State University of New York Embraces Online Learning with Open SUNY Initiative

Compiled by Ryan Garner
March 22, 2013

The State University of New York (SUNY) Board of Trustees has approved the implementation of Open SUNY, a new program designed to utilize distance learning, competency-based programs, and massive open online courses (MOOCs). The Open SUNY platform will provide a central access point for each online course offered throughout the system’s 64 campuses, making them available to more than 468,000 students and 88,000 faculty members. The program is very beneficial to students pursuing online education in New York.

“Open SUNY will be the largest online learning environment in the world,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “By bringing every online program we offer together under one umbrella, SUNY students will have unprecedented access to faculty expertise and course availability, significantly increasing their opportunities for timely degree completion and success both in school and after graduation.”

The system plans to develop new online programs and expand existing ones, increasing the number of accelerated degree options. Top faculty members will be encouraged to build MOOCs, which could become eligible for credit in the future. By increasing the appeal to traditional students and working professionals, the system hopes to add more than 100,000 enrollments within three years.

“Online learning has evolved to include new instructional models and a diverse blend of programs and services, and Open SUNY is our way of keeping pace with that evolution while expanding access and mobility within our system,” said Board Chairman H. Carl McCall.

More than 86,000 SUNY students registered for at least one online course in 2012. The Open SUNY initiative aims to increase student access to online courses and programs, ensure educational affordability, and enhance possibilities for timely degree attainment. As part of the initiative, SUNY REAL, Empire State College’s prior learning assessment program, will be expanded to all SUNY campuses to support students.

A new research initiative will also be developed, in order to identify best practices for online learning. It will include a framework to monitor the system’s progress, including student learning assessment and the quality of online instruction. Open SUNY demonstrates the system’s commitment to embrace online education, which has becoming increasingly prevalent in higher education.

“Open SUNY also furthers our ability to infuse every aspect of instruction, in classrooms and online, with web-based technologies and practices, social media, and mobile learning,” said McCall. “The benefits of this initiative for our faculty and students are immeasurable.”


“SUNY Board Outlines Implementation of Open SUNY,”, March 19, 2013,

“SUNY Signals Major Push Toward MOOCs and Other New Educational Models,”, March 20, 2013, Steve Kolowich,

“Online courses to be available across SUNY system,”, March 20, 2013, Dan Miner,