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Simmons U Plans Dual Paths for Fall 2020

Simmons University

To cover all bases, Simmons University, a private women-focused institution in Boston, has announced its intention to develop an online undergraduate experience in time for the start of school in fall 2020. The new program, being built with the help of 2U, will give students the option of enrolling in hundreds of Simmons courses redesigned this summer for online delivery.

In a frequently asked questions page on the Simmons website, the university said that the learning experience for online students would have both synchronous and asynchronous activities, including live classes via high-definition streaming video that could accommodate small group breakout rooms, video and document sharing, live chats, surveys and polls, collaborative content annotation, screensharing and full-class recordings to accommodate students whose schedules won't allow them to attend the real-time events.

The institution has already worked with 2U, an online program management company, to develop six graduate degree programs in fields that include nursing, social work and public health. Under this expanded agreement, 2U will provide the university with technology and services to manage the undergraduate courses, including the learning platform, technical support for students and faculty, tools for protecting university data and faculty training on platform use and online teaching best practices.

"Let me be clear," wrote out-going President Helen Drinan, in a message to the campus. "Our hope is to return to campus as soon as possible, while prioritizing the health and safety of our students, faculty and larger Simmons community. When and how we can do that will largely be determined by the course of the pandemic and the guidance of public health officials. In this regard, we still face many unanswered questions. So, we must have a continuity plan for undergraduate education — including online education that we continue to deliver at a level of excellence that Simmons students expect and deserve."

Drinan will be leaving her post on June 1, 2020. In-coming President Lynn Perry Wooten noted in a statement that "crossing boundaries to create new opportunities is one of the university's core values, and we are committed to delivering 'Simmons quality' academic rigor in online education across our programs."

"This is a path forward that will distinguish Simmons among its peer institutions and ensure its long-term sustainability. By investing in a world-class online undergraduate option, Simmons can expand access to a broader array of students and emerge from these uncertain times as a stronger and more competitive institution," added Board of Trustees Chair Regina Pisa.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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