklin University. Franklin would go onto be its own independent institution in 1964, with the YMCA’s blessing. The main campus still resides in Columbus, but other campus locations have opened in other parts of the Midwest. In addition, Franklin has partnerships with over 250 community colleges in the United States to make it easier for community college students to transfer credits towards a degree at Franklin. Many of the offered academic degrees can be completed entirely online, which is inline with Franklin’s mission to be a “a student-centered, nonprofit, independent institution that provides high quality, relevant education enabling the broadest possible community of learners to achieve their goals and enrich the world.” The Higher Learning Commission provides Franklin with its regional accreditation.
Program Details: The 40-credit hour Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) degree program at Franklin University can be completed online in just twenty months. The curriculum concentrates on the five focus areas of Systems Architecture, Algorithm Analysis, Distributed Systems, Acceptance Testing, and Database Design & Administration. Students can start this entirely-online program in January, April or September and participate in required classes such as “Communication Strategies for the Technical Professional” and “System Architecture and Engineering.” A wide range of electives serve to customize the degree, and students can select from classes such as “Application of Artificial Intelligence” and “Human Factors.” As a school that caters to working adults, Franklin provides plenty of student support through tutorials, academic advisors, and always-available resources. Additionally, students of the MSCS degree program can transfer up to twelve hours of credits towards the degree in order to graduate sooner.
East Carolina University (ECU) is a public, doctoral research university located in Greenville, North Carolina that began as a teacher training school in 1909. The East Carolina Teachers Training School had been voted into existence by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1907 after several requests from towns in the eastern part of the state had requested a normal school for the area. The school started with a student body of 104 women and nineteen men, and today boasts an enrollment of nearly 30,000. The original campus was 43 acres, but now covers almost 1,600 acres, and since becoming part of the University of North Carolina System in 1972, ECU is the third largest institution of higher education in the state. Designated as a sea-grant institution, ECU has fourteen schools and colleges and an academic staff of just over 2,000. Regional accreditation comes from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Program Details: ECU offers a Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) degree program through the Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering and Technology. With an “aim to equip graduates with the skills and theoretical background necessary to solve a wide range of IT challenges” of both today and the future, the MSCS degree is available online and requires a minimum of 30 credit hours. Twelve hours of core courses cover topics like “Computer Systems Architecture” and “Computability and Complexity,” and students choose at least fifteen hours of elective credits. A final thesis or project culminates the program and must be strongly defended before the exam commission. A series of computer science seminars are offered through the year to enrich the academics offered, and all students must attend a portion of them. Past speakers include Senior IT Solution Architects from IBM and renowned computer science professors from other universities.
Established to offer education and assistance to members of the military as they return to civilian life, Colorado Technical University (CTU) is a for-profit university that primarily offers classes online. Originally Colorado Electronic Training Center, CTU was the brainchild of Colonel Richard Davis and Major Robert Turkisher in 1965. The first students took classes at an old roller-skating rink, but now almost 30,000 students are enrolled in programs that can mostly be completed entirely online. CTU gained its university status—and the name “Colorado Technical University”—in 1995, and boasts an alumni network of over 70,000 graduates. The school’s location is in Colorado Springs–it has six colleges as well as a Virtual Campus. Utilizing the specially designed and trademarked learning system Intellipath™, students of CTU gain the advantage of a program that caters to their individual learning style. The Higher Learning Commission provides full regional accreditation to CTU.
Program Details: Colorado Technical University’s Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) degree program is “designed to provide students with an in-depth understanding of operating systems, network architecture, and software system engineering processes.” The 48-credit hour program is presented online, Concentrations are available in Database Systems, Computer System Security, and Software Engineering, as well as a General Computer Science track. All four concentration areas require the same 28-credits of core courses covering subjects such as “Modern Operating Systems,” “Computer Networking,” and “Design and Analysis of Algorithms.” The remaining courses are made up of concentration electives, or in the case of the General track, a selection of electives, and a final capstone project. Multiple start dates a year are offered for increased flexibility, and a dedicated Prior Learning Assessment team helps students assess if any prior work or educational experience can translate into credit hours towards a degree.
