In 2014, the new University-wide Committee on Online Education spent time discussing how Yale’s online educational initiatives can develop in the next few years. As the committee became better acquainted with the growing number of online educational initiatives already under way at Yale, it was increasingly apparent that Yale is pursuing a distinctive pathway that emphasizes pedagogical innovation for the benefit of Yale’s own students even as it builds on previous initiatives to continue to share great teaching beyond the campus.
The two overarching goals for online educational initiatives are to:
- experiment with new pedagogy that can improve teaching and learning for students at Yale as well as new students who will be admitted to online educational programs; and
- continue to amplify the impact of great Yale teaching beyond the campus.
Online education connects with one of the University’s primary missions: the dissemination of knowledge. The online landscape provides unprecedented avenues for faculty to imagine new ways to transmit their teaching and share it with the world. The Open Yale Courses initiative was an early example. OYC has been accessed more than 100 million times from nearly 200 nations, including some expected ones, such as China and Brazil, as well as some unexpected ones, such as the Maldives and Togo.
We do not see one model or pathway for Yale. Online initiatives in the years ahead will vary markedly from school to school at Yale depending on the interests of the faculty, but the general trajectory can reflect the full range of the University’s educational programs (from the humanities to the sciences and from the arts to the other professional schools), especially as some other universities are concentrating their online efforts particularly on quantitative and vocational topics.
We believe that the constellation of online educational initiatives that develops should conscientiously keep teaching and learning at Yale at the center of the discussion. As you can see in the Initiatives section, several Yale faculty who created online courses for dissemination have already incorporated elements of those courses back into their classroom teaching at Yale. Also, as the professional schools’ initiatives show, online projects are expanding the very definition of “teaching and learning at Yale,” with the matriculation of Nursing students who take their Yale courses from Israel and California, or those earning an F&ES certificate from Panama or Brazil.
With teaching and learning at Yale as the touchstone for the development of online initiatives, distance education projects will take many forms. Some will be oriented to the general public in much the same way that Open Yale Courses were created; such broad dissemination is an extension of the public service tradition of the University, and in the Internet era it has powerful potential to inform individuals around the world about Yale’s emphasis on teaching. However, the more consequential projects for Yale in the next few years will likely be projects that are not massive, but rather smaller educational programs that grow organically from the educational aspirations of a school or faculty member, that engage students more intensively, and that involve credit or a certificate; this has already been the shape of the initiatives of Yale College and of the Schools of Nursing, Forestry & Environmental Studies, and Management.