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Degree for aspiring physician assistants is latest sign online learning is gaining acceptance from elite universities
Yale University is creating a Web-based master of medical science degree for aspiring physician assistants, the latest sign that online learning is gaining acceptance from the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher education.
The Ivy League school on Tuesday will announce it is joining with education technology company 2U Inc. to offer an online version of its decades-old program in the fast-growing field. The campus-based version has space for only about 40 students each year, while more than 1,000 apply.
“It is a coming-of-age” for online education, said Lucas Swineford, executive director of Yale’s office of digital dissemination and online learning. “The stigma has certainly changed over the past five or six years. This is a Yale degree.”
The same admission standards will apply for prospective students as for the on-campus version of Yale’s physician assistant degree, and the online program will carry the same price. The 28-month program currently costs $83,162. Yale will split the revenue from the online degree with 2U, officials said.
The program will rely heavily on live, interactive online classes, as well as hands-on clinical stints at field sites near students and at least three meetings on Yale’s New Haven, Conn., campus for activities such as cadaver dissection.
Once the domain of for-profit colleges and schools seeking to boost enrollment, online learning—with its promise of lower costs for schools and sometimes for students—has grown increasingly mainstream in recent years.
About one-third of students enrolled in U.S. colleges in Fall 2012, or 7.13 million students, took at least one course online. That is up from 9.6% a decade earlier, according to a 2014 report by the Babson Survey Research Group.
For the past few years, Yale and other elite schools have shared their academic expertise with the masses via free Web classes—called massive, open, online courses or MOOCs—but don’t grant credit for them.
The new Yale program is expected to begin in January with 12 students, pending certain regulatory approvals. Yale could enroll 360 students across both the on-campus and online programs within five years, university officials said.
A few other Ivy schools, including Columbia University and Cornell University, offer online versions of select programs. And Yale has a nonclinical, doctoral nursing program that grants degrees online.
2U also runs the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s online M.B.A., a master’s in counseling at Northwestern University and a nursing degree at Georgetown University, among other programs.
“We think it’s a transformative moment for the company,” said 2U Chief Executive Chip Paucek, though he noted the Yale course is a long-term play since the company put in a seven-figure upfront investment to get the program going.
One of the logistical challenges of the new Yale program is that students must complete 14 clinical rotations throughout the program. 2U said it would coordinate placement at medical facilities near the students nationwide.
Lawrence Herman, chairman of the board of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, said a number of PA training programs are beginning to put certain courses online, but students still need several thousand hours of in-person time with patients to gain certification.
“Rigorous is, perhaps, an understatement to describe these programs,” he said. “This is not a shortcut in any way.”
By Melissa Korn, Wall Street Journal