The earliest beginnings of University of Louisville started in 1798 when a handful of men determined to found the Jefferson Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. It took fifteen years to open, and didn’t last for more than two decades. Two other schools opened around the same time, but also failed to become sustainable. All of these predecessors would lead to the creation of University of Louisville (UofL) in 1846. In 1923 the school moved to its main campus, the Belknap Campus, and through the years acquired two more campus locations. Becoming a member of the Kentucky state university system in 1970, UofL is a public coeducational university “committed to achieving preeminence as a nationally recognized metropolitan research university.” Twelve colleges and schools serve the nearly 23,000 enrolled students and employ just over 7,000 faculty and staff. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges grants regional accreditation to UofL.
Program Details: The J.B. Speed School of Engineering at UofL provides an “innovative curriculum and award-winning faculty” to produce a highly-sought after Master of Science in Computer Science degree program. Offered entirely online, the UofL MS degree can be completed in just two years and is open to students who may not have an undergraduate degree in computer science or engineering (although it is expected that applicants to the program have some degree of technical knowledge. In the case of a student who does not have the background knowledge or experience necessary, prerequisite courses are determined based on the student’s individual needs). Thirty-credit hours are required, and classes are available throughout the year in topics such as “Automata Theory,” “Advanced Databases and Warehousing,” and “Simulation and Modeling Discrete Systems.” Two additional computer science certificates are offered online through the UofL Computer Engineering and Computer Science Department: Data Science and Cybersecurity.
Stevens Institute of Technology began in 1868 when inventor Edwin A. Stevens passed away and included in his will a provision for the establishment of a university. The school opened in 1870 in Hoboken, New Jersey and bordered on the edge of the Stevens’ family estate. The Stevens family contributed many inventions and innovations, and originally dedicated Stevens to mechanical engineering. Now the four academic schools (the Schaefer School of Engineering & Science, the School of Systems & Enterprises, the School of Business, and the College of Arts & Letters) offer over 100 academic degree programs to the nearly 7,000 students currently enrolled. Stevens takes pride that the active engagement of “faculty, staff, students and alumni in and around the City of Hoboken creates a positive and lasting cultural, economic and societal impact” on the community. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has regionally accredited this private, coeducational research university since 1927.
Program Details: The Stevens MS in Computer Science degree program is offered online through the Schaefer School of Engineering & Science. With many focus areas to broaden the degree, students can customize their experience to fully support their academic and professional goals. From cloud computing to information extraction and secure systems, or gaming and simulation to web application development, students have many choices to explore within the curriculum. Only three courses (out of the required 30-credit hour minimum) construct the core requirements, and even within the core students have a selection of classes from which to choose. The remaining courses are comprised of electives, and students can even choose up to nine credit hours of courses from other disciplines. The “advanced, sophisticated training” ingrained in the program does not mean that computer science students are left to their own devices. On the contrary, Stevens makes available many resources and support that enables online students “to flourish in their studies.”
#35. Davenport University
Davenport University had its beginning as the Grand Rapids Business College in 1866 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The school focused on teaching office skills but was troubled with many changes in location and name through the years. In 1910, a new teacher at the school repurposed the school and energized the staff as the new leader. Michael Davenport was successful in reinventing the school, and it soon would take on his name. Going through successful expansion, Davenport University (known then as Davenport-McLachlan Institute) became a non-profit institution in 1954 and gained accreditation in 1976. In the early 21st century, Davenport gained its current name, and now this private university has multiple locations across the state of Michigan and online. Almost 8,000 students are currently enrolled, and regional accreditation comes through the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Details: Seeking to become a Center of Academic Excellence through recognition by the National Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, Davenport offers an online Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) degree program. Requiring 30-credit hours, students can choose to pursue a thesis paper or research project to culminate the degree. For customization, two concentration options are offered: Computer Science or Security. The Computer Science Concentration requires classes such as “Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning” and “Computer Vision,” while the Security Concentration focuses on subjects like “Legal and Ethical Security Topics” and “Reverse Engineering Malware.” The program is housed within the Davenport College of Technology, and promises to further students’ “knowledge in high-demand areas such as computer vision, artificial intelligence, pattern recognition, and secure programming.” Students are given the opportunity to enrich their academic and professional experience by joining several student organizations (both international and university-specific) that promote computer science and technology.
