For the past several months, higher education circles have been buzzing about the emergence of massive open online courses and the explosion of online higher education overall.  These developments offer a golden opportunity for Northeastern to deepen our online strategy, which already has yielded excellent results:

  • We have one of the largest online portfolios of any private university in the country, with 49 programs – including 25 masters and doctoral programs – as well as almost 30 graduate certificates.
  • We are a pioneer in the creation of online masters programs in high-growth and emerging fields, including information assurance, regulatory affairs for drugs and biologics, biotechnology, and energy systems.
  • Students in 48 states took part in Northeastern’s online programs last year, including 4,500 graduate students.

As we discussed together at the State of the University town hall meeting, we now have the chance to make our suite of online programs “best in class.”

Other universities are just beginning to build an online presence.  Because we have already established a leadership position, we have the privilege of doing something different – spearheading the innovations that will define the next generation of online programs.

Specifically, we’re looking for your ideas in three areas:

Professional masters: We want to expand our diverse library of professional masters degrees even further, with a continued focus on high-growth and emerging fields in all areas of study. As we build more academic programs, please consider offering all new masters online as a matter of course.

New partnerships: We’re looking to create even more partnerships with global companies to offer customized degree programs for their executives and employees in countries around the world.  These partnerships will enrich our curriculum and strengthen our alignment with industry even further, at all levels of the university.

Experiential online education: We’re implementing a new experiential learning methodology for online education focused on helping students master the specific tasks and situations they’ll encounter as professionals.  Online education offers many opportunities to integrate study and practice through simulations, incorporating the richness of working adults’ professional settings into the curriculum, and embedding new forms of co-op and experiential learning into masters-level programs.

I encourage all of you to contact your Deans with your ideas about how we can advance our leadership in these areas – and more.  As always, we will continue to provide incentives to help faculty colleagues establish online curricula.

Northeastern is already well positioned for the boom in online learning.  But soon, online education will become like electricity – everyone will have it.  By offering your ideas and innovations, we’ll continue to differentiate the value and uniqueness of our online portfolio.

In the process, we’ll achieve “best in class” status in yet another area that will distinguish Northeastern as a university like no other.


Joseph E. Aoun