It was just last year when we saw the rapid emergence of the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and the subsequent media blitz of what these large-enrollment courses meant. At the time, there were no clear business models emerging but everyone suspected it was a matter of time. Indeed, it was just a matter of time. Recently, Georgia Tech announced a partnership with a prominent MOOC-provider, Udacity, to offer a master’s of science degree to students for under $7,000. While this partnership remains controversial on the Georgia Tech campus, the computer science faculty did approve this agreement. You can read more about it on the Inside Higher Ed website.
Regarding this partnership, I received a very thoughtful email from Professor Jim Leone, who gave me permission to share his message with you. He wrote:
“I don't know whether to laugh or cry. On the one hand, I think it is great if our country could pump out tons of CS Masters students for under $7,000. We (the US) certainly could use the talent here although I wonder how many of the proposed 10,000 students will be US citizens.
I no longer have a grasp of just what the cost model is for academic institutions of higher learning. I'm trying to figure out just how a $6,630 online-based master's program can be extended to those disciplines that depend on physical infrastructures such as chemistry, biology and engineering laboratories. Of course, the answer is they cannot. Consequently, us poor, land-based institutions with our plethora of buildings that cost more each year to maintain will just have to plod along producing STEM graduates and wondering how RIT is going to exist 5-, 10- and 15-years from now.”
He’s right. Many land-based institutions will be challenged and we cannot stick our heads in the ground. But I submit that RIT is perfectly positioned to emerge in this new world order as a national and indeed an international leader among higher education institutions. There are three reasons for my thinking: first, our career-focused, experiential learning model is the envy of all and exactly what the market of parents and students seek; second, with the Innovative Learning Institute as well as our past history to pedagogically innovate, we are not ignoring the expanding online market and in fact, we are capitalizing on it; third, RIT has been, and will continue to be, on a bold path to be recognized as an national university with a reputation built on innovation and this vision is enabling us to recruit students from across the world in a way we haven’t been able to do in the past. We will, even in the time span of the next 15 years, be in the face-to-face education business but we will also be aggressive in the online space and use technology to enhance our student’s learning. From my perspective, we want to be RIT.
It is appropriate, with this as the backdrop, to share with you my end-of-the-year review, structured around our key focus areas – calendar conversion and the Innovative Learning Initiative – and the five core priorities – student success, research and innovation, inclusive and global education, academic excellence, and faculty and staff success.
Jeremy Haefner, Ph.D.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs