Report of the Committee on Online Education

To:  Mary Miller, Dean of Yale College  

From: Paul Bloom and Craig Wright, Co-Chairs

Report of the Committee on Online Education

Executive Summary

Motivation and charge. You charged this committee with framing a path forward for the next phase of online education for Yale College, noting Yale’s initiatives to date and the expansion of online education nationally.

History at Yale. The University has been a leading innovator in online education, beginning with the AllLearn Consortium (2000-2006, not for credit) and Open Yale Courses (since 2006, not for credit), and continuing with online courses in the Yale College Summer Session (since 2011, for credit) and language courses taught in partnership with Cornell and Columbia (since 2011, for credit). That history has established a standard of outstanding quality in both content and production that must continue to characterize Yale’s efforts online. Yale faculty members who have taught online courses for credit have reported that the educational standards of these courses have been consistent with those of regular courses.

History elsewhere. The landscape of online education is diverse and evolving.  Several peer universities offer online degrees in their professional or extension schools, either with online courses only or with a mix that includes time on campus. They and several other universities offer online courses for credit with governance mechanisms to check content and assessment. Two consortia – edX and Coursera – offer platforms for massive open online courses (MOOCs) that are now viewed by hundreds of thousands of students. MOOCs are not currently offered for credit.

Principles that guided our judgment of the online education initiatives. Rooted in our commitment to the strong tradition of high quality instruction at Yale, our Committee framed the following guiding principles:

  • Yale’s three core missions are the creation, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge. Online initiatives pursue the third mission and provide an important opportunity to disseminate both what is taught and how it is taught. It also preserves valuable and what might otherwise be ephemeral teaching materials.
  • Online initiatives must complement and enrich traditional teaching.
  • Online courses for credit must continue to be submitted to the Course of Study Committee for approval.
  • Online initiatives that stimulate constructive pedagogical innovations in traditional classrooms deserve special attention and encouragement.
  • Mechanisms must ensure that students enrolled for credit complete the assignments and exams without fraud.
  • Insofar as departmental needs are satisfied, faculty should be free to post instructional materials (including entire courses) for broader dissemination.

Our suggestions for moving forward are contained in the body of the report.


The Committee has met weekly during the semester and submits this Report for your review. Because some of our reflections have implications for other parts of the University, we have copied the Provost, and we look forward to sharing our observations with the Yale College Faculty at its meeting on December 6.

As you noted in your charging letter, Yale has been a leader in disseminating the ideas and knowledge of its faculty online, and we must continue to do so. We are confident that the opportunities that lie ahead will open doors for both Yale faculty and students; faculty will discover new ways to promulgate the knowledge generated on campus to a world far beyond, and students from around the globe will continue to benefit from the creativity and scholarship generated in New Haven. Yale’s graduate students and postdoctoral fellows will also gain new pedagogical skills critical to 21st century instruction, and Yale undergraduates will see benefits as online education is used to complement and enrich their residential education.

This document is organized into four broad sections, of which we provide a brief overview below.

Section I reviews Yale’s online educational initiatives to date, surveys online education efforts at several peer institutions, and describes some of the new platforms and projects that have gained substantial publicity during the last year. This section is lengthy since our suggestions for next steps are premised on the online initiatives pursued thus far by Yale, as well as the landscape emerging from the efforts of comparable universities.

Section II includes a set of Guiding Principles and General Recommendations that we believe will be important for Yale College as it considers new online educational opportunities.

Section III outlines how we believe Yale should proceed in the next two years. The digital landscape is changing so rapidly that it is not possible to offer a road map for a longer period of time. The subjects before our Committee are very exciting for higher education in general and for Yale in particular; and we believe they deserve ongoing attention by a University-wide standing committee.

Section IV summarizes the next steps that we discuss in this report.


A.    History of Yale’s Online Educational Initiatives

Yale has been an innovator in online education during the last dozen years. First, we have been innovators through the University’s AllLearn consortium (2000-2006). Second, our faculty members have been pioneers, sharing outstanding educational materials online, for free, through Open Yale Courses (since 2006). Third, online courses for credit have been offered by Yale faculty through Yale College Summer Session (since 2011). Fourth, in 2011, Yale embarked on a joint project with Cornell and Columbia to use the Internet to teach less commonly studied languages to students, for credit, at these three universities.

Each of Yale’s four online initiatives is reviewed below.

1.    AllLearn

Yale, Stanford, and Oxford formed The Alliance for Lifelong Learning (AllLearn) in September 2000.  The goal was for the faculty at those three universities to work in concert to create new, non-credit courses of high quality. Diana E.E. Kleiner, then Deputy Provost, was the Yale faculty Director for AllLearn.

The initial target audience was the institutions’ alumni, with the expectation that the online audience would grow dramatically and include non-alumni interested in continuing education on topics within the arts and sciences. Tuition (ranging from $195 for alumni to $250 for the general public) was charged for a course, with additional materials fees up to $49.95. Over time, the tuition was raised and varied by course, with intensive creative writing courses costing above $800. These courses were shorter than a regular semester course. Diana Kleiner’s eight-week program,“eClavdia; Women in Ancient Rome,” for example, had 14 short online lectures (about 20 minutes each), reading assignments, and assessment that included visual learning modules and quizzes, which were submitted to and evaluated by the online instructor.  In eClavdia and some other instances, inexpensive one-week mini-courses were introduced as teasers for the full course offerings.  Other Yale-sponsored AllLearn courses included: “Shakespeare from Script to Screen,” taught by Murray Biggs, and “Intelligent Emotions,” taught by Peter Salovey.

The Yale Center for Media and Instructional Innovation (CMI2) worked with each Yale faculty member to develop his or her AllLearn course materials, which included in some cases videos of the instructor and other high production teaching materials.  Students worldwide took the courses synchronously with the online instructor—a Teaching Fellow (TF) who was an expert in the field and often selected by the faculty author.  This model was highly interactive, with frequent asynchronous threaded discussions overseen by the TF and weekly scheduled chat room conversations, in which the faculty member often joined.  These courses were not for credit, although there was regular discussion about whether or not to grant certificates.   

The Yale AllLearn courses were uniformly considered outstanding, but AllLearn struggled to find ways to market the courses to attract a large enough audience to make it economically self-sufficient. When it closed in 2006, the three universities had offered approximately 60 AllLearn courses that enrolled students from 70 countries; in addition several thousands of students participated in one of several one-day free or inexpensive forums that were created. One such course, for instance, focused on the Iraq War with faculty participants from all three universities.

Although AllLearn was terminated in 2006, it provided invaluable hands-on experience that emphasized collaboration with other universities.  Furthermore, the AllLearn courses involved significant social interaction, a short lecture format and firsthand assessment of work—all of these are features found in the recently-introduced massive open online courses (MOOCs), which are discussed below.

2.    Open Yale Courses

Under the leadership again of Diana E. E. Kleiner, Open Yale Courses began in 2006, with the first seven courses launched from Yale’s own Open Yale Courses website in December 2007.  The initiative provides free and open access to 42 courses taught by Yale faculty, with courses that span the full range of liberal arts disciplines, including humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences. Each course includes a full set of class lectures produced in high-quality video accompanied by such other course materials as syllabi, suggested readings, transcripts and problem sets. (A full roster of the courses is included as Appendix A.) Four members of our Committee have contributed their courses to Open Yale Courses.

We highly recommend that faculty members visit the website, which reveals the wide range of the course offerings, the simple and elegant design of the website, and the quality of the classroom lecture videos. The Yale Broadcast & Media Center and the Yale Center for Media and Instructional Innovation produced the courses.

Unlike AllLearn and several MOOC projects that have been in the news lately (e.g. Coursera and edX), Open Yale Courses provides limited opportunities for students to engage with one another in “chat rooms” or through social media, and does not provide formal contact with the faculty or a teaching instructor.  The premise of Open Yale Courses differs from that of these other platforms; its goal has been to provide outstanding instructional materials from successful faculty members at Yale, which can be used for continuing education by the general public or by teachers to create their own learning experiences for their classrooms.

To achieve the widest possible distribution of Open Yale Courses, the lectures were also made available on two commercial platforms: YouTube (March 2009) and iTunes U (July 2009). The advantage of not having one exclusive partner for posting Open Yale Courses has been borne out by the numbers of individuals who find their way to these materials from differing Internet pathways: The Open Yale Courses website has received over 6 million unique visitors since its debut in December 2007 and has delivered over 61 million page views since May 2009. In addition, the material has been accessed more than 30 million times through the Yale’s iTunes U and YouTube channels.

Apart from the United States, the greatest number of visitors to Open Yale Courses comes from China, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, South Korea, India, Brazil, Australia, and Russia[1]. The reach of several of the courses has been amplified by translation: for example, Professor Shelly Kagan’s Open Yale Course has been sub-titled in Mandarin, and the popularity of the course in China has made him “among the most recognizable American professors in China,” according to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. As the article further notes: “One explanation for the huge following may be that these courses provide a glimpse into a very different educational system [of liberal learning,]” October 5, 2012, pg. B16.

There is no way to ascertain the number of students who have completed an entire Open Yale Course versus those who may have watched one lecture; however, virtually all of the participating Yale faculty have received emails from students who report that they have “taken” the complete course.

Open Yale Courses is posted online under a version of the Creative Commons License, which allows anyone to use the materials for non-commercial purposes. A number of universities around the world have used specific lectures from Open Yale Courses within their own curriculum—further increasing the reach of these Yale courses.

Open Yale Courses has been supported by generous grants from the Hewlett Foundation, but those grants are ending this semester; and there is no provision yet for the continuation of this program. There has been extensive planning, however, to keep the 42 existing courses on the Yale site as well as the iTunes U and YouTube platforms. All of the courses are being stored and preserved for future study. New visitors are discovering Open Yale Courses daily and global media coverage, which has been constant and enthusiastic since the start of the project, continues unabated.  There is also an ongoing partnership between Open Yale Courses and Yale University Press to publish the transcripts of Open Yale Courses as printed books; several, including Shelly Kagan’s “Death” course, have already been published and others are underway. Several Yale faculty use their Open Yale Course lectures “to flip” the on-campus classroom and in a variety of other programs for Yale alumni (i.e., Yale4Life, Yale Educational Travel). These 42 courses can also be the foundation for online Summer Session courses by Open Yale Courses faculty, as has already been done by John Rogers and Craig Wright, and transforming them into MOOCs would not be difficult to achieve.

Open Yale Courses has been enormously successful in a myriad of ways. Most importantly, it has succeeded in its goal of providing outstanding teaching materials for free around the world. In addition, in the process of developing Open Yale Courses we have learned a great deal about how to produce online materials (from video techniques to legal clearance and copyright issues).

3.    Online Yale Summer Session Courses for Credit

During the summers of 2011 and 2012, Yale College Summer Session offered its first online courses for credit.  Each online course was approved by the Course of Study Committee, as is the case with every Summer Session course. A total of ten online courses have been taught, two in 2011 and eight in 2012.

Credit was awarded for successful completion of the online Summer Session course in the same way as for Summer Session courses held in New Haven.  For example, a student from Princeton who takes a Yale College Summer Session course (either in residence in New Haven or online) is awarded a credit that is applied by Princeton toward graduation requirements there (if Princeton so chooses); a student from Yale gets the credit applied toward his or her Yale degree.

The tuition charge for taking the online course was identical to that for taking the course in New Haven. This fee was  $3,000 in 2011 and $3,150 in 2012. All online courses ran for five weeks (just like the New Haven Summer Session courses).  Since the online Summer Session courses were still considered an experiment in 2012, the course enrollments were kept small and multiple sections were not used.  Total enrollment for the eight courses in 2012 was 103 (97 Yale students and 6 non-Yale students including one from Oxford, the American University of Paris, and elsewhere, including one American veteran).

Two integrated technology platforms support the online Summer Session courses.  First, a key element of Yale’s online courses is that all students, wherever they are in the world, must come “to class” at the same hour and to see and engage with one another and the instructor in “real time.” The current technology platform enables 20 simultaneous live streams—thus allowing a seminar of up to 20 students or multiple sections, each with up to 20.  Video was the focal point of the synchronous learning tool, but students could also use the text-based chat room as a way to connect with another. Faculty members have the ability to upload PowerPoint presentations, videos or audio files and to annotate directly onto an interactive whiteboard.

In addition, a second technology platform (Learning Studio Live from Pearson, which is also used by Columbia) provides students and faculty members secure access to asynchronous learning tools like message boards, announcements, and access to archived lecture videos. A dropbox feature allowed students securely to upload papers and other documents for grading.

Yale’s Office of Digital Dissemination (ODD) and the Yale Broadcast & Media Center (YBMC) are responsible for the production of these courses, videotaping all necessary lectures and undertaking other aspects of media production for the courses. (ODD is the unit at Yale that runs the YBMC and is responsible for assisting the other Schools as they develop online courses for widespread dissemination.)

The Yale College Summer Session has one program manager who supports the faculty with their online courses. This program manager combined a background in instructional design with technical expertise. Given the production support offered by ODD, the College has only had to supply this one dedicated staff member to work directly with the faculty members; that additional cost will easily be defrayed as the number of summer school participants grows.

A number of approaches have been adopted by Yale faculty who have taught these courses online for credit, and several deserve explanation here since they illustrate innovations that we believe will be important to how Yale can most constructively proceed during the next few years. In every case, faculty members used the synchronous learning tool for approximately three hours each week to provide a “live” dimension to the class. 

Introduction to Middle East Politics. In 2011, Professor Ellen Lust taught her course in the first five-week Summer Session in New Haven in the regular format, but had her lectures taped.  Then she taught an online version of the course in the second Summer Session in July. These students were required to view the videotaped lectures that had been earlier recorded during the first session, which allowed Professor Lust to teach the July course from Kenya, where she was conducting her research. She had live discussions with students for three hours each week where all of the students were visible on the screen to her and to one another.   She was also able to have a “guest lecturer” participate from Beirut. Professor Lust again used her 2011 lectures to teach the course online from Tunisia during Summer Session 2012. Students were graded on several reading responses due during the course, one significant paper they had to write, and on their class participation. Class participation took into account the students’ activity on the message board as well as their contributions to the conversation in the live video sessions.

Listening To Classical Music. Craig Wright experimented with a non-credit online section in Summer Session 2011 and taught “Listening To Classical Music” for credit during Summer Session 2012. Professor Wright used the lectures recorded as part of his Open Yale Courses project in his for-credit online course. Students were required to view specific sections of the videos each week before participating in the live video session.

Moralities of Everyday Life. Like Professors Lust and Wright, Paul Bloom recorded lectures delivered to students in New Haven and then used those lectures in his online course. Online students were required to watch the lectures, which were recorded as part of the 2011 DeVane Lecture Series. Professor Bloom taught his online course to students last summer while he was working in Beijing, China. Students were graded on class participation (activity in live sessions), reading responses and an open-book final exam where students had to post their essays on the secure Pearson platform.

