Barnard, following a growing number of universities’ leads, has formed a committee to determine what steps the school should take to venture into the online education movement.
Barnard President Debora Spar said in a recent interview that her charge to the Committee on Online and On-campus Learning “will be to be really creative, really innovative, and think about how we enter the online space in a way that is really true to Barnard’s mission and its particular strengths.”
Within the past year, Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania have all made significant efforts in expanding their virtual classrooms. Columbia will begin offering two massive open online courses through Coursera next semester, although several schools, including the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Continuing Education, and the Journalism School, have had online courses and initiatives for years.
Spar said that the correct course of action for Barnard will certainly be different from those of major research universities.
Barnard Dean Avis Hinkson said that online education “may present some opportunities, and I highlight the word ‘may’ because there’s a reason there is a committee.”
“They have to do their work and figure out if there is or is not an opportunity,” she said. “The role of the committee is really to determine what are the opportunities and what would be the cost, not just financial, but in terms of resources, in terms of time.”
The committee is made of up 15 faculty members and will begin meeting next month. Women’s studies professor Janet Jakobsen will serve as chair.
“Online education seems finally really to be coming to the top tier of U.S. higher education. This seems to be something that’s been on the horizon for 15 years,” Spar said. “I’m really excited about this.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to the Committee on Online and Off-campus learning. Spectator regrets the error.