Board Meeting Addresses Research, Online Education

Presentations to the board highlight research and online education progress and future goals.
Leo Chalupa
Vice President for Research Leo M. Chalupa provides updates from his office at Friday's Board of Trustees meeting.
October 21, 2013

Vice President for Research Leo M. Chalupa and Vice Provost for Online Education and Academic Innovation Paul Schiff Berman led special presentations at Friday’s George Washington University Board of Trustees meeting, detailing progress and next steps for the university’s research and online education initiatives.

Held in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom, the meeting also featured updates from President Steven Knapp; Student Association President Julia Susuni; Alumni Association President Steve Frenkil, B.A. ’74; and Faculty Senate Executive Committee Chair Scheherazade Rehman, B.A. ’85, M.B.A. ’89, Ph.D. ’92.

Board of Trustees Chair Nelson A. Carbonell, B.S. ’85, provided opening remarks and spoke of the university’s 192-year history and its future. He also announced the induction of five new trustees and the recent achievements and awards of board members.

Dr. Chalupa took the podium to discuss how research has progressed at GW. The Office of the Vice President for Research has reorganized to maximize its capacities, launched campus-wide interdisciplinary initiatives, and established the Research Enhancement Unit and implemented incentive awards for faculty members to keep them funded between grants. Dr. Chalupa stressed the importance of compliance and ownership in research, explaining his office oversees areas like conflicts of interest, data use agreements and responsible conduct of research.

He also outlined extramural expenditure data for the 2013 fiscal year, which grew 7.3 percent over 2012. Total expenditures in research the first quarter of FY14 have increased 8.1 percent compared to the first quarter in 2013. GW research also received a total of $162.9 million in funding in the 2013 fiscal year, 70.6 percent of which came through federal institutions.

“You hear the advantage of GW being in the nation’s capital, and for us, the advantage is that the funding agencies are right here,” Dr. Chalupa said, adding that the office has also been reaching out to corporations and industries, as well as the international community.

GW has seen significant growth in entrepreneurship—the Office of Entrepreneurship was formed, and the Office of Technology Transfer has expanded. Dr. Chalupa added there have been eight faculty startups and about 30 student startups since 2010. This coincides with the launch of university cross-disciplinary initiatives in cybersecurity, computational biology, sustainability, neuroscience and global women’s issues. Initiatives in cancer, big data, food and genomics have also been proposed.

Dr. Chalupa also listed several reasons why the community should be optimistic about the future of research at GW: The university has recruited outstanding faculty, placed a high premium on research initiatives, approved the Vision 2021 Strategic Plan and made headway on construction and growth efforts, such as the Science and Engineering Hall and the new School of Public Health and Health Services building. Dr. Chalupa also thanked senior staff, Dr. Knapp and the board for their strong support.

Following Dr. Chalupa’s presentation, Professor Berman shared information regarding the importance of online education in an increasingly digitalized world. He said that high-quality online education potentially offers students a rich combination of educational materials, including highly produced videos and contextualized exercises that can be tailored or customized based on an individual’s needs. Online education can also provide synchronous seminar sessions, in which students and faculty members can see each other and engage in real-time, web-based discussions, with a low student-faculty ratio.

“The result is a robust, personalized, interactive and educationally rich experience that many find to be as good as—or in some cases better than—the traditional in-person version,” Professor Berman said. “Online options allow students an alternative pathway for taking advantage of the rich educational opportunities GW offers.”

Currently, GW has more than 70 tuition-based degree or certificate online programs. Last fall, 2,777 students enrolled in online education programs—an increase of 459 students compared to the previous spring.

Separate from its online degree programs, GW is also working to provide interested faculty members with the opportunity to explore Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) intended for classes of hundreds or thousands of students. These non-credit courses would be offered for free, or at very low per-course costs. GW is looking to MOOCs to showcase professors, programs and courses that demonstrate the university’s strengths. Over the long-term, MOOCs may also be a way to provide low-cost educational materials for students in developing countries.

Other important online initiatives the university is pursuing include a series of non-credit executive education programs, a specialized pilot project from the 13-university Colonial Group consortium that will allow students to take online courses that are not available at GW at other institutions and The George Washington University Online High School, which offers virtual education for students in grades six through 12.

Finally, Professor Berman announced that the Provost has established a Strategic Planning Committee for Online Education made up of administrators from all 10 schools, as well as faculty and students. The Committee has been asked to analyze the pedagogical, financial and infrastructure implications of growing online education at GW. The Committee plans to make recommendations to university administration and the board. 

“It is clear that online educational programs should play a significant role in implementing GW’s ambitions embodied in the Vision 2021 Strategic Plan,” Professor Berman said, noting the in-person enrollment caps GW faces on the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon Campuses. 

“If we do this right, GW’s online education programs will enhance our overall brand; offer high-quality educational programs to an important, historically underserved domestic and international market; generate innovative pedagogical ideas that will inform all of our online and in-person teaching; and provide a significant revenue source for the university in years to come,” he concluded.

The meeting closed with committee reports, in which board members discussed nominations for honorary degrees, and a brief question-and-answer session with presenters. 

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