Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, September 28, 2000
University commits $3 million for distance learning venture

Stanford, Oxford, Princeton and Yale universities announced today that they each would provide $3 million to launch a "distance learning" venture to provide on-line courses in the arts and sciences to their combined 500,000 alumni.

"We are delighted to be a part of this new initiative to expand the boundaries of distance learning and provide our alumni with the experience of intellectual vitality and creativity that our four universities can provide," said Stanford President John Hennessy.

"From the beginning, Stanford has sought ways to extend the power of education to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity. Furthermore, Stanford has been one of the pioneers in using the Internet as yet another means to share that knowledge. I am hopeful that the extraordinary courses and programs that our four institutions offer will find an even broader audience through the Alliance."

Herbert M. Allison Jr., former president of Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., will serve as president and chief executive officer of the non-profit University Alliance for Life-Long Learning.

The Alliance will offer non-credit courses to the alumni, taking advantage of emerging technologies to give the graduates convenient access to their schools' extraordinary resources.

In a statement, the four universities said they plan in the future to make their offerings available to a wider public.

The Alliance will provide on-line courses and interactive seminars; multi-media programs; topical Web sites that include links to research information; live and taped coverage of campus speakers, exhibitions, and other events; lectures on tape; and other offerings.

The member universities and their faculties will control the content of the courses and other educational products offered, ensuring that they meet the highest standards.

"The Alliance among four of the world's greatest universities has an inspiring mission," Allison said. "It will provide the schools' alumni around the world with ongoing access to the best in higher education, enriching their lives and helping them make the fullest contribution to their communities."

Yale President Richard C. Levin will chair the Alliance's board of directors, which will include leaders of the four member universities and the business community.

Each university named two representatives to the board. Stanford's board representatives are Provost John Etchemendy and Srinija Srinivasan, '93, vice president and editor in chief of Yahoo! Inc.

Through the Alliance, the member universities will explore the possibilities that the Internet and other technologies offer for teaching and learning. Where appropriate, innovations developed by the Alliance may be incorporated in the schools' core campus programs.

The Alliance will work with the four member universities to solicit and respond to faculty proposals for programs and projects that the alumni would find rewarding, and license and distribute them on the schools' behalf. Rather than develop its own production facilities and hire staff, the Alliance will sub-contract such needs to the individual universities on a project-by-project basis.

The Alliance will provide new opportunities for faculty members to incorporate technology and collaborate with their peers. Each university will develop the terms and conditions of its own faculty's involvement in the Alliance.

Stanford Associate Provost Charles Junkerman said the university is currently working on producing two on-line courses in the classics, one on archaeology with Professor Michael Shanks and another on Homer's Odyssey with professor Richard Martin.

"It will be a great start for us because both faculty are leading scholars in their fields and very media savvy," he said. "We've wrapped a whole Stanford team around them: web designers and videographers from MediaWorks, actors from Drama, consultants from Music, editors and producers from Continuing Studies. We are all learning a lot, and that's tremendously valuable at this early, experimental, stage in the development of this new medium."

The Alliance expects to begin making courses and other products available in the latter part of 2001.