In response to the “advances in technology, in online learning, in the experiences . . . faculty have had in developing MOOCs,” Nora E. Lewis, dean of professional and liberal education at University of Pennsylvania announced that the Ivy League school will offer an online Bachelor’s Degree next fall.
As reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education on September 18, 2018, this move to a fully online four-year degree at UPenn within the Liberal and Professional Studies program is aimed to serve “working adults and other nontraditional students.”
In this article, Dean Lewis further commented that this move to online education at UPenn is not simply a cost-saving stunt, but rather is indicative of broader, industry trends in higher education. Lewis commented that the move to online education is “definitely coming” and that this new degree shows a “real commitment and understanding of the need to have broader inclusion and access” to higher education and to “be able to read learners around the world.” It seems that acknowledging the democratizing, transnational components of MOOCs, UPenn sees this online bachelor’s degree as a way to imitate this particular “disruptive technology” to the status quo in higher education.
While some with a more traditional conception of the “university,” may squirm at the idea of an online degree from such a prestigious institution, I was rather inspired to learn of this development. I am excited to see the power of online learning and MOOCs be so clearly acknowledged and received by an Ivy League institution. I believe that this decision at UPenn adds legitimacy to online learning and other technological innovations within higher education. Most of all, I am elated that this move means that more students, particularly adult learners and “nontraditional” students may have new opportunities to earn higher education degrees. For me, this broadening of possibilities reflects a further broadening of access to higher education, a move which I think will benefit us all.