The Harvard Graduate School of Education plans to launch a fully-online master’s program in Education Leadership as part of its efforts to increase access for mid-career professionals, HGSE Dean Bridget Terry Long said in an interview Wednesday.
The new program is an outgrowth of an online, part-time cohort the school accepted through a one-time summer admissions cycle in 2020.
“When we went remote, we realized just how many talented, dedicated people are out there who want a master’s degree in education, who are not able to move to Cambridge, and so we’ve launched an online master’s degree,” Long said.
“[The program is] really focused on that group of people who would not otherwise be able to come to Cambridge, so it’s really about access, and new populations of students who want to benefit from Harvard,” she added.
Long said the program’s first cohort will arrive in summer 2022, and that the school will likely give students the ability to “come to campus for short periods of time” during the two-year duration.
Students currently enrolled in the remote, part-time program have voiced frustruations over remote course offerings and their lack of access to campus. In the interview, Long acknowledged those frustrations and said HGSE remains committed to accommodating remote students.
“When we committed to saying you could take the degree online, we wanted to guarantee for students who don’t have the ability to move to Cambridge that we could support them to degree completion and they wouldn’t have to come,” Long said.
Long defended the school’s remote learning offerings.
“We decided to have half of our courses online because we were so committed to the online students, and in some ways that was safe for us, given the fact that the Delta variant and Covid hurt so much,” she said.
“But this is the difficulty of being in a complex university with every tub on its own bottom — you try to maximize the opportunities, but you can’t quite control,” Long added.
In addition to increasing access through online programming, Long said the school is working toward creating a more engaging student experience in its newly-redesigned master’s curriculum.
The restructured program will graduate its first cohort in spring 2022. It features new Foundations courses held prior to fall term — which will become mandatory for future cohorts after this year — that Long said are an opportunity to “build a relationship with faculty, with teaching fellows” before starting at HGSE.
“We’re hearing a lot about the benefits of that — about how it reduced levels of anxiety, how it helps people feel part of the community and feel included, again, before they had even started,” she said.
Despite ongoing uncertainty over the Omicron variant, Long said the school is working to provide current and recently-graduated students with opportunities to visit campus through “homecoming” events in January and May 2022.
“[These] would be concentrated weekends to invite both those who graduated in spring 2021, as well as those who are continuing in the online program, [to] just have a chance to come to campus, to have some faculty lectures, to have social networking events,” she explained.
Those events would complement the joint commencements in May for the Classes of 2020 and 2021, which the University announced in November.
“The cohort that started fall 2020, as well as the ones that are continuing to this year, they never had a chance to come to campus,” she said. “We know that was a huge desire at some point to come, not just to come to campus, but to also meet their faculty, to meet each other in person.”
—Staff writer Omar Abdel Haq can be reached at [email protected].