SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher introduced the new Open SUNY+ degree programs during her annual State of the University address Jan. 14 in Albany.
"Open SUNY will provide our students with the nation's leading online learning experience, drawing on the power of SUNY to expand access, improve completion and prepare more students for success," Zimpher said. She noted that the online degrees will "will completely redefine access to a college degree in our state" and reach people "on their terms -- in their homes and communities, and on their time, adapting to their schedules."
The first Open SUNY degrees were chosen based on factors including student interest, accreditation, and capacity to meet current and future workforce demand throughout New York state.
"We are proud to have our online MBA and our MBA/HSA as the only graduate programs in the first wave of Open SUNY," said SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley. "All the qualities that make our programs great will be available throughout SUNY and beyond as premier online offerings."
Just this month, U.S. News ranked Oswego's online MBA programs No. 14 in the nation, praising the level of student engagement and faculty expertise. Princeton Review lists Oswego's School of Business -- which is accredited by AACSB International, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business -- among the best in the Northeast.
Other campuses with degree programs in the initial rollout of Open SUNY are Stony Brook University, Empire State College, SUNY Delhi, and Broome and Finger Lakes community colleges. Students will enroll in each program through the campus that hosts it.
"Each home campus enrolls the students, confers the degrees and provides student services," said Greg Ketcham, director of academic programs for Oswego's Division of Extended Learning, who has been long instrumental in the instructional design and delivery of online courses at SUNY Oswego. "We are looking at Open SUNY as the next-generation effort for what online courses should be in order to be the best possible experience for students."
SUNY Oswego was an early adopter of modern alternatives to traditional classroom teaching and learning.
"Oswego has a long record of leadership in online education," Ketcham said. The college started offering online classes in the mid-to-late '90s, he said, and was among the early members of the SUNY Learning Network, a partnership of more than 30 SUNY campuses that has provided support in the areas of best practices in teaching, technology, student and faculty support and marketing services.
Oswego and SUNY recognized that moving a course or an entire degree program -- or an entire system's worth of courses -- online is not just "a flip of a switch," Ketcham said. His staff works closely with faculty in a mentored process to transform course content for the online world.
Stephen Aschkenes, a senior marketing major at Oswego, was chosen to attend a brainstorming session on Open SUNY last fall. He said the three online courses he has taken proved to be rigorous and collaborative experiences that included required online discussion of texts, videos and other students' posts.
"You need to participate -- you can't just sit in the back of the class," Aschkenes said. "From that aspect, I liked it."
Open SUNY will eventually encompass every online course offered at every SUNY campus, the chancellor said, "and make them easy to find and accessible for every SUNY student."
SUNY's signature initiative will offer online courses and programs with a comprehensive suite of supports and services to aid in degree completion. Built-in supports will include 24/7 assistance for students, whether they need technical help, tutoring, financial planning or academic advisement services, as well as a Center for Online Teaching Excellence where faculty can opt-in to training programs and online forums to broaden their knowledge about developing effective online courses or share best practices and learn directly from colleagues across SUNY.