SUNY Provost Laursen calls for expansion of online courses

SUNY Provost Tod A. Laursen said during a visit to Suffolk’s Ammerman campus Feb. 21 that the state system is planning an aggressive expansion of its online courses and several other innovative initiatives to help it grow and adapt.

“We’re going to make a real push into the online space,” said Laursen, who was appointed in September as SUNY’s chief academic officer, to a group of more than 100 faculty, staff and students in the Montauk Point Room of the Babylon Student Center.

“Even though the system was early [in offering online courses], we don’t have very many exclusively online learners.”

Laursen said the courses not only offer flexibility to some potential students, but also are important to advancing the system’s reputation.

Laursen also said SUNY is looking at “micro-credentialing” options.

The system’s ultimate goal, Lauren said, is not to just enroll students, but to have them complete their degrees.

“I think the challenge for the system academic office is to try to actually help where it can and stay out the way where it can,” said  Laursen, whose job is to work with all of the system’s 64 campuses.

In response to a student’s question about how SUNY gets students involved in the process of developing new programs, Laursen said he believes there’s room for students’ voices to be more prominent. 

Laursen also touched on open education resources, or materials developed by faculty. OER materials could be used to dramatically reduce textbook costs and provide up-to-date information. 

While not many faculty members in the audience said they used OER material, Paul Beaudin, vice president for academic affairs, said Suffolk is the third-largest user of OER materials in SUNY, and the college has received a small grant from the system to support its initiatives.

Two conferences were held on the subject and another workshop on this is planned for Professional Development Day on March 12, he noted in a follow-up email to faculty and staff.

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