Online programs at the University of Central Florida were ranked today by U.S. News & World Report as among some of the best in the nation.

In the publication’s 2016 listing, the university’s online bachelor’s programs were ranked No. 20, a jump from No. 50 last year. The university’s online graduate criminal justice program, which was unranked last year, came in at No. 21, and the online nursing program was listed at No. 42.

More than 1,200 programs nationwide were evaluated for the rankings in eight categories.

“Among the reasons that we are successful are UCF’s particular emphasis in faculty preparation and comprehensive research and evaluation,” said Tom Cavanagh, associate vice president of Distributed Learning, which oversees online courses. “As the nation’s second-largest university, the University of Central Florida has experienced significant growth within the past several years. A key component of that growth has been the strategic implementation of high-quality online learning options for students.”

Now in its 20th year of offering online learning, UCF is a recognized a leader having won almost every major award from every national organization in the field. The university offers 77 fully online degrees and certificates at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and has delivered 29,629 unique online and blended-course sections.

Anthropology major Lisa Benge said she appreciates the convenience of UCF’s online classes.

“They are well organized…and really help you stay on top of work and readings,” she said. “Being a stay-at-home mom it’s certainly a viable option for someone pursuing a degree. I’ve taken both on-campus and online classes and really have enjoyed the online option.”

Jennifer Hamilton, director of clinical support at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, said that having classes online was critical to achieving her master’s degree in executive health services administration in 2014.

“As a hospital administrator, I work long hours, am sometimes on call, and needed the flexibility to manage my time allotted to school,” she said. “UCF was one of only a few programs nationwide that offered the course work and modality that met my needs. It is definitely a different way of learning, but I find the online modality truly a rewarding and unique experience for learning and collaboration.”

During the 2014-15 academic year, nearly 38 percent of all UCF student credit hours were generated by online modalities. Of the university’s more than 63,000 students, 55,530 of them, about 78 percent, took one or more online courses.

This past summer, nearly 12,000 students took exclusively online courses.

“Through distance-learning technology, UCF has been able to provide access to far more students than the physical infrastructure alone can support,” Cavanagh said. “We have also been a national leader in piloting adaptive learning, which helps to personalize the learning experience based upon individual student performance.”

The Center for Distributed Learning also is the home of the Research Initiative for Teaching Effectiveness, which has been studying the efficacy and impact of online learning since the mid-1990s.

The university is considering a new initiative that would reduce the cost of online programs for distance students by eliminating campus-based fees. The initiative would also include student-success coaching for exclusively online students.

All of the national rankings are available here.