SUNY launches online initiative to increase accessability to education

The State University of New York is in the process of expanding courses offered online as part of the Open SUNY initiative. This program draws on collaborations between the 64 SUNY campuses in order to offer robust online classes and degree programs for its students.According to SUNY Associate Provost for Academic Technology and Information Services Carey Hatch, “This is SUNY’s attempt to take online learning to scale like no other community can. If the campuses align properly, we can offer more robust things to the people in New York.” SUNY offers over 12,000 online courses a year and over 350 blended courses. Blended courses consist of both face-to-face interaction and online portions. SUNY officially launched Open SUNY in January, bringing more student and professor support to the established programs as well as introducing new programs. The program will work differently depending on whether or not interested students are enrolled in a particular SUNY school. “If you are already matriculated with a single school, in order to take a course from another institution, you would need to get approval from your school’s registrar and the other school as well,” Hatch explained. “Nonmatriculated students can take courses from any school, and those courses can transfer to any institution.” He said that, because of the online format, some classes are harder to offer than others. Sciences, for example, are more difficult to offer online due to the lab aspect of the class. These classes aren’t impossible to offer online, however, as SUNY is uniquely positioned because it has facilities within 30 minutes of most residents of the state. According to the Open SUNY website, the program focuses on flexibility, support, experience, simplicity and excellence. Hatch said that SUNY hopes to see education become much more blended over time. He added that students often take online courses over the summer, which decreases the time it takes for students to get degrees, therefore also decreasing their costs. Hatch said he hopes to see Open SUNY act as an opportunity for adults to receive the education they always wanted, but may not have always believed they could have. “Our tuition is our tuition. It is the same costs for face-to-face education or online. But online classes helps with gas, childcare, tolls and other costs that the average student might not think about but the working adult does,” Hatch said. While the cost of tuition cannot be lowered, SUNY is working to lower overall costs for students. Because of this, they are releasing an Open Textbook program in accordance with the Open SUNY initiative. Here SUNY schools will partner together to allow people to rent textbooks and technology online, which decreases costs. Another goal of the Open SUNY online classes program is to impact the roles teachers play in mentoring. Hatch said that SUNY hopes to see teachers take the lead in where they are going with the class and how they are going to provide quality education by offering new and different technologies online. The Open SUNY initiative shows a trend toward technological integration of the education system while focusing on increased accessibility for New Yorkers.

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