For online students, interaction with classmates can be challenging given their distance from campus – and each other.
But in synchronous, or live, online courses, students generally participate in real-time discussions through videoconferencing, which allows for regular communication and opportunities to build relationships. In those cases, some experts say, smaller class sizes help students feel more engaged.
[Discover how to decide between live and self-paced online courses.]
Still, experts are divided on how heavily to weigh class size when it comes to asynchronous, or self-paced, online classes, where students complete coursework around their own schedule. Many online classes are a combination of both.
Among the 211 ranked online bachelor’s programs that submitted these data to U.S. News in an annual survey, the average proportion of courses with just two to nine students between July 2015 and June 2016 was 25.2 percent. But among the 10 online colleges where classes of that size were the most common, the proportion was significantly higher: 83.5 percent.
Two schools on the list – Toccoa Falls College in Georgia and Georgia College & State University – reported to U.S. News that 100 percent of online courses had two to nine students.
[Discover why experts say class size can matter in online programs.]
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the online bachelor’s programs at the University of Central Florida, where 48.1 percent of courses have 100 or more students, and the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, where 45.4 percent of classes had at least 100 students.
Among all the online colleges that submitted class size data, the average number of students per online course in 2015-2016 was 20.8. Of the 10 schools on this list, the average was slightly lower, at 14.5.
Below is a list of the 10 online bachelor’s programs where the greatest percentage of classes during the 2015-2016 school year had two to nine students. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be ranked, were not considered for this report.
School (state) Percentage of classes with two to nine students U.S. News rank
Georgia College & State University 100% 28 (tie)
Toccoa Falls College (GA) 100% 193 (tie)
Logan University (MO) 86.1% 205 (tie)
University of West Alabama 85.1% RNP*
City University of Seattle 80.4% 45 (tie)
Utah State University 80.1% 14
Dominican College (NY) 77.1% 193 (tie)
Tabor College (KS) 75.9% 220 (tie)
*RNP denotes an institution that is ranked in the bottom one-fourth of its rankings category. U.S. News calculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it.
School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.
U.S. News surveyed more than 300 colleges and universities for our 2017 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs rankings. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News’ data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News’ rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The class size data above are correct as of June 13, 2017.