The Future of Online Graduate Education in 21st Century Research Universities
Buttlar, William G.
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The nature and demand for graduate and undergraduate education is rapidly evolving. Some fields, such as Civil and Environmental Engineering, are closing in on requiring a Master’s degree or equivalent graduate coursework as a requirement for obtaining licensure to practice in the profession. Employers are looking to universities to provide additional professional or transferable skills to their graduate students, as evidenced by the rise in Professional Science Master’s and other professionally-oriented Master’s programs. Students are looking for ways to reduce or eliminate additional student loan debt as they pursue graduate degrees, and are hungry for opportunities to work while they pursue graduate certificates and degrees. The contemporary student expects to float seamlessly between synchronous and asynchronous learning environments, expects a flexible curriculum allowing interdisciplinary study, and expects teaching technologies and social media to be fully integrated into their collegiate educational and networking experience. These factors suggest that online undergraduate and graduate education will play a pivotal role in the transformation of the 21st century research university. This seminar will provide a case for the development and inclusion of online graduate STEM education at 21st century research universities, and will review lessons learned in developing and deploying ‘traditional’ online and massive open online courses (MOOCs) and programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Preliminary findings from an ongoing NSF ECR grant will also be presented. Last-but-not-least, a call for collaboration amongst leading research universities in the area of online graduate education will be presented and discussed.