Credit: Silva Puras
The City University of New York (CUNY) is investing over $8 million in Federal stimulus funds to create CUNY Online, an educational initiative aimed at providing public university students with more high-quality online courses and comprehensive degree paths.
The program will be spearheaded by the CUNY School of Professional Studies (SPS). Along with expanding its current online options, the college will also support all 25 CUNY campuses in their efforts to create their own unique sets of virtual resources.
Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez announced the launch of CUNY Online while visiting CUNY SPS on Wednesday, March 16 to speak about its importance for the university.
“The shift to online instruction that took place during the pandemic demonstrated the great promise of technology to help us meet students quite literally where they live, but course materials need to be optimized, and best practices incorporated, to realize the full potential of these tools,” Rodríguez said in his public statement. “We are fortunate to be able to lean on the great expertise of CUNY SPS to lead this effort that makes a long-term commitment to the success of students who can benefit from the flexibility of online degree programs and courses.”
The Demand for Online Courses
CUNY Online was developed in response to students demanding more comprehensive online course options during the COVID-19 pandemic. With campuses slowly transitioning back to in-person during Spring 2022, the topic has become immensely significant.
“I was able to finish my degree online and whatever credits I had left to do,” said former Queens College student Maria Casvikis, who graduated back in Spring 2021 with a Bachelor’s in computer science. “I’m glad that I was able to do that, since my grandmother lives with us. I didn’t have to worry about going back to QC and possibly getting COVID. It was one less thing for me to have to worry about during that time.”
For students in similar situations, either living with relatives that are vulnerable to COVID or working part-time, online courses have become a key resource in allowing them to pursue a college education on their own terms.
This dynamic highlights the lack of quality online options previously available at QC before the pandemic, including resources necessary to offer these courses.
According to Chancellor Rodríguez, CUNY Online is another example of the University’s commitment to expanding access to quality courses and instruction for students—all while supporting campuses, faculty, and staff with a range of resources to facilitate these services. “We have the internal capacity,”Matos Rodríguez said, adding, “the stimulus funding provided the jump-start needed to begin creating programs that have the quality and the creation that SPS is known for.”
Launching the Program
CUNY SPS Interim Dean Jorge Silva-Puras also released a statement, calling CUNY Online a “forward-thinking investment,” that will require the hiring of course builders, animators, production specialists and others to aid in growing online programs.
Programs similar to CUNY Online require heavy upfront investment, with many institutions turning to online program management companies (OPMs) for assistance. These organizations, in response, receive a cut of tuition revenue depending on the services provided.
CUNY Online will be the primary portal used to enroll students, with the various programs offered by individual campuses and courses conducted by their respective professors.
During the early months of the pandemic, CUNY SPS was instrumental in helping faculty members across CUNY move to remote learning. The college had created a series of award-winning workshops with over 3,4000 employees participating in them.
What the Future Holds
CUNY Online is currently in its pilot stages of development, with plans to release seven to 10 degree programs by the end of 2022. By Fall 2023, the initiative will complete a total of 13 to 20 new programs, while also exploring new avenues for funding, including through donations and state funding.
“It’s good to hear that this program is going to be a thing. I know a lot of students prefer in-person just because it’s part of the college experience, but when push-comes-to-shove, at least there’s an alternative or safety net that’s going to be there,” John Joseph said, a Queens College student, who is currently taking a combination of remote and in-person classes, while also working part-time as a waiter.
With CUNY Online expanding the pool of online courses and remote services for students, the new initiative will help to promote further accessibility of higher education — a mission that CUNY is dedicated to upholding both on and off-campus.