How Online Education Went from Teaching Reform to Economic Necessity for Colleges

When the Sloan Foundation had the bright idea to stimulate digital education at the nation’s colleges and universities a quarter of a century ago, it christened online learning as “asynchronous learning networks,” an eccentric name for what is now known simply as online learning. Since it was in its very early days, Sloan had no idea what to call it. But it surely bet on a winning horse. Eventually, the foundation invested nearly $75 million in institutions willing to test electronic teaching to see if it worked. I received some of that largess 20 years ago in grants to launch virtual master’s degrees, among the very first in the nation, when I was dean of ”web-based distance learning” at Stevens Institute of Technology, a small New Jersey college perched on the Hudson.

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