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Jenny Baker
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A Peek Into the Online World: Evaluating the Current State of Online I-O Graduate Programs

Rebecca Grossman, Hofstra University; and Diana Sanchez, San Francisco State University

Author Notes: Survey development, data collection, and reporting were conducted as part of the Online Graduate Training Subcommittee of SIOP’s Education and Training Standing Committee. The article authors comprised the “evaluation” taskforce of this subcommittee. See also, our subcommittees’ “challenges” taskforce report.  

Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Michael Chetta, Rebecca Grossman, Sy Islam, Richard Mendelson, Diana Sanchez, and Jean Whinghter for their contributions to the Online Program Subcommittee of SIOP’s E&T Committee.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Rebecca Grossman, Department of Psychology, Hofstra University, 114 Hauser Hall, 135 Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY 11549. Email: rebecca.grossman@hofstra.edu 

 

Introduction

Online graduate programs are rapidly increasing, even more so with the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Institutions that were fully in person are now developing and deploying online curricula, whereas prospective students are facing decisions about which type of education to pursue. Because online learning is still a relatively modern approach, there is some trepidation surrounding these programs. Further, it has been difficult to interpret what it means to get a degree from a program that is offered fully online or through a hybrid program of both online and in-person requirements. Although some research has shown that outcomes of online instructions are relatively equivalent to in person (Chirikov et al., 2020), the unknown aspects of online degree programs as a whole (e.g., professional development, employability) may be contributing to the uncertainty and negative perceptions these programs receive regarding their quality and rigor.

The purpose of this effort is to help shed light on what is known about current online programs. Using a three-pronged approach, we first used the SIOP graduate program database to identify online programs, then did independent searching to supplement and gather program information, and last, collected survey responses from faculty, alumni, and students to further learn about program details and personal experiences. In this article, we provide both descriptive information on the degree programs, along with some evaluative information (drawing from previous TIP articles to make comparisons between these and traditional I-O programs, where possible) to help inform the I-O community about current online programs available, as well as the current state of I-O education being provided online.

To simplify, we use the broad term “online programs” to refer to programs that are both fully online and hybrid (i.e., mix of online and in person). All programs considered are at the graduate level and are in or closely related to the field of industrial-organizational psychology.

Methods

As noted, we used a three-pronged approach to information gathering. First, we used the Graduate Training Programs in I-O Psychology and Related Fields section of the SIOP website to identify current online graduate programs. To be included in this database, programs must have previously filled out an online form through SIOP. By searching for programs categorized as “online only” or “both” online and classroom based, and supplementing with Google searches, we identified 54 programs in total. We then visited the website of each program to further confirm the minimum number of credits required, degree level, minimum time to completion, degree title, and whether the program was online, hybrid, or both (i.e., provided fully and partially online options). Second, we drew from information provided to the chair of the Online Program Subcommittee of SIOP’s broader Education & Training Committee that was generated through the same database. Based on data provided by programs who had filled out the form, a spreadsheet was created containing information about admissions criteria for both online- and classroom-based programs. Third, we developed a survey.1 Specifically, the Online Program Subcommittee generated survey items to gather information pertaining to programs’ admissions criteria, curriculum, faculty, culture, and student and alumni experiences. These items were designed to address the two primary goals of the subcommittee, which are to understand and evaluate the current state of online I-O graduate programs, and to identify the primary challenges associated with these programs as well as how SIOP might be able to help. To generate items, we drew from existing resources related to I-O curriculum (SIOP, 2016), previous TIP articles focused on program evaluation (Acikgoz et al., 2018; Vodanovich et al., 2018), and the committee members’ experiences as faculty in both in-person and online graduate programs.

Upon obtaining approval from SIOP’s Institutional Research Committee, the survey was distributed through SIOP to members affiliated with online programs (1,516 members). After the survey remained on the SIOP calendar for a 2-week period and one reminder email was distributed, 154 responses were obtained, for a response rate of approximately 10%. To supplement, committee members distributed the survey invitation via social media, and the subcommittee chair emailed directors of programs identified in Step 1 with an invitation to participate and further share the survey invitation. Following this outreach, 192 total responses were obtained. However, after removing responses that were largely incomplete, 143 participants remained.

Participants were filtered into one of three surveys based on their relation to an online program: faculty or program director, student, or alumni. The final sample included 19 faculty members or program directors, 79 students, and 47 alumni who indicated that on average, 90% of their program was online. Of those who provided demographic information (approximately 90%), the majority identified as female (67%) and White/Caucasian (74%; 14% Black/African American; 6% Hispanic/Latino; 12% other). Twenty-five percent were between 25–34 years old, 29% between 35–44 years, 28% between 45–54 years, 11% between 55–64 years, and 6% were in another age group. Regarding highest degree earned, 22% selected PhD, 51% master’s, and 19% bachelor’s. Last, the majority were employed full time (87%; 6% part time; 6% unemployed).

