George Washington University, Stanford Create Vice Provost Positions for Online Learning

Compiled by Jamar Ramos
December 14, 2012

Institutions of higher learning are in various stages of acceptance when it comes to online education. Some offer a few online courses, while others offer completion programs for students who have some college credit or have already earned an associate degree. Some even offer students the chance to earn degrees fully online. Two schools, Stanford University and George Washington University, have created new vice provost positions for educators who will be responsible for leveraging technologies that can advance hybrid and online education. Both universities hope to spur growth in distance learning, as postsecondary schools nationwide seek to provide education in forums that students need and request.

Stanford University appointed John Mitchell to be the school’s first Vice Provost for Online Learning in August 2012. Mitchell, a computer scientist, is the Mary and Gordon Crary Family Professor in the School of Engineering. He was also asked to chair the Presidential Advisory Committee on Technology in Higher Education earlier in the year. Mitchell will be tasked with building a solid framework for how Stanford can offer the best education to students, utilizing the technologies available. His goal is to be able to “use technology to expand [Stanford’s] student base and provide exciting learning opportunities.”

George Washington University has also created a new position to help with developing online courses and programs. The dean of the George Washington Law School, Paul Berman, is vacating that position in 2013 in order to become the university’s first Vice Provost for Online Education and Academic Innovation. Like Mitchell at Stanford, Berman will be looking at ways to expand George Washington’s online course listing, while helping to develop best practices when it comes to distance learning.

Both schools currently offer courses online, but Mitchell and Berman will look to enhance, modify and expand existing courses while creating new ones. Stanford and George Washington want to make these courses and programs available to their students first, with an eye toward building an academic environment that caters to students from around the nation. Stanford already does this through free courses on Coursera, and the school also has other learning platforms like Class2Go and Venture Lab that they can experiment with. Neither Stanford nor George Washington has indicated if they will try to create their own massive open online courses, or modify the current technology in order to have a classroom-type atmosphere for online students.  


"Stanford creates vice provost for online learning to 'fundamentally reshape education,' ", August 30, 2012, Billy Gallagher

"Law school dean's eagerness to tinker brings promotion,", November 13, 2012, Karen Sloan

"Stanford takes landmark step in online learning, appoints new vice provost,", August 30, 2012

"Law school dean steps down, moves into provost’s cabinet,", November 12, 2012