Following the 2011 Summer Session, Associate Dean William Whobrey in his capacity as the administrator of Yale College Summer Session, assessed the initial online courses from both the faculty members’ and the students’ perspectives.  The students indicated that their online course was as demanding or more demanding than other courses taken at Yale. All faculty members concluded that their online course was worthy of Yale credit.

Based upon the favorable reactions by faculty and students from the 2011 summer online courses, eight online courses were offered in Summer Session 2012. The response again was very positive, with students and faculty alike agreeing that the online versions of the Yale Summer Session courses were academically rigorous and worthy of Yale College credit.

4. Yale Center For Language Study: Shared Course Initiative

Yale has a long tradition of offering its students an astonishing array of languages to study.  However, there are some languages where low enrollments might not support an on-campus presence. To address this, Yale’s Center for Language Study has embarked on a partnership with Cornell and Columbia where students at the three universities can constitute one virtual class and be taught by an instructor at one of the institutions and receive course credit. The initial pilot occurred last year when third and fourth semester Dutch was taught synchronously online by a Yale instructor to students at both Yale and Cornell. The pilot’s success prompted expansion of the program this year where Columbia, Yale and Cornell students are jointly studying. The courses for this year are noted below with an indication of the campus where the instructor is located.  

  • Elementary Bengali I: Cornell
  • Elementary Dutch: Yale
  • Advanced Indonesian: Cornell
  • Intermediate Modern Greek: Yale
  • Elementary Romanian: Columbia
  • Intermediate Tamil: Columbia
  • Beginning Yoruba: Cornell
  • Advanced isiZulu: Yale

The goal of the three university partners is to share less commonly taught languages. The courses offered in the Fall 2012 included several languages that were either not otherwise going to be taught on the three campuses or were not taught at the advanced level.

The courses are taught ‘live’ by an instructor at the sending institution. Students at the receiving institution are expected to attend a regular class in a designated classroom that is outfitted with the videoconferencing technology necessary to see and interact with the teacher and other students in the class. Yale is in the process of setting up an eight-student workspace that balances the need for camera coverage with the impression of being in the same room.

The videoconferencing technology is complemented by synchronous learning software. The solution used for the courses, Adobe Connect, was chosen because of its many features (including virtual break-out groups, live screen sharing and collaboration, and reusable workspace templates). Instructors used tablets or a smart board to annotate directly on visuals, while students used tablets to share in the workspace.

Students were registered at their home institution through the regular registration process and received credit from their own institution.

Summary of Yale’s online education efforts to date

Yale faculty have had successful experiences with teaching different online paradigms: teaching for-credit courses (through Yale Summer Session and the Yale Center for Language Study), offering non-credit interactive courses for a fee to their alumni and other participants (through AllLearn), and providing their lectures and other non-credit teaching materials for free from their regular Yale College courses (through Open Yale Courses).

B.    Peer university efforts

The number of new online educational initiatives by peer institutions has been increasing dramatically. The diagram below is useful in describing the growing set of online educational programs.

1.    Online degrees

At this time, our Committee does not recommend online degrees for Yale College. However, it is important to understand that several peer universities do offer them, virtually all within their professional schools. For example, Stanford has offered Master’s Degrees in Engineering and Computer Science through its Center for Professional Development for the last ten years. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers an MBA totally online.  In what is termed a hybrid degree (some campus-based instruction is coupled with online courses), Johns Hopkins offers a Masters of Public Health where students primarily study online but come to campus to complete 20% of their degree requirements.

For approximately 10 years, Harvard has offered the Associate in Arts (AA) and Bachelor of Liberal Arts (ALB) degrees that can be completed through a hybrid program of its Extension School; students must come to Cambridge to take two (AA) or four (ALB) courses but can complete the rest of the bachelor’s degree requirements online in one of 20 fields of study.  The Harvard Corporation awards the degree but adds the term “in Extension Studies.” The English translation of the diploma for the ALB thus would read, “Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies.”

2.    Online courses for credit

When Yale launched the 2011 Summer Session online initiative, it was not the first major university to offer full courses for credit. Many leading universities have been developing online courses in ambitious ways.  

Virtually all of the institutions with online degree programs offer some of their courses for non-degree students.  For example, anyone can enroll in one of the 200 courses offered by the Harvard Extension School, and many colleges and universities accept one of those courses toward the degree they award (although Harvard College does not accept them). Similarly, the University of Pennsylvania has been offering online arts and science courses to undergraduates for about five years.

On Nov. 15, Duke, Vanderbilt, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Washington University (St. Louis) and six other universities announced that they were forming a consortium to offer undergraduate students (both students at their institutions and elsewhere) the opportunity to take online courses for credit in arts and sciences fields.  The initiative is called “Semester Online.” The courses will feature all of the components that have been incorporated into Yale’s for-credit Summer Session courses: for example, Semester Online courses will require attendance by students “in real time;” be limited to sections of about 15 to 20; include robust opportunities for students to engage with one another through chat rooms and social media; and will include security protections/academic integrity safeguards for the proctoring of exams and tests.

The leader of Semester Online has pointed out that the courses might be particularly appealing to students who are studying abroad or who are attending small colleges or universities where the range of course offerings is more limited. This program will start next fall, and courses will be available both during the academic year and in the summer.