Results

Results are presented in Tables 1–4, as follows.

Table 1 provides program information found through the SIOP website and independent searching. We provide program names, minimum number of required credits, degree level, minimum length of the program, degree title, online format, and a link to the current program website.

Table 2 presents information pertaining to programs’ admissions standards and practices, mechanisms for applied experiences, content areas covered in classes, faculty involvement in research and practice, and teaching strategies. Admissions information was generated through the SIOP graduate program database (as described above), whereas the remainder came from the faculty survey. Because only two participants represented doctoral programs, and to aid comparisons to previous TIP articles, we included only responses representing master’s programs.

Table 3 presents student responses about their program culture, program resources, satisfaction, and social connectedness within the program. Distinctions were made between master’s and PhD programs.

Last, Table 4 presents responses from the alumni survey grouped into themes pertaining to opportunities and professional development, job prospects and engagement, and satisfaction. Again, distinctions were made between alumni representing master’s and PhD programs.

Table 1 (Click to access an online Excel version for sorting and searching.)
Online Program Descriptives

Institution

Min. credits

Degree

level

Min. length1

Title of degree

Format

1.

Adler University*

36

MA

12 months

I-O Psychology

Online

2.

Albizu University

48

MS

24 months

I-O Psychology

Online

3.

Alliant International University

50

MA

24 months

Organizational Psychology

Online

4.

Austin Peay State University*

34

MS

24 months

I-O Psychology

Online

5.

Aventis School of Management

4 modules

GD

8 weekends

Organizational Psychology

Online

6.

Baker College

36

MS

24 months

I-O Psychology

Online

7.

Bellevue University*

36

MS

- -

I-O Psychology

Online

8.

California Southern University

42

MS

24 months

Psychology (I-O Concentration)

Online

9.

Capella University*

55

MS

12 months

Psychology (I-O Specialization)

Online

10.

Capella University*

104

PhD

- -

Psychology (I-O Specialization)

Online

11.

Chicago School of Professional Psychology*

40

MA

24 months

I-O Psychology

Online

12.

Chicago School of Professional Psychology*

- -

PhD

60 months

Business Psychology (I-O Track)

Online

13.

Colorado State University*

38

Master’s

24 months

I-O Psychology

Online

14.

Eastern Kentucky University*

36

Master’s

- -

I-O Psychology

Online

15.

Fielding Graduate University*

40

MA

- -

Organizational Development & Change

Hybrid

16.

Fielding Graduate University*

84

PhD

- -

Organizational Development & Change

Hybrid

17.

Franklin University

36

MS

14 months

Business Psychology

Both

18.

George Mason University*

30

MPS

24 months

Applied I-O Psychology

Online

19.

Golden Gate University

42

MA

24 months

I-O Psychology

Both

20.

Grand Canyon University

36

MS

- -

Psychology (I-O Emphasis)

Online

21.

Grand Canyon University*

60

PhD

- -

Psychology (I-O Emphasis)

Online

22.

Johnson & Wales University

36

MS

24 months

Organizational Psychology

Online

23.

Kansas State University*

38

MS

30 months

Psychology (I-O Emphasis)

Hybrid

24.

Keiser University*

81

PhD

- -

I-O Psychology

Online

25.

Liberty University

36

MA

18 months

Applied Psychology - I-O Psychology

Online

26.

Marian University of Wisconsin*

36

MS

16 months

I-O Psychology

Online

27.

Missouri University of Science and Technology*

40

MS

- -

I-O Psychology

Online

28.

National Louis University

36

MS

20 months

I-O Psychology

Online

29.

New York Uni. Polytechnic School of Engineering

36

MA

- -

I-O Psychology

Online

30.

Northcentral University

30

MS

20 months

I-O Psychology

Online

31.

Northcentral University

60

PhD

48 months

Psychology (I-O Specialization)

Online

32.

Northwestern University

- -

MS

12 months

Learning & Organizational Change

Hybrid

33.

Penn State World Campus

33

MPS

- -

Psychology of Leadership

Online

34.

Purdue University Global*

60

MS

18 months

Psychology (I-O Concentration)

Online

35.

Saint Joseph's University Online

36

MS

24 months

Org. Development & Leadership

Both

36.

Saint Peter's University*

36

MS/MA

15 months

I-O Psychology

Online

37.

