A new approach to online learning at RIT

Neil Hair

Web design and development. Business and management. Data analytics. Beers of the world.

These are some of the leading topics alumni say they would like to learn more about. And they’d like to do that learning through RIT Online.

RIT has long had a strong offering of online courses. But RIT Online, launched last year as part of the Innovative Learning Institute, has big plans to take this method of learning to the next level.

Its initial focus is graduate courses and programs, coordinating and building upon existing offerings, says Thérèse Hannigan, interim director of RIT Online.

“We are not simply looking to be another provider in the online marketplace,” Hannigan says. “We want to be the leader in providing an engaging virtual campus experience in the online space.”

That focus is evident in RIT Online’s website—www.rit.edu/ritonline— which features testimonials from students, guides to the courses offered, self-assessments, even a virtual concierge to answer questions.

Alumni will be important customers, Hannigan says, as RIT Online taps into a market that already appreciates the value of an RIT education. To test the waters, alumni were sent an online survey in April that asked: “What if you could learn about any subject, anytime, from anywhere?” (Interested alumni can still take the survey at rit-online-poll.rit.edu.)

“Our offerings will be demand-based,” says Hannigan. “We’re doing outreach and research to see which courses people are seeking and why, whether it’s the flexibility that online offers, a need to upgrade career skills or just an interest in lifelong learning.”

More than 10,000 alumni responded. Results will be used to develop curricula, with a focus on offerings that can be bundled and stacked into programs in order to make progress toward a degree.

RIT Online is just one component of the Innovative Learning Institute, an umbrella organization led by Neil Hair, an associate professor at Saunders College of Business who was tapped last year by university leadership to head this initiative.

ILI integrates the work of three units— RIT Online, the Center for Multidisciplinary Studies and Teaching & Learning Studio— to bring the latest practices to learning online and in the classroom.

The Center for Multidisciplinary Studies, led by ILI team member Mary Boyd, will work with students to help them fashion a customized program that leads to a certificate or degree, Hair says.

Teaching & Learning Studio, under the direction of Donna Dickson, will engage and support RIT faculty in the design and delivery of courses that incorporate teaching methods using the latest practices, technology and equipment.

“There’s been a sea-change in learning,” says Hair. “Students are demanding a more personal, dynamic educational experience that truly engages them, both in the classroom and online. We’re responding to those demands, and doing it in a way that helps supercharge the best that each college has to offer, and showcases our outstanding faculty.”

To learn more

Go to www.rit.edu/ili.

At www.rit.edu/ritonline, people can see a list of available programs.