The consortium avoids the need for each university to undertake marketing and advertisement of its courses and supports a community within which consistent practices about serious online courses for credit can be shared. There is a governance committee of the consortium that includes representatives of each of the participating universities. Each participating university has full control of the courses posted, and individual faculty (as with Yale’s online Summer Session) retain full control of the course, both its content and assessment.

The technology for Semester Online is powered by 2U, Inc., which has successfully supported a number of online professional degree programs at USC, UNC, Washington University and Georgetown. We are intrigued by the quality of the technological platform offered to the participating faculty by 2U and believe it warrants further study by the Office of Digital Dissemination. As a general observation, platforms for online dissemination of teaching will continue to evolve, and Yale will need to regularly assess if upgrades or new partnerships/affiliations will be needed to achieve both pedagogical and dissemination objectives.

3.    Massive online, open (free) instructional materials

Open Yale Courses and MIT’s OpenCourseWare were early leaders in posting excellent instructional materials for free online. Neither was designed to offer credit-bearing courses.

These open, online (free) instructional materials differ from “MOOCs”  (massive open online courses). The salient differences between Open Yale Courses and the MOOCs are: (1) MOOCs are interactive, interspersing quizzes and other assignments among short videos;  (2) Although some longer lectures are posted, the typical MOOC design takes the subject matter covered in a 50-minute lecture and breaks it into shorter units of approximately 10 minutes; (3) For MOOCs, all students start the course online at the same time and have weekly homework and assignments that must be posted by certain deadlines; (4) Peer conversation and assessment are at the heart of the MOOC experience.  Imagine if an Open Yale Course had its lectures divided into short modules (which actually has already been achieved for all 42 Open Yale Courses); faculty inserted questions/quizzes throughout the course; and students conversed among themselves through social media—then it would be more like a MOOC.

MOOCs are being widely publicized: A recent headline in the Chronicle of Higher Education cited “MOOC Mania” (Oct 5, 2012, pg 4). There have been scores of articles this semester about edX (the consortium among Harvard, MIT, Berkeley and University of Texas), Coursera (founded by two Stanford professors), and several other new platforms that are supporting MOOCs.

Coursera, for example, now has 33 universities enrolled to use its platform for these particular kind of online “courses,” and all offered for free. Although the initial courses were in engineering from Stanford, courses in the current academic year include from “Modern and Contemporary American Poetry” (University of Pennsylvania-Al Filreis), “A History of the World since 1300” (Princeton-Jeremy Adelman), “Introduction to Astronomy” (Duke-Ronen Plesser), and “Archaeology”  (Brown-Susan Alcock).

It is important to note that the universities where the faculty are using the Coursera platform are not awarding credit for those who complete these courses, whether for application at the home university or at another college or university. This is presumably because they are not convinced that the rigor and/or evaluation of student work would yet warrant credit. This is our sentiment as well. Although MOOCs include some excellent instructional materials, we do not believe they would warrant, in their current form, the award of credit by Yale. As we pursue Yale College’s path in the online arena, it is important that we continue to distinguish what is required to constitute a course for Yale credit as opposed to a worthy online educational offering that does not yet rise in our estimate for consideration for Yale’s conferral of credit.


A. Guiding Principles

Our deep respect for the traditional mode of learning with face-to-face instruction has guided our construction of principles for how Yale should proceed with online education. Online initiatives should complement and enrich our traditional pedagogy.

We believe the following principles and observations should inform the development of online, credit-bearing courses by Yale College as well as the development of other online, non-credit instructional materials:

  • Yale’s three core missions are the creation, the preservation and the dissemination of knowledge. Online courses and non-credit instructional materials, if well conceived, can advance the mission of disseminating knowledge—and allow individuals around the United States and throughout the world to benefit from the excellence of Yale teaching.
  • Online initiatives are also important for the benefits that can redound to faculty, graduate TFs and undergraduate students at Yale. 
  • By encouraging pedagogical innovation, through the development of new types of material that engender novel modes of teaching.
  • By generating content that can be used in other courses at Yale.
  • By demonstrating effective teaching strategies from which other teachers at Yale (and elsewhere) can learn.
  • Online educational opportunities will continue for the foreseeable future to fall into three categories:

(1) Online degrees (e.g. those offered by Stanford and Johns Hopkins).

(2) Online courses for credit from Yale College (e.g. those already offered by Yale Summer Session).  

(3) Online free instruction not for Yale College credit (e.g. those offered by Open Yale Courses).  