Saybrook University

36

MA

18 months

Leadership & Management

Online

38.

Saybrook University

65

PhD

48 months

Managing Organizational Systems

Online

39.

Southern New Hampshire University*

36

MS

15 months

Psychology (I-O Concentration)

Online

40.

Thomas Edison State University

48

MA

- -

Liberal Studies (I-O Area of Study)

Online

41.

Touro University Worldwide*

36

MA

- -

I-O Psychology

Online

42.

Touro University Worldwide

66

PsyD

- -

Human & Org. Psy.

Online

43.

University of Georgia*

33

MEd

24 months

Learning, Leadership & Org. Dev.

Hybrid

44.

University of Hartford*

36

MS

48 months

Organizational Psychology

Online

45.

University of the Incarnate Word

30

MA

12 months

Administration (I-O Concentration)

Both

46.

University of London - Birkbeck*

8 modules

MS

12 months

Organizational Psychology

Online

47.

University of Maryland*

30

MPS

15 months

I-O Psychology

Hybrid

48.

University of New Haven

- -

MA

24 months

I-O Psychology

Online

49.

University of Phoenix*

51

MS

24 months

Psychology (I-O Concentration)

Online

50.

University of Southern California

34

MS

16 months

App. Psych. (Org. Psy. Concentration)

Online

51.

Walden University*

48

MS

- -

I-O Psychology

Hybrid

52.

Walden University*

100

PhD

- -

I-O Psychology

Hybrid

53.

West Chester University

39

MS

24 months

Psychology (I-O concentration)

Hybrid

54.

William James College

30

MA

11 months

Organizational Psychology

Both

*Indicates schools where representatives responded to our survey. GD = Graduate Diploma. MA = Master’s of Arts. MS = Master’s of Science. MPS = Master’s of Professional Studies. MEd = Master’s of Education. PhD = Doctor of Philosophy. PsyD = Doctor of Psychology.

1 Assumes full-time status.

 

Table 2

 

Program Admissions, Curriculum, and Faculty

 

Admissions criteria*

Online/hybrid

In-person only

 

1.

Minimum score for GRE verbal required

30%

55%

2.

Minimum score for GRE quant required

30%

55%

3.

Minimum score for GRE total required

13%

28%

4.

Overall GPA required

61%

79%

5.

Overall GPA minimum required

2.96

3.02

6.

Previous research needed

31%

57%

7.

Personal statement needed

88%

76%

8.

Previous work needed

43%

64%

9.

Personal interview needed

30%

42%

10.

3 letters of recommendation needed

29%

63%

11.

Acceptance rate

70%

47%

12.

Average enrollment

46

11

 

Applied dimension

Mean

SD

13.

Does your online program include a formalized, applied internship component within the curriculum? (0 = no; 1 = yes)

0.31

0.48

14.

How many hours are required to successfully complete the internship? If variable, provide an average.

202.60

54.92

15.

Typically, what percent of students perform an internship?

93.40

14.76

16.

Does your program allow for students to enroll in a practicum? (0 = no; 1 = yes)

0.60

0.51

17.

Does your program have a designated unit (e.g., consulting clinic, center) to acquire consulting contracts and/or grants? (0 = no; 1 = yes)

0.00

0.00

18.

How many courses in your program, including an internship, if applicable, involve students conducting applied projects (e.g., job analysis, training programs, organizational development) outside of the classroom?

4.47

3.11

19.

How many courses in your program require formal presentations (group or individual) designed for applied audiences?

4.36

3.59

 

Curriculum dimension

Mean

SD

20.

How many total credit hours are required for your online I-O degree? Please indicate in semester hours (1.5 quarter hours = 1 semester hours).

37.14

5.64

21.

Given the number of hours in your program, what percent of students graduate in the expected timeframe (e.g., “on time”)?

88.55

8.23

22.

How many I-O-related hours (classes covering I-O topics, including research methods and statistics) are required for your online degree? Please indicate in semester hours (1.5 quarter hours = 1 semester hours).

32.62

8.55

To what extent are the following topics covered in your online program?  1 = not covered at all; 2 = covered by a chapter or two in 1 or 2 classes; 3 = covered by an entire class or across 3 or more classes

 

23.

Training and development

2.93

0.27

 

24.

Organizational development

2.86

0.36

 

25.

Personnel recruitment/selection

2.79

0.43

 

26.

Performance appraisal

2.79

0.43

 

27.

Job analysis

2.71

0.61

 

28.

Work attitudes

2.64

0.50

 

29.

Work groups/teams

2.64

0.50

 

30.

Leadership/management

2.57

0.51

 

31.

