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Stories to watch: Online education

This story is part of our Orientation 2012 special issue. Check out our complete guide to life at Columbia here.

Columbia administrators are itching to bolster the University’s online education offerings, and Sree Sreenivasan might be the man to make it happen.

Provost John Coatsworth announced in July that Sreenivasan would serve as Columbia’s first chief digital officer. Sreenivasan, who was previously the Journalism School’s dean of student affairs, is an expert in social media and digital journalism.

According to Coatsworth, Sreenivasan will be responsible for developing more distance- and online-learning tools, both for Columbia students and for “learners outside the University.” The School of Continuing Education and the Journalism School already offer some online courses, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Jewish Theological Seminary offer online master’s degree programs.

Peer institutions like Harvard, Yale, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford already have free lectures online, in disciplines ranging from philosophy to biology. Columbia’s first foray into the world of online education, the ill-fated Fathom.com, was shut down in 2003 after losing millions of dollars.

Sreenivasan has yet to name a platform that Columbia will use to enhance its online education offerings, but he said in a July interview that he will try “to be as open-minded as possible” in choosing one.

jeremy.budd@columbiaspectator.com

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