#36. Hofstra University
Originally founded in 1935 as an extension of New York University (at that time called “Nassau College – Hofstra Memorial of New York University at Hempstead, Long Island”), Hofstra University is a private, nonsectarian, coeducational institution. Coeducational from the beginning, the school was not a residential college but offered day and evening classes. Separating from NYU in 1939, the name was changed to Hofstra University in 1963. Hofstra is comprised of ten schools and colleges housed within the 100-plus buildings on the 244-acre campus, and more than 11,000 currently enrolled students study in nearly 300 academic degree programs both on-campus and online. This institution is located in the village of Hempstead in Long Island, New York, and is the only university to host multiple, consecutive presidential debates. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education grants regional accreditation to Hofstra.
Program Details: Offering multiple webinars each year for prospective students to learn about the online Master of Science in Computer Science degree, Hofstra presents a program that attracts applicants who want to become “highly qualified professionals capable of adapting with ease to the dynamic field of computing.” The 30-credit hour program offers a “cutting-edge” curriculum with subjects such as “Privacy in a Wired World” and “Mathematical Logic,” and requires a Capstone (either a six-semester hour thesis or a three-semester hour project) for successful completion. Concentrations in Web Engineering or Networking and Security are offered, or students can develop their own focus area with advisor guidance and approval. The final Capstone should focus on the student’s chosen concentration area, and students who pursue the degree full-time can finish in just four semesters. Students who do not have an undergraduate degree in computer science or a similar discipline may be required to take certain prerequisites.
In 1960, the Springfield Committee for Higher Education was organized to bring a degree-granting university to Springfield, Illinois. Sangamon State University (SSU) was signed into existence by the Illinois General Assembly in 1969, and classes began that following year. Twenty-five years later, the University of Illinois gained SSU, and the school was renamed University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS). UIS is one of the three universities in the University of Illinois System, and “provides an intellectually rich, collaborative, and intimate learning environment for students, faculty, and staff, while serving local, regional, state, national, and international communities.” Located in the State Capitol, UIS is a public land-grant institution with a student enrollment of approximately 5,500 undergraduate and graduate students. Small classes (student to faculty ratio of 15 to 1), a thriving online campus, and nearly 100 student clubs and organizations are all elements of this “world class” school. UIS is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Details: Crafted for students who are “interested in the design, analysis, and implementation of software programs,” the Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) degree program at UIS is offered through the Department of Computer Science. The 32-credit hour program engages students together as a cohort, but as degree requirements evolve, students are allowed the opportunity to continue with the requirements under which they began the program, or they can opt to follow the most current set of curricular requirements. Advisors are assigned to help students navigate the requirements, but ultimately the student dictates their plan of study. Some courses that have been or are currently being offered include classes such as “RoboEthics,” “Discrete Structures,” “Intrusion Detection,” and “Usability Engineering.” One of the online student support services offered is the How To: Survive Online Courses page, which offers helpful tips and information on the online learning environment at UIS.
Begun in 1906 as the two-year school known as Fourth District Agricultural and Mechanical School, the University of West Georgia (UWG) has grown to become a comprehensive, coeducational, R3-Doctoral Research (as designated by the Carnegie Foundation) university. Located in Carrollton, Georgia, UWG is the state’s sixth largest public institution of higher education with a student enrollment of over 13,000 students and a campus that sits on just under 650 acres. UWG provides 88 fields of study in seven colleges and schools and through online programs, and offers more than 150 student clubs and organizations. With a mission “to enable students, faculty, and staff to realize their full potential through academic engagement, supportive services, professional development, and a caring, student-centered community,” UWG proudly proclaims the motto, “Go West!” Regional accreditation is granted by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Program Details: The Master of Science in Applied Computer Science degree program at UWG is presented completely online through the College of Science and Mathematics, with coursework delivered both synchronously and asynchronously. The classes are taught by renowned faculty who possess “both academic and industry experience,” and cover topics like “Database Systems,” “Software Development,” and “Program Construction.” The 36-credit hour program allows students to progress together in a cohort, with a focus on “applied knowledge and skills in computer science and information technology that are integrated and delivered in a comprehensive and practical pedagogy to prepare graduates to enter the information technology job market upon graduation.” All students must participate in two projects to complete the program, and a comprehensive web portal lists all the resource links students will need to successfully work towards graduation.