Work motivation

2.50

0.52

 

32.

Workforce diversity

2.50

0.52

 

33.

Consulting/business skills

2.43

0.76

 

34.

Individual differences in the workplace

2.36

0.50

 

35.

Organizational theory

2.21

0.58

 

36.

Employment law

2.14

0.66

 

37.

Job evaluation/compensation

2.00

0.68

 

38.

Work stress

1.93

0.62

 

39.

Judgement/decision making

1.79

0.58

 

40.

Human factors

1.79

0.58

 

41.

Work/family

1.57

0.65

 

42.

Workforce aging

1.50

0.52

 

 

Faculty information/experience

Mean

SD

 

43.

In one academic year, approximately how many students typically enter your online program?

23.69

15.67

 

44.

How many I-O faculty teach in your online program? (Three-quarter appointments count as .75; half-time .5; one-third as .3; Please do not count adjunct instructors.)

2.36

1.28

 

45.

How many are full time?

1.94

1.06

 

46.

How many are part time (three-quarter, half-time, or one-third appointments)?

1.31

1.11

 

47.

How many adjunct instructors teach in your online I-O program?

2.44

2.19

 

48.

How many I-O faculty in your online program have a degree in I-O psychology?

2.44

1.90

 

49.

What number of I-O faculty in your online program have worked on a consulting project (e.g., applied work with an organization or other entity) in the past 5 years?

2.40

1.55

 

50.

How many I-O faculty in your online program have supervised I-O students on external consulting projects?

1.47

1.19

 

51.

How many total articles have been published by your I-O faculty in your online program in refereed journals in the past 5 years, including “in press” articles?

14.07

25.47

 

 

Teaching strategies

Mean

SD

 

To what extent do faculty in your program typically use the following approaches in their online teaching? 1 = not at all; 5 = to a very great extent

 

52.

Discussion boards

4.43

0.85

 

53.

Written materials

4.29

0.83

 

54.

Emails

4.07

0.83

 

55.

PowerPoints

3.71

1.07

 

56.

Video lectures

3.71

1.38

 

57.

Video meetings

3.43

1.40

 

58.

Collaborative websites or software

3.43

1.50

 

59.

Phone calls

2.93

0.92

 

60.

In person

2.14

1.29

 

61.

Text messaging

1.93

1.33

 

62.

Instant messaging

1.79

0.80

 

             

Note. N = 17 faculty/program directors from master’s online or hybrid programs.

*SIOP data (24 online/hybrid master’s programs, 67 in-person only master’s programs)

 

Table 3

Student Experience

Program culture

Master’s

PhD

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

Please indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with the following statements…  (1 = not at all; 5 = to a very great extent)

1.

I am able to achieve a balance between my work in the program and life outside the program.

4.38

0.86

4.37

1.10

2.

Students in the program are supportive of each other.

4.17

0.89

4.10

0.92

3.

I have meaningful relationships with program faculty.

3.14

1.30

3.50

1.41

4.

The faculty in my program care about me as a person.

3.48

1.24

3.93

1.26

5.

Faculty are engaged in the program and its students.

3.90

1.14

4.00

1.26

6.

Faculty in my program are motivated to provide the best environment for students’ professional development.

3.86

0.92

4.03

1.10

7.

I have been treated fairly by the faculty in my program.

4.66

0.55

4.37

1.03

8.

I am proud to be a student in this program.

4.31

0.81

4.23

1.17

9.

Faculty take graduate student ideas seriously.

4.07

1.10

4.20

1.10

10.

Students are invested in the success of other students.

3.66

1.04

3.70

1.21

11.

Faculty have reasonable expectations of students.

4.24

0.91

4.27

0.98

12.

I am given timely and constructive feedback.

4.24

0.99

4.20

1.03

13.

There is unhealthy competition within the program. (Reversed)

1.45

0.83

1.97

1.40

14.

This program is accepting of people of various backgrounds and perspectives.

4.62

0.68

4.60

0.72

 

Program resources

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

My program offers me access to… (1 = not at all; 5 = to a very great extent)

15.

Career development services

3.45

0.99

3.03

1.33

16.

On-campus study spaces

3.28

1.25

3.13

1.50

17.

Dedicated spaces for graduate students

3.00

1.16

3.00

1.44

18.

Counseling services

3.45

1.15

2.79

1.35

19.

Statistical software

3.71

1.30

3.80

1.42

20.

Adequate library resources

4.59

0.63

4.20

1.03

21.

Mentoring

3.14

1.33

3.24

1.41

22.

Conferences

3.21

1.32

2.80

1.45

23.