B. General Recommendations

  • At this time we do not recommend that Yale College offer online degrees, although we understand that one or more professional schools at Yale may pursue that possibility. (For example, the Nursing School is developing a “hybrid” degree program with some online courses and some requirements for residency in New Haven.)
  • For Yale College, we recommend that we continue to focus on the development of (2) and (3) above: Highest quality must continue to characterize both, but courses for credit require particular scrutiny as described below.
  • For credit-bearing online courses (like those already offered by Yale College Summer Session), particular safeguards are required to ensure the quality of the education and the academic integrity of the experience.
  • As with the current online Summer Session courses, each online credit-bearing course should continue to be approved by the Course of Study Committee of Yale College to ensure it has the rigor of a term-time course.
  • Mechanisms must be in place at Yale so that there is confidence that the assignments and exams are completed without fraud by the students. There are numerous solutions already in use at Yale and elsewhere. We should study which are most successful.
  • Both the quality of instruction and the integrity of assessment are fundamental requirements for Yale to offer online courses for credit. We do not believe that peer grading has a place for courses where Yale is granting course credit, although we recognize peer grading as an interesting component for non-credit instructional materials for Yale faculty who wish to experiment with it.
  • Faculty members who create online courses for credit should be encouraged to post some part of the materials for open distribution. This would further the public dissemination of Yale’s teaching materials in much the same way that Open Yale Courses has had an important open education mission. We stress, however, that this should be entirely at the faculty member’s discretion.
  • For non-credit offerings, Yale should support experimentation by its faculty. Just as Open Yale Courses has been made available on the YouTube and iTunes U platforms as well as, Yale should offer access to at least one MOOC platform for Yale faculty who wish to experiment with this form of pedagogical innovation.
  • Online initiatives must be coordinated carefully with the General Counsel’s Office to assure compliance with regulatory and other legal requirements. These considerations include issues of student privacy, matters of accreditation, and accessibility for disabled students.
  • Yale must ensure that the commitment to preserving Open Yale Courses is fulfilled so that these valuable materials can be accessed well into the future. The Open Yale Courses collection showcases outstanding faculty, and the materials need to be continually made available to those around the world.
  • Yale should reinforce recent efforts to develop partnerships so that Yale’s online offerings (both non-credit and credit-bearing courses) may be used by a growing number of educational institutions around the world. This serves as a public good in an era where there is increasing need for outstanding tertiary education.
  • Yale alumni are eager for continuing access to the best of Yale teaching. Special communications should be directed to alumni so that they are aware of any new non-credit instructional materials posted to any platform. We envision that our online offerings will help promote and encourage life-long learning for our alumni.
  • So long as departmental needs are satisfied, a faculty member must be free to decide if he or she wants to teach an online course or post instructional materials not for course credit. These projects should be opportunities for a growing number of interested faculty and not a departmental or other obligation.
  • Online education has already become part of a new global approach to teaching and learning. Yale needs to be attentive to developing online educational initiatives that are consonant with our rigorous standards while reinforcing Yale College’s continuing reputation as a center for outstanding and innovative teaching. We believe that one of the greatest benefits of Yale’s attention to online education will be further conversation as to what constitutes outstanding pedagogy.


Yale needs to continue to be a leader in online education.  It must remain open to exploring exciting teaching and learning initiatives, and it can begin by creatively building on and extending a number of successful efforts already underway.

A.    Yale should preserve and continue to make available the valuable assets of Open Yale Courses. 

Yale must ensure that the commitment to preserving Open Yale Courses is fulfilled so that these valuable materials can be accessed well into the future. The presence of Open Yale Courses on the University’s website and on iTunes U and YouTube should be maintained. In addition, the iTunes U course collection series should be expanded to include more of the existing Open Yale Courses. Yale should continue to take advantage of Open Yale Courses for the benefit of other university initiatives (i.e. Yale University Press, Yale4Life, Yale Educational Travel, and Yale Summer Session). 

B.    Yale College should expand the successful program of Yale Summer Session Courses online.

The nine Yale College faculty who have taught online courses for credit in Yale Summer Session during the last two years affirm that the quality of the courses merit Yale College credit[2]. Participating students – both Yale and non-Yale – also applaud the quality of the experiences.  The co-chairs of this Committee were among those who taught for-credit courses and who concluded that the online courses were worthy of Yale College credit and that students’ educational experiences were equivalent to those in their academic term-time classes.

For decades, the conventional Yale College Summer Session courses taught in New Haven have allowed non-Yale students to enroll on a per-course basis. Yale College retains total control over admissions for non-Yale College students in online Summer Session courses as it has for in-person Summer Session courses in New Haven. Those enrolled in the online Summer Session courses have paid the same tuition –whether they are in New Haven or participating online.

In the same way that we offer term-time courses that have multiple sections, we anticipate the same during the summer. At least one of our Committee members is planning to experiment with multiple sections for a Summer Session online course in 2013. We encourage the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Faculty Advisory Committee to enable graduate students (with DGS approval) to serve as TFs for online courses offered by a Yale faculty Instructor of Record.

C.    The College should experiment in the next two years with expanding the already existing online courses for credit in the languages by offering a small number of online courses in other subjects during the academic year that could be available to Yale College students as well as students enrolled at peer universities elsewhere.

The success of Summer Session online courses leads us to recommend that a pilot project be initiated during 2013-14 and 2014-15 enabling a small number of Yale faculty to teach courses online for credit during the academic year. Such pilot courses would have to be approved as with any other academic-year course (i.e., by the Course of Study committee, departmental DUSs, etc.) and should be accompanied by a rigorous assessment of learning outcomes. This would allow the following formats for student engagement:

  • Yale College students studying abroad for a semester could take an elective that is not available in their study abroad program. Priority in enrollment should be given to those studying overseas.
  • Yale College students in New Haven, subject to the approval of their DUSs and their residential college deans, may take one (but not more than one) online course for credit during their fall and spring academic semesters: Only one such course could be applied to their graduation requirements. These courses would expose the students to an additional mode of learning and provide the College with valuable information regarding the efficacy of this method of teaching for students in residence.
  • Students at other universities around the world who meet admissions standards could take these online courses for credit. They would benefit from Yale quality teaching, contribute to the diversity of perspectives in the Yale classroom, and create a cohort of ambassadors for Yale.

