A Need for Affordability