Certifications and training (outside of classes)

2.45

1.30

2.03

0.96

24.

Funded assistantship

2.59

1.38

2.03

1.27

25.

Scholarships

2.90

1.37

2.37

1.47

26.

Funding for professional development activities (conferences, training, etc.)

2.28

1.22

1.67

1.06

27.

Program alumni

3.10

1.26

2.57

1.36

 

Student satisfaction

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

Please indicate the extent to which you are satisfied with the following aspects of your program… (1 = not at all; 5 = to a very great extent)

28.

Faculty support and accessibility

4.14

0.76

4.14

1.03

29.

Quality of instruction

4.14

0.93

4.34

0.94

30.

Balance between applied and academic emphases

4.14

0.71

4.10

1.01

31.

Quality of research in the program

3.93

0.81

4.07

1.22

32.

Connection with I-O, HR, and related communities

3.39

1.26

2.83

1.34

33.

Variety of course offerings

3.82

1.09

3.97

1.27

34.

Class size

4.39

0.69

4.55

0.83

35.

Culture of the program

4.11

0.92

4.31

0.85

36.

Availability of educational resources

4.43

0.69

4.28

1.03

37.

Internship and other professional opportunities

2.89

1.20

2.34

1.23

38.

Alumni engagement

2.82

0.98

2.71

1.12

39.

Engagement with the program during application process

3.54

1.04

3.45

1.43

40

Student diversity

4.00

0.90

4.38

0.78

41.

Faculty diversity

4.00

0.94

3.69

1.17

42.

Student relationships

3.36

1.10

3.62

1.21

43.

Financial support

3.21

1.20

3.24

1.38

44.

Website and social media presence

3.50

0.84

3.69

1.17

45.

How well the program is preparing you for your career

4.00

0.90

3.62

1.29

 

Social connectedness

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

To what extent... (1 = not at all; 5 = to a very great extent)

48.

Do you interact with your professors, beyond the formal coursework, in a mentoring capacity?

2.00

1.16

2.61

1.26

49.

Do you interact with your professors, beyond the formal coursework, in a research capacity?

1.69

1.04

2.23

1.23

50.

Are your professors available for help with coursework?

3.69

1.07

3.97

1.22

51.

Are your professors available for facilitating research experience?

2.55

1.48

3.23

1.50

52.

Are your professors available for mentoring?

2.52

1.30

3.33

1.58

53.

Do you feel connected to other students in your program?

2.45

0.95

3.10

1.19

54.

Do you interact with other students in your program, beyond formal coursework?

1.86

0.92

2.23

1.33

55.

Do you provide or have access to informal peer mentoring?

2.45

1.33

2.48

1.39

56.

Does your program facilitate your professional development?

3.24

1.38

3.17

1.44

57.

Does your program help you develop your professional network?

2.52

1.40

2.63

1.38

58.

Does your program prepare you to enter the workforce?

3.17

1.07

2.97

1.43

Note. N = 74 students (31 master’s program students; 43 PhD program students). Responses from 5 students were removed
because they did not report their degree level.

 

 

Table 4

Alumni Experience

 

 

Master’s

PhD

Opportunities and professional development

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

To what extent… (1 = not at all; 5 = to a very great extent)

1.

...Did your program facilitate your professional development?

3.78

1.04

3.79

1.13

2.

...Did your program help you develop your professional network?

2.73

1.20

2.84

1.30

3.

...Did your program prepare you to enter the workforce?

3.57

1.08

3.17

1.50

4.

How many times did you attend SIOP while you were in the program?

1.58

0.81

1.70

1.17

5.

How many conference presentations did you co-author while in the program?

1.08

0.27

2.05

3.14

6.

How many publications did you co-author while in the program?

1.08

0.27

1.75

2.24

7.

How many applied projects were you involved in while in the program?

5.56

6.44

11.50

23.76

8.

Did you have an internship during your time in the program? (0 = no; 1 = yes)

0.05

0.22

0.11

0.32

 

Job prospects and engagement with field

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

To what extent… (1 = not at all; 5 = to a very great extent)

9.

How long (in months) did it take you to obtain employment following graduation?

5.04

8.02

2.39

2.55

10.

What was your starting salary?

$58,596

$34,537

$93,410

$47,278

11.

...Was your first job following graduation related to I-O?

3.12

1.42

3.32

1.29

12.

…Would your first job following graduation be considered applied (vs. academic)?

91.26

16.62

70.67

35.85

13.

…Are you involved in SIOP?

1.83

0.82

1.84

0.69

14.

…Are you involved in publishing research?

