Professional schools ramp up online strategy

Oct. 10, 2012, 11:33 p.m.

On the heels of the landmark creation of the Office of the Vice Provost for Online Learning (VPOL), some of Stanford’s professional schools have launched their own online education initiatives. The School of Medicine, School of Engineering and Graduate School of Business (GSB) have each appointed associate deans to lead their commitments to online learning.

Professional schools ramp up online strategy
Professor of Electrical Engineering, Bernd Girod.
(LINDA CICERO/Stanford News Service)

Bernd Girod, professor of electrical engineering, has been appointed dean for online learning and professional development in the School of Engineering.  Charles Prober, senior associate dean for medical education, is leading the School of Medicine’s online initiative. Peter DeMarzo M.S. ’85 Ph.D. ’89, GSB senior associate dean for academic affairs, is leading the GSB’s initiative.

Girod, Prober and DeMarzo were all members of the Advisory Committee on Technology in Higher Education that University President John Hennessy commissioned in February.

“The committee did not come up with a roadmap for online learning, but recommended more experimentation,” Girod said.

In August, Computer Science Professor John Mitchell was appointed to the newly created VPOL position, creating a University-wide authority in the space of online education.

School of Engineering Dean James Plummer M.S. ’67 Ph.D. ’71 appointed Girod the following day.

“Bernd [Girod’s] appointment recognizes the rapidly growing importance of online learning in engineering education,” Plummer said to the Stanford Report.

Nick McKeown, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, described the excitement around online learning in the School of Engineering.

“If I stop in the corridor to talk to my colleagues, we talk about teaching and online teaching,” McKeown said. “It’s incredible the enthusiasm and energy in this building related to teaching right now.”

The School of Engineering was indeed a pioneer of long-distance learning, launching the Stanford Instructional Television Network (SITN) in 1969. Courses were streamed over the Internet in the 1990s and the SITN became the Stanford Center for Professional Development (SCPD), now a top professional development center among U.S. institutions of higher education.

Professional schools ramp up online strategy
Charles G. Prober, Associate Dean at the School of Medicine.
(Courtesy of Charles G. Prober)

“If you look at the range of online courses that are being produced, the vast majority are coming out of the School of Engineering,” Girod said.

In his new position, Girod is eager to bring more flexibility to engineering students through online education.

“We want to leverage the flexibility that additional online offerings can bring to students to give them an overall better experience,” Girod said.  “Classroom teaching and contact with faculty will not be replaced, just augmented.”

For example, Girod plans to offer more engineering undergraduate classes online to give more undergraduates the opportunity to participate study-abroad programs.

At the School of Medicine, Prober is eager to lead the school’s commitment to interactive education.  He currently leads the Stanford Medicine Interactive Learning Initiatives, guiding the Medical School into what has the potential to be a new era in medical education.

Prober is working with a team of education technology specialists, physicians and other faculty to adapt the existing medical curriculum to new, interactive formats. He is also exploring partnerships with other institutions.

Professional schools ramp up online strategy
Peter DeMarzo, Senior Associate Dean, GSB.
(Courtesy of Peter DeMarzo)

At the GSB, DeMarzo, who was appointed by Dean Garth Saloner M.A. ’81 M.S. ’82 Ph.D. ‘

82, is also working with faculty to redesign their courses with educational technology. They are introducing a new Real-time Analysis and Investment Lab (RAIL) that will enable students to work with market data in real time.

Mitchell will meet regularly with Girod, Prober and DeMarzo to coordinate each school’s program with the university-wide online learning goals. According to Mitchell, no other schools plan to add similar positions.

“It may or may not be the right idea for other schools,” he said. “I wouldn’t read too much into the distinction between schools that have and have not created those types of positions.”

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