Yale faculty teaching these few courses would be able to compare the student learning experience in the online venue with the traditional classroom experience.

We recommend that a Yale College committee be convened in the spring semester of 2015 to review this particular experiment of online term-time courses and report to the Dean and the Faculty. 

D.    Yale should pursue affiliation with one or more increasingly sophisticated platforms so as to ensure that interested faculty can develop pedagogical innovation (such as student-to-student collaboration and rigorous online assessment) and further dissemination of their teaching materials.

Yale faculty have shown in the last dozen years that they are eager to experiment with the online learning environment, first through AllLearn and then with Open Yale Courses. We need to support faculty who are interested in experimenting with the new MOOC platforms or any other new online teaching opportunities. We understand that there are institutional considerations (ranging from entrance fees to intellectual property issues to regulatory compliance matters) that may govern which MOOC platforms could be pursued by Yale. We recommend that Yale should use one or more of the new MOOC platforms to continue the free, online dissemination of Yale’s teaching materials.   

Material delivered through the MOOC platforms would not be offered for Yale course credit but rather would be in the spirit of Open Yale Courses.  Just as iTunes U and YouTube have offered different but complementary opportunities, the social, analytic, and assessment features available through the new MOOC platforms may provide our faculty members the kind of valuable pedagogical insights that enhance the on-campus Yale College classroom experience.

Perhaps most importantly, experimenting with one or more of the MOOC platforms will allow us to build on the invaluable public service that Open Yale Courses has been providing since its launch – the free and open dissemination of knowledge by some of Yale’s greatest teachers.

In light of the study by our Committee of several of the new platforms, we will meet with the Provost and Dean later this month to convey our assessment of the relative advantages of those platforms so an informed choice can be made.  This will enable some faculty to experiment with this format in 2013.

E.    A faculty member who creates an online course for credit should be encouraged to post some part of the materials for open dissemination for those who are not taking the course for credit.  This would expand access to Yale’s teaching materials in much the same way that Open Yale Courses has done.

For example, a new Yale College Summer Session online course for credit on “Contemporary Middle East” could be planned and videotaped with the expectation that some of the lectures and instructional materials would be shared for free as a “derivative” of the course on a companion website. Some faculty may wish to experiment in posting some of their materials on a MOOC platform. The Office of Digital Dissemination, which has been producing all of the Summer Session online courses for credit, can easily work with the sponsoring faculty members so they can have some parts of their for-credit course posted for free access on one of the MOOCs and also on

F.     A teaching workshop should be developed and offered to all graduate students who are Teaching Fellows in an online course to introduce them to teaching techniques that are most successful for online instruction.

Yale should provide instruction to our graduate students about effective teaching techniques in the online environment.

We recommend that the Office of Digital Dissemination, in conjunction with the Yale Teaching Center, introduce a workshop, starting next summer, to ensure that every graduate student who elects to serve as a TF in an online course is well prepared. This workshop of several modules would offer instruction in best practices for online instruction. It would help prepare students to successfully teach their course at Yale and would introduce them to teaching techniques that will serve them well as they enter the job market and begin their careers. Faculty members may wish to avail themselves of these resources as well.

G.    There should be a University-wide standing committee reporting to the Provost that is charged with the ongoing evaluation of digital dissemination initiatives for the University.

This committee needs to include representatives from several of the professional schools that are pursuing digital initiatives as well as FAS faculty. It can advise the Provost on the policy issues that will undoubtedly arise, which will range from intellectual property rights to student privacy concerns to potential partnerships.

This committee can also serve as a forum for sharing projects being developed across the campus and can give counsel about new platforms as they emerge over the years.


In conclusion, we believe that Yale should continue to be a leader in online education. This Committee believes that the online initiatives reviewed in this report can be important avenues for reinforcing Yale’s long-standing tradition of outstanding teaching and the dissemination of knowledge. We see this educational vision as important, and thus deserving of institutional investment and support. 

Section IV.  Summary of steps to guide Yale College in 2013-15

  1. Yale should preserve and continue to make available the valuable assets of Open Yale Courses. 
  2. Yale College should expand the successful program of Yale Summer Session Courses online.
  3. The College should experiment in the next two years with expanding the already existing online courses for credit in the languages by offering a small number of online courses in other subjects during the academic year that could be available to Yale College students as well as students enrolled at peer universities elsewhere.
  4. Yale should pursue affiliation with one or more increasingly sophisticated platforms so as to ensure that interested faculty can pursue pedagogical innovation (such as student-to-student collaboration and rigorous online assessment) and further dissemination of their teaching materials.
  5. A faculty member who creates an online course for credit should be encouraged to post some part of the materials for open dissemination for those who are not taking the course for credit.  This would expand access to Yale’s teaching materials in much the same way that Open Yale Courses has done.
  6. A teaching workshop should be developed and offered to all graduate students who are Teaching Fellows in an online course to introduce them to teaching techniques that are most successful for online instruction.
  7. There should be a University-wide standing committee reporting to the Provost that is charged with the ongoing evaluation of digital dissemination initiatives for the University.