1.33

0.56

1.79

0.63

 

Alumni satisfaction

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

1 = strongly disagree; 5 = strongly agree

15.

I like to stay updated about current events in the program.

4.26

0.92

4.00

1.15

16.

I like to participate in available alumni events/opportunities.

3.30

1.18

3.26

1.15

17.

I would like to donate money to the program.

2.65

1.30

2.32

1.38

18.

The program is keeping me updated about current events/developments.

3.09

1.16

3.42

1.26

19.

I have been provided with the necessary skills to succeed in my current career.

3.96

1.11

4.22

0.88

20.

I like to keep in touch with faculty.

3.39

1.47

3.47

1.12

21.

I feel the program has prepared me well for my career.

4.09

0.85

3.94

1.16

22.

I feel the program has helped me develop my soft skills.

4.00

0.95

3.53

1.07

23.

I would encourage others to apply to this program.

4.39

0.72

3.95

1.18

24.

I am proud to be an alumnus of this program.

4.48

0.79

4.05

1.13

Note. N = 47 alumni (27 master’s program alumni; 20 PhD program alumni).

 

Discussion

In this section, we offer commentary on the current state of online programs based on our findings. When possible, we make comparisons between online and in-person programs by drawing from either the database generated through the SIOP website or from previous TIP articles focused on program evaluation. Specifically, we used several of the same survey items used by Vodanovich and colleagues (2018), who surveyed I-O program coordinators, and Acikgoz and colleagues (2018), who surveyed students and alumni. Notably, these prior articles focused on master’s programs only, thus anytime we make comparisons, we do so for only master’s programs, including for data from the SIOP database. Further, these articles did not distinguish between online and in-person programs in their data. However, we compared their lists of programs to our list of online programs and found that only about 10% of programs from our list appeared in their articles, and several of those have both online and in-person programs. Thus, we believe that, in addition to the present work, referencing the contents of these articles is useful for making rough comparisons between online and in-person programs. Although we summarize notable results and highlight some conclusions that can be drawn, we encourage readers to review the tables for more detailed information. 

In Table 1 we identified 54 programs (44 master’s, 9 doctoral, 1 graduate diploma) offered by 46 separate institutions. Twenty-seven of these were represented by our sample (participants could indicate the program with which they were affiliated, if they chose). Although our response rate was low, we are encouraged that our results represent approximately half of current online programs (and considering that many respondents did not identify their program, more programs may be represented than of which we are aware). Most degrees were titled I-O Psychology (22), whereas 12 were psychology degrees with a concentration or specialization in I-O, 6 in Organizational Psychology, and 3 included an I-O concentration with a related degree (e.g., Business Psychology). The remaining 10 were in peripheral fields (e.g., Leadership & Management). Regarding format, 40 programs were online (33 master’s, 7 doctoral), 9 were hybrid (7 master’s, 2 doctoral), and 5 offered both formats (all master’s).

We generally found that websites were transparent about their degree requirements and core curriculum with some exceptions. By reviewing offered coursework, we observed some broad trends. Fittingly, direct I-O degrees tended to offer more I-O specific courses, and, similarly, psychology degrees with I-O concentrations offered more I-O-related courses than programs in peripheral fields. Broad degrees in related fields tended to offer few courses related to I-O (around 4 classes). Some curricula appeared more strongly aligned with SIOP standards, with some specifically stating they use the SIOP training guidelines (SIOP, 2016) to align their courses with training standards (e.g., Eastern Kentucky University, Southern New Hampshire University). This was in contrast to other programs that deviate from coursework norms and standards outlined by SIOP. For example, one program has a course dedicated to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which falls outside of typical I-O training programs.

In Table 2, we presented information about programs’ admissions, curricula, and faculty. Starting with admissions criteria, we included direct comparisons between online and in-person programs. In general, online programs tend to have less stringent admissions criteria, as fewer programs have requirements regarding minimum GRE scores, GPA, previous research experience, and so on, with the exception of personal statements—online programs were more likely to require those. Online programs required a slightly lower GPA (2.96online vs. 3.02in-person), had higher acceptance rates (70%online vs. 47%in-person), and higher annual enrollments (46online vs. 11in-person), though the statistical significance of these differences was not assessed.

Items 13–18 suggest that online programs are providing ample opportunities for applied experiences—the majority of students (93%) are performing internships, and over half of the programs reported having a practicum component. Students are also getting exposure to applied content to some extent in their courses. Notably, no programs report having a designated unit for consulting or grant projects. To make comparisons to the applied score provided by Vodanovich et al. (2018), we followed their methodology and converted items in this dimension to a 0 to 1 scale, then averaged  (see their article for more detail on the scoring methodology). Overall, the applied dimension for these online programs (M = .40, SD = .28) was substantially lower than that reported by Vodanovich et al. (2018) of largely in-person programs (M = .59, SD = .20).