Founded in 1927 in Washington, DC by Navy veteran and radio operator Eugene H. Rietzke, Capitol Technology University had its start as the Capitol Radio Engineering Institute. Initially a correspondence school offering training in radio technology and electronics, the school would grow and change locations and names several times. Capitol Technology University (known as Capitol or Capitol Tech) since 2014, the school has been located on a 52-acre campus in Laurel, Maryland since the early 1980s and has been a resident college since the first residence halls were completed in 1989. Now proud to be the only independent university in Maryland, Capitol provides “a relevant education in engineering, business and related fields” to approximately 800 currently enrolled students. Capitol Technology University has been regionally accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools since 1976.
Program Details: The Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) degree program at Capitol Tech is offered completely and conveniently online. Currently all classes are presented in a synchronous format (although as of summer 2018 the classes will be/are asynchronous) and are provided in sixteen-week terms. Requiring 30-credit hours, the program’s core curriculum covers topics such as “Theory of Computation” and “Designing Intelligent Systems.” Students take twelve credits of electives, which are grouped into two focus areas: Data Science and Software Engineering. All students work with a faculty advisor to construct a capstone project to culminate the degree. For prospective students, Capitol Tech offers an online class demo to observe what the program is like and what is expected of each student. Capitol Tech also offers many support resources to all online students, but particularly to students who serve in the military.
Beginning as the idea of a group of Florida businessmen in the 1960s, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) was first established as the Nova University of Advanced Technology. Originally located on a former Navy landing field that had been in use during World War II in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the school would find its permanent home on just over 300 acres in Davie, Florida (as well as on several satellite campuses throughout Florida and one in Puerto Rico). The name changed several times, but in 1994 the final name was bestowed upon the school when it merged with the Southeastern University of the Health Sciences. This private university is classified as a high research institution by the Carnegie Foundation, and currently enrolls over 24,000 students in the more than 175 academic degree programs offered by its eighteen colleges and schools. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges grants NSU with its regional accreditation.
Program Details: Through the College of Engineering and Computing at NSU, students can obtain a Master of Science (MS) in Computer Science (CISC) entirely online through Blackboard. With a core curriculum that covers “the theory of programming languages, the design and analysis of algorithms, operating systems, database management systems, and software engineering,” students get a solid foundation on which to build their 36-credit hour degree. At least nine hours can be devoted to a concentration in Software Engineering, Computer Systems, Data Science, Information Assurance and Cybersecurity, or Real-world computing, or students can follow a more general track by choosing a broader selection of electives. The Information Assurance and Cybersecurity concentration has been nationally recognized by both the U.S. National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, which in turn means that “federal agencies may sponsor civilian and military personnel to take the school’s certified graduate courses.” In addition, NSU has a strong history of “actively supporting service members and their families for more than 40 years” with programs and benefits to make the military service person’s academic experience as smooth as possible.
#41. Brandeis University
Conveniently located on a 235-acre campus in the suburbs of Boston, Brandeis University was founded as a nonsectarian institution of higher education in 1948. Begun at a time when many groups were excluded from entering colleges due to their race, ethnicity, gender or religion, the American Jewish community determined to establish a school that “welcomed talented faculty and students of all backgrounds and beliefs” from its inception. Named for the first Jewish justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Louis D. Brandeis, Brandeis University has been elected to the Association of American Universities (a high honor due to the invitation-only status of membership) and maintains a global reach. Located in Waltham, Massachusetts, this private “research university with a liberal arts focus” currently enrolls nearly 6,000 students and enjoys a low student to faculty ration of 10 to 1. Over 260 student clubs and organizations are available to students, and regional accreditation comes from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Program Details: Individuals who desire to become “leaders with expertise in software development, assessment, and management who can also harness team leadership and superior communication skills” should look no further than the online Master of Software Engineering degree program offered through Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies (GPS). The 30-credit hour program requires six core courses and four electives; core courses include topics such as “Software Development Methodologies” and “Object-oriented Design with UML,” and elective options have included classes such as “Ruby Programming” and “Functional Programming with Java and Scala.” Students of the Brandeis GPS Software Engineering program are well supported through—among other things—expertly-trained faculty, small class sizes, engaging and interactive online classes, and individual student attention. With a comprehensive mission, GPS provides a solid program that at the same time is committed to the success of each student.