Committee Roster

Committee Co-Chairs

Paul Bloom
Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology
Contributed course to Open Yale Courses
Yale Summer Session Online (2012, 2013)

Craig Wright
Henry L. and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Music
Contributed course to Open Yale Courses
Yale Summer Session Online (2012, 2013)

Committee Members

Dirk Bergmann
Douglass and Marion Campbell Professor of Economics

Rich Collins         
Program Manager, Yale Summer Session Online

June Gruber        
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Yale Summer Session Online (2013)

Jay Humphrey    
Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Yehia Khalil        
Adjunct Professor Chemical & Environmental Engineering
Yale Summer Session Online (2012, 2013)

Diana E.E. Kleiner         
Dunham Professor of History of Art and Classics
Founding Project Director and Principal Investigator of Open Yale Courses
Contributed course to Open Yale Courses
Faculty Director for AllLearn

Linda Lorimer     
Vice President of the University and Supervisor of the Office of Digital Dissemination

Bill Rando            
Assistant Dean & Director of the Yale Teaching Center

Laurie Santos      
Associate Professor of Psychology
Yale Summer Session Online (2012, 2013)

Stephen Stearns
Edward P. Bass Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Contributed course to Open Yale Courses

Lucas Swineford 
Director, Office of Digital Dissemination

Bill Whobrey       
Associate Dean, Yale College; Dean of Summer Session Special Programs





Fundamentals of Physics I

 Shankar, Ramamurti

Fall 2006

Introduction to Political Philosophy

 Smith, Steven B.

Fall 2006

Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)

 Hayes, Christine

Fall 2006

Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics

 Bailyn, Charles

Spring 2007

Modern Poetry

 Hammer, Langdon

Spring 2007


 Kagan, Shelly

Spring 2007

Introduction to Psychology

 Bloom, Paul

Spring 2007


 Rogers, John

Fall 2007

Introduction to Ancient Greek History

 Kagan, Donald

Fall 2007

Game Theory

 Polak, Ben

Fall 2007

France Since 1871

 Merriman, John

Fall 2007

Financial Markets (2008)

 Shiller, Robert J.

Spring 2008

Frontiers of Biomedical Engineering

 Saltzman, W. Mark

Spring 2008

The American Novel Since 1945

 Hungerford, Amy

Spring 2008

The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877

 Blight, David W.

Spring 2008

Freshman Organic Chemistry I

 McBride, J. Michael

Fall 2008

European Civilization, 1648-1945

 Merriman, John

Fall 2008

Dante in Translation

 Mazzotta, Giuseppe

Fall 2008

Listening to Music

 Wright, Craig

Fall 2008

The Psychology, Biology and Politics of Food

 Brownell, Kelly D.

Fall 2008

Principles of Evolution, Ecology and Behavior

 Stearns, Stephen C.

Spring 2009

Introduction to Theory of Literature

 Fry, Paul H.

Spring 2009

Roman Architecture

 Kleiner, Diana E. E.

Spring 2009

Global Problems of Population Growth

 Wyman, Robert

Spring 2009

Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature

 Martin, Dale B.

Spring 2009

Financial Theory

 Geanakoplos, John

Fall 2009

Early Modern England: Politics, Religion, and Society under the Tudors and Stuarts

 Wrightson, Keith E.

Fall 2009

Capitalism: Success, Crisis, and Reform

 Rae, Douglas W.

Fall 2009

Foundations of Modern Social Theory

 Szelényi, Iván

Fall 2009

Cervantes’ Don Quixote

González Echevarría, Roberto

Fall 2009

Environmental Politics and Law

Wargo, John

Spring 2010

The American Revolution

Freeman, Joanne

Spring 2010

Epidemics in Western Society Since 1600

Snowden, Frank

Spring 2010

Fundamentals of Physics II

Shankar, Ramamurti

Spring 2010

African American History: From Emancipation to the Present

Holloway, Jonathan

Spring 2010

The Moral Foundations of Politics

Shapiro, Ian

Spring 2010

Freshman Organic Chemistry II

McBride, J. Michael

Spring 2011

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature

Gendler, Tamar

Spring 2011

Financial Markets (2011)

Shiller, Robert J.

Spring 2011

Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner

Dimock, Wai Chee

Fall 2011

The Early Middle Ages, 284–1000

Freedman, Paul

Fall 2011

The Atmosphere, the Ocean, and Environmental Change

Smith, Ronald B.

Fall 2011

[1] This lists, in order from highest to lowest, countries providing the greatest number of visits to since May 2008.  

[2] Paul Bloom, Don Brown, Thomas C. Duffy, Yehia Khalil, Ellen Lust, Kristina Olson, John Rogers, Laurie Santos, Craig Wright.

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