To evaluate curricula, we asked faculty to report on the extent to which various topics previously identified by SIOP’s E&T Committee as competencies for inclusion in I-O programs (SIOP, 2016) are covered in their programs. As can be seen in Table 2, each of the topics were covered to at least some extent in the online programs included in our data. On a scale of 1–3 capturing the extent to which each topic is covered, average scores ranged from 1.50 to 2.90, with workforce aging receiving the least coverage and training and development receiving the most coverage. Although we don’t have data to make comparisons to in-person programs at this degree of granularity, it is encouraging to see that these online programs are covering most primary I-O topics to at least a moderate extent, with none completely absent. We again followed the methodology of Vodanovich et al. (2018) so that comparisons could be made. Our overall curriculum dimension (M = .66, SD = .14) was slightly lower for these online programs than what they reported for largely in-person programs (M = .71, SD = .15).

Faculty-focused questions (items 43, 44; 49–51) showed that online programs tend to have limited numbers of full-time faculty available and rely more heavily on adjunct instructors. Encouragingly, these faculty appear to be fairly active in research and consulting. Items were again converted and combined using Vodanovich and colleagues’ (2018) approach.  Results showed our total (M = .44, SD = .35) for the faculty information/experience dimension was slightly lower for online programs than what has been previously reported for largely in-person programs (M = .52, SD = .17).

Finally, questions about teaching strategies (items 52–62) revealed that faculty in online programs are primarily relying on discussion boards, written materials, and emails, with synchronous forms of individualized communication (e.g., instant messaging) being much less common. Although discussion boards have been touted as a valuable tool for keeping students engaged (Waterhouse, 2005; Wiese et al., n.d.), heavy use of asynchronous approaches may be cause for concern (Laato & Murtonen, 2020). For example, asynchronous discussions have been described as lacking in communication opportunities and potential to be psychologically motivating (Hrastinksi, 2008). Nonetheless, moderate reports of video lectures and meetings indicate that students are getting at least some direct interactions with their professors in these programs.

In Table 3, we presented information pertaining to students’ experiences, distinguishing between master’s and doctoral programs. For three dimensions (viz. program culture, program resources, student satisfaction), we used the same items used by Acikgoz and colleagues (2018) in their article ranking master’s I-O programs to facilitate comparisons. For program culture (items 1–14), students generally had positive reactions to their programs, reporting the highest ratings for being treated fairly, for unhealthy competition (reverse scored), and for the acceptance of students with diverse backgrounds. Scores were generally similar between the master’s and doctoral programs. Program culture scores were generally lower (master’s M = 3.87, SD = 0.21) for online programs than were those reported by Acikgoz and colleagues of largely in-person programs (M = 4.32, SD = 0.29).

For questions pertaining to program resources (items 15–27), most students felt that their program offers them access to the resources they need, with master’s scores generally being higher than doctoral. The most notable ratings were the relatively low scores provided on availability of certifications and training outside of program courses, and for providing funding for professional development. The highest ratings were for access to library resources. The overall resources score (master’s M = 3.16, SD = 0.20) for online programs was lower than that reported by Acikgoz and colleagues (2018; M = 3.98, SD = 0.33) for largely in-person programs.

Student satisfaction (items 28–45) was relatively high, with the lowest satisfaction reported for internships, professional opportunities, and alumni engagement. The highest reported satisfaction was for class size. Overall satisfaction for online programs (master’s M = 3.77, SD = 0.18) was lower than that reported by Acikgoz and colleagues (2018) of largely in-person programs (M = 4.21, SD = 0.32).

For social connectedness, students generally provided the lowest scores on these items. These questions focused on feelings of connection with faculty and other students and how connection is promoted by the program. The lowest ratings were for research connections with faculty beyond coursework and for interactions with students outside of class. The highest ratings were for help from professors on class coursework. Generally, scores were higher from doctoral (M = 2.90, SD = 0.13) versus master’s students (M = 2.56, SD = 0.20). These generally lower ratings show there is an opportunity for online programs to support and promote connectedness between students and with faculty. This may be particularly important because interpersonal skills, which can be developed through social connections, have been identified as major contributors to employability and career success in the field of I-O (Hogan et al., 2013).