Columbus College was a junior college that opened in 1958 in Columbus, Georgia, and was the first incarnation of Columbus State University. In the first year of its existence, the school had fifteen faculty members and nearly 300 students—the current enrollment has grown to approximately 8,000. In 1965, Columbus College became a full four-year institution, and the name was changed to Columbus State University (CSU) in 1996. Two physical campuses and an online campus offer just under 100 academic degree programs. The main campus sits on 132 acres in and around Columbus, and the RiverPark campus provides extended cultural and artistic offerings to both students and the larger Columbus community, such as the Riverside Theatre Complex, Corn Center for the Visual Arts, and the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts. Additionally, around 100 student clubs and organization provide many opportunities for student involvement. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges provides this public university with regional accreditation.
Program Details: The Master of Science in Applied Computer Science degree program at Columbus State is offered through the TSYS School of Computer Science at the Turner College of Business. Depending on which concentration is chosen (Cybersecurity, Software Development, Modeling & Simulation, or the Traditional track) and if students desire the thesis or non-thesis option, the program ranges from 30 to 34-credit hours. Regardless of concentration choice, all students must take the same four core courses (Introduction to Cybersecurity, Survey of Modeling and Simulation, Advanced Algorithms, and Object-Oriented Development), which will enable them to “apply techniques and technologies” that are foundational to computer science. Completely online through CSU Online, student resources begin with an online learning assessment tool called the SmarterMeasure assessment and progress as the student moves through the program. In particular, CSU wants to foster an environment for non-traditional aged students to thrive, and offers many services for the adult learner.
Southern Methodist University (SMU) was chartered in 1911 by what is now the United Methodist Church (UMC). Located in Dallas, Texas, SMU began classes in 1915 in Dallas Hall—the university’s first building. Now the institution boasts three campuses: the main campus, which is located in Dallas and the incorporated enclaves of Highland Park and University Park, the Taos, New Mexico campus, and the Plano, Texas campus. Over 260 academic degree programs are offered in seven academic schools to the nearly 12,000 students enrolled, with a student to faculty ratio of 11 to 1. The three campuses—the main campus in the Dallas/University Park/Highland Park area, SMU-in-Plano, and SMU-in-Taos—cover a combined 623 acres. Although affiliated with the UMC, SMU is “nonsectarian in its teaching and committed to academic freedom and open inquiry.” Southern Methodist University is a private research university with regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Program Details: The Lyle School of Engineering at SMU offers a distance education option for their acclaimed Master of Science in Computer Science degree. Housed in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, the 30-credit hour degree program allows students to choose a six-credit hour concentration or a thesis option. Core courses cover topics like “Computer Architecture,” “Algorithm Engineering,” and “File Organization and Database Management.” Students can focus on one of five offered concentrations in Algorithms, Architecture, Software, Data Science, or Security. Those students who do opt for the thesis route select a faculty advisor to serve as their guide and must defend their thesis successfully on-campus. For interested applicants who want to learn more about how the distance education process works at SMU, the Lyle School of Engineering periodically offers admissions events for prospective students to ask their questions about the program and the online delivery method.
City University of Seattle (CityU) began as City University in 1973 with the intent of offering an educational option to working adults. Dr. Michael A. Pastore founded the school in Seattle, Washington, and the school has collaborated with other institution of higher education to provide “education access worldwide via a network of partners and programs onsite and/or online.” Proud of a curriculum that is crafted and administered by “practicing professionals and is results-oriented, hands-on, and informed by what industry demands now,” over 6,700 students are currently enrolled in the programs housed with CityU’s academic schools: the School of Management, Albright School of Education, School of Arts and Sciences, School of Applied Leadership, the Technology Institute, and Washington Academy of Languages. As a non-profit private institution, CityU is a member of the National University System. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities grants CityU with its regional accreditation.
Program Details: The conveniently online Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) degree program at CityU provides a “flexible, yet rigorous” experience that can culminate in a degree typically in just two years. Students who have an undergraduate degree in computer science or related discipline can begin the process of applying by connecting with a CityU advisor for guidance. The program requires 39-credit hours (although some students may be required to take up to 20-credits of preparatory courses). A Computer Systems core offers classes like “Principles of Software Engineering,” “Introduction to Cloud Computing, and “Computer Architecture,” and is followed by several Depth-of-Study classes, and a final Capstone. As a school that caters to working adults and transfer students, CityU makes sure online students have the support they require. Students Services offers many of the usual and expected supports, but also supplies webinars and other resources for outside-of-the-box support.
Georgia Southern University (GSU) was established in 1908 in Statesboro, Georgia as the First District Agricultural & Mechanical School. Originally a school to train rural children, GSU has gone through many changes through the years. Now the state’s largest university south of Atlanta, GSU is designated as a doctoral research institution by the Carnegie Foundation. Since consolidating with Armstrong State University in 2018, GSU now has three campuses across the state: the main campus in Statesboro, the Armstrong Campus in Savannah, and the Liberty Campus in Hinesville. The first class in 1908 had fifteen students and four instructors—enrollment numbers today have grown to over 27,000 students and more than 2,000 faculty members and staff. With 142 academic degree programs and more than 200 student organizations, students from all 50 states have called GSU their school. Regional accreditation comes from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Program Details: Offered as a hybrid program, which allows students to take classes either on-campus or online, the Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) degree program at GSU is housed within the Department of Computer Sciences in the College of Engineering and Computing. The 30-credit hour program provides a “unique balance of academic and theoretical learning with practical skills and experience” to prepare students for an array of professions in the computer science field. Students who have a sufficient background in computer science can finish the program in as few as five semesters. Those students who come from other disciplines can also enter the program, provided they take advantage of the prerequisite courses offered at Georgia Southern in order to get them up to speed with their peers. The core curriculum supplies a solid foundation of courses, and students can choose from one of three unique specializations in Data Mining, Data Warehousing, or Distributed Database Systems.
#47. Clarkson University
In 1894 the untimely and tragic death of local entrepreneur Thomas Clarkson led to the creation of what is now known as Clarkson University. With a main campus located on 640 acres in Potsdam, New York, the school was founded in 1896 by his family in honor of his courage and altruism and originally called the Thomas S. Clarkson Memorial School of Technology. The first class of students consisted of seventeen men and women—now the school serves more than 4,300 students in over 60 academic degree programs. A private research institution, Clarkson currently has eight schools and institutes, five New York sites, and a strong online presence. Over 250 clubs and societies and more than 50 study abroad relationships offer students the opportunity to be engaged both locally and globally. The Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools provides regional accreditation to Clarkson.
Program Details: The Master of Science in Computer Science at Clarkson is provided through both the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering and the Department of Computer Science as an inter-disciplinary degree program. Requiring 30-credit hours and a thesis to graduate, the program looks “beyond the fundamentals and explores advances in computational theory, programming languages, software systems, hardware integration and information technology” for a comprehensive and cutting-edge curriculum. Classes include topics in “Introduction to Automata Theory and Formal Languages” and “Software Design and Analysis” and can be accessed online, but the thesis must be defended in person to the Examination Committee on-campus. Students who do not have a Computer Science bachelor’s degree may be required to take undergraduate courses, and a Computer Science Graduate Committee reviews each applicant’s individual circumstances to assess their readiness.
In 1867, West Virginia participated in benefits from the Morrill Act of 1862 by founding a land-grant institution in Morganton. Originally called the Agricultural College of West Virginia, the school was quickly renamed West Virginia University (WVU). Six male college students and 100 preparatory students were the first class—women were soon admitted as well. Now this public research-focused school (with recognition from the Carnegie Foundation as a R1: Doctoral University—the highest research activity) in Morganton is the flagship university of the state and is designated both as a land-grant and a space-grant institution. Nearly 200 academic degree programs are now offered through the fifteen colleges and schools to a student enrollment of over 32,000, across the multiple campuses throughout West Virginia. With a mission of committing to “creating a diverse and inclusive culture that advances education, healthcare and prosperity for all by providing access and opportunity,” WVU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Program Details: The part-time Master of Science in Software Engineering (MSSE) is offered completely online through the WVU Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. The curriculum is comprised of required courses such as “Introduction to Object-Oriented Design,” “Validation and Verification,” and “Software Analysis and Design.” Elective choices include topics like “Software Reuse,” “Enterprise Architecture Frameworks,” and “Cloud Computing/Internet of Things.” Students who choose the thesis option are required to complete 30 credit hours, and students who opt for the non-thesis option must take 33 credits. There are additional prerequisite courses that do not count towards the degree for students who do not have the sufficient undergraduate preparatory work. Students of all backgrounds are fully supported as WVU Online students. From enrollment coaches to academic advisors, assistance is in place to make sure that every student has “access to a team that can help them succeed from the first class to the day of graduation.”
Established in 1947 originally as a satellite of University of Maryland’s (UM) College of Education, the initial purpose of the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) was to offer education to adult learners. Named the College of Special and Continuation Studies, the school was one of several UM extension programs across the state. By 1970, the school had grown to desire being an independent institution, and the name that was strategically chosen in 1959 reflects maintaining a place in the University of Maryland System (“University of Maryland”) and, in the British tradition of University Colleges, offering classes unbound to physical classrooms (“University College”). Administrative offices are in multiple countries and the headquarters are located in Adelphi, Maryland, serving over 80,000 global students. UMUC offers classroom-based classes in Adelphi and other locations, but is also one of the largest distance-learning institutions, and regional accreditation is granted by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Program Details: For future students who want to gain “hands-on experience performing all functions of building software and develop job-relevant expertise in implementing large software engineering projects,” the online Master of Science in Information Technology degree with a Software Engineering specialization is a solid choice. The program is comprised of 36-credit hours of core coursework, specialization electives, and a final Capstone Course entitled Software Engineering Project. The curriculum is constructed of “theories combined with real-world applications and practical skills” with the input and contributions from “employers, industry experts, and scholars” in the field. The online learning “classroom” at UMUC is called Learning Experience Online–LEO for short. Offering everything from technical information to student services and online calendars and other resources, LEO gives UMUC online students the support, flexibility and convenience they need to have a positive experience on their academic journey.
Frostburg State University of Frostburg, Maryland, began in 1898 as the State Normal School No. 2. The residents of Frostburg were supportive of opening a school to train teachers in their town—so much so that they raised the funding to secure the location of the school’s inaugural building, Old Main. The first classes were held in 1902, and consisted of 57 students and four faculty members. The school was renamed several times, settling on Frostburg State University (FSU) in 1987, and has been a member of the University System of Maryland since 1988. Three colleges are located on the 260-acre campus (College of Education, College of Business, and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences), and, along with the online programs, provide approximately 60 academic degree programs to the current enrollment of just under 6,000 students. Regional accreditation for FSU is granted by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Program Details: FSU’s Master of Science in Applied Computer Science degree program is “highly experiential” and offered online. Only two additional courses are needed as prerequisites for students who do not have an undergraduate degree in computer science, and those who already have the academic experience in computer science can complete the program in just a year by taking the required 30-credit hours. Students choose from a General track or a concentration in Database–there are three shared courses that are required for both: “Advanced Software Engineering,” “Security in Computing,” and “Advanced Object-Oriented Data Structures and File Organization.” The Office of Graduate Services at FSU offers Virtual Events, such as webinars and information sessions, to give prospective students a glimpse into their desired program. All of these Events are offered online, and interested individuals can participate using their phone or computer to participate and ask questions.