It seems digital transformation is among the top priorities on any higher-ed leader’s list–particularly as students and faculty voice more preference for online learning options after COVID.
Many institutions realized that as they offer more degree programs and classes online, they are better able to reach a varied and more diverse group of learners.
In a conversation between Andrew Hermalyn, president of Partnerships at 2U, and Caroline Levander, vice president for Global and Digital Strategy at Rice University, during ASU+GSV, Levander details how Rice University’s expansion of its online learning program and its partnerships with online learning platforms have helped the institution serve a more diverse student body.
Hermalyn: How has Rice University’s history of online learning adoption influenced the way university leaders think about building digital offerings today?
Levander: Like many universities, Rice didn’t have a substantial online presence before the emergence of edX and Coursera. We’re a campus committed to unsurpassed education; it’s in our DNA. As it became really clear that digital platforms and capabilities were this powerful engine of change, it was a different way of thinking for the university, but I was really impressed at the appetite of faculty, deans, and trustees to get our hands dirty. What is this new thing, how can we benefit as a university by using these new tools? It has been very much a community project. There are lots of different people wanting to play with these great new tools.
Rice has a number of partnerships, including partnerships with 2U and edX. Why partner? And how do you measure the success of these types of partnerships?
[This has been a] community project–not just within Rice but outside of Rice as well, and that’s been some of the must fun work we’ve done. [We’re] really understanding what edX offers to us and the world, what 2U offers that we couldn’t reproduce internally nearly as well, as quickly, and as comprehensively. That’s been a good learning experience. Why partner? It’s true–the parts can be more than their sum. There can be wonderful synergy. I think it’s great to partner with companies that don’t think like universities all the time. It highlights some of our implicit assumptions. I’ve always learned from suddenly seeing my institution from the vantage point of someone [who is] not in it. What are we assuming? Is it the right thing to assume, moving forward in this new circumstance?