Last, in Table 4 we reported the results of our alumni survey. Regarding opportunities and professional development, alumni reported limited, but at least some, involvement in conference presentation and publications, with alumni from PhD programs showing slightly higher averages than those from master’s programs. Encouragingly, it appears that alumni from both levels attended SIOP at least once while in the program, and both reported involvement in numerous applied projects (with PhD alumni reporting approximately double the amount compared to master’s alumni). In stark contrast to the faculty survey, which indicated that over 90% of students perform internships, very few of our respondents said they had an internship while in the program. This discrepancy could indicate online programs are rapidly changing in that area, as alumni were reporting on past experiences and faculty were reporting on current practices. Another possibility is that alumni who did not get internship experience were particularly motivated to respond to this survey.

Alumni from both levels indicated that their programs facilitated their professional development and prepared them to enter the workplace to moderate degrees, but programs appeared to be less effective in terms of helping them develop their professional networks. Nonetheless, alumni reported they were able to obtain employment following graduation fairly quickly, particularly PhD alumni, and obtained starting salaries roughly commensurate with the overall (i.e., across all types of graduates) salary survey (SIOP, 2020). Online programs appear to be better suited for launching alumni into applied- versus academic-focused positions, which is consistent with past research showing strong preferences for candidates from traditional, compared to online, programs for academic positions (e.g., Adams & Defleur, 2005). Further, alumni appear to maintain little involvement with SIOP or publishing research post graduation.

Finally, several items were used to assess alumni satisfaction (items 15–24). Notably, overall satisfaction (M = 3.61, SD = .82) for online programs was lower than that reported by Acikgoz and colleagues (2018) of largely in-person programs (M = 4.10, SD = .31). However, high means on individual items indicate that alumni are proud of their programs and would encourage others to apply to them.

Conclusions

Online graduate programs in I-O were increasing even before the pandemic, and now that all are dipping their toes into the online world to some extent, the time is ripe to take stock of current programs. We presented information pertaining to various aspects of current online programs, revealing many areas where they appear to be excelling (e.g., covering I-O curriculum, access to certain resources) yet others where they may be lagging behind traditional programs, and there is room for improvement (e.g., admissions standards, satisfaction). Notably, there is a lot of variance surrounding these programs, and we also acknowledge our small sample size and apparent lack of representation from many programs, limiting the extent to which we can make broad generalizations. Nonetheless, we believe we have provided a valuable resource and starting point for those interested in learning more. We hope this initial peek into the world of online programs is useful to those in the SIOP community (e.g., prospective students, employers) seeking to understand what it currently means to obtain an I-O degree from an online or hybrid program. We welcome any feedback from readers to inform the ongoing efforts of the Online Program Subcommittee.

Note

[1] If you have already read “Challenges of Educating and Training I-O Graduate Students Online (Not Another COVID Story)” in this issue, you’ll find the next three paragraphs quite familiar. Feel free to pick up again in the Results section. — Ed.

 

References

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Adams, J., & DeFleur, M. H. (2005). The acceptability of a doctoral degree earned online as a credential for obtaining a faculty position. American Journal of Distance Education, 19, 71–85. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15389286ajde1902_2

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Laato, S., & Murtonen, M. (2020, April). Improving synchrony in small group asynchronous online discussions. In A. Rocha, H. Adeli, L. P. Reis, S. Costanzo, I. Orovic, & F. Moreira (Eds.), Trends and innovations in information systems and technologies (pp. 215–224). Springer.

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Inc. (2016). Guidelines for education and training in industrial-organizational psychology. Bowling Green, OH: Author.

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. (2020). Income & employment report. https://www.siop.org/Portals/84/PDFs/Surveys/SIOP_TI_Income-and-Employment_Report.pdf?ver=2020-09-22-152339-387

Vodanovich, S. J., Morganson, V. J., & Kass, S. J. (2018, March 26). Ranking I-O master's programs using objective data from I-O coordinators. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 55(4). https://www.siop.org/Research-Publications/TIP/TIP-Back-Issues/2018/April/ArtMID/20647/ArticleID/1398/Ranking-I-O-Masters-Programs-Using-Objective-Data-From-I-O-Coordinators

Waterhouse, S. (2005). The power of eLearning: The essential guide for teaching in the digital age. Pearson Education. https://www.pearson.com/us/higher-education/program/Waterhouse-Power-of-e-Learning-The-The-Essential-Guide-for-Teaching-in-the-Digital-Age/PGM11730.html

Wiese, C. W., Shuffler, M. L., Sanchez, D. R., Sanders, A. M. F., & Mendelson, R. (n.d.). Need help transitioning to online classes? SIOP is launching a dynamic resource guide for faculty & students. SIOP. https://www.siop.org/Events-Education/Online-Teaching-Survival-Guide

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