Stanford has announced the creation of a Vice Provost for Online Learning office -- signalling that the university may be getting serious about online education.
Computer science professor John Mitchell will be serving as the head, which has been created "in response to the requirements and potential of the 21st century". The creation of the Office of the Vice Provost for Online Learning (VPOL) is aimed "restructuring" the university, and reforming education in demands of today's global education platform -- made possible through Internet access and the rising adoption of mobile technology.
Universities are quickly learning that online platforms not only allow more flexible means of learning -- without the need to rely on traditional lecture-based models -- but they also represent a new revenue stream. By offering courses online, location and physical student intakes no longer become an issue, and universities are able to monetize on the distance-learning trend.
Stanford President John Hennessy said during the announcement:
"Stanford has been at the forefront of this game-changing, challenging initiative. Our faculty have been working in online education for some time now, and their excitement is growing. This is a field that deserves increasing attention and investment, and the new Office of the Vice Provost is in keeping with Stanford's tradition of leadership in innovation and experimentation."
The creation of the office is part of a wider scheme called Stanford Online. A new website facilitates a community of online learners, and a seed grant program is aimed at boosting online learning efforts.
In the past 20 years, Stanford has only established two Vice Provost offices -- for undergraduate and graduate education. Both of which "fundamentally reshaped education at Stanford," and it is likely the third will aim to do the same.
Around 15 courses will be offered online by fall; covering engineering, mathematics, social science, education and entrepreneurship. The university intends to launch more by spring next year. Stanford already offers courses through education startup Coursera, which was created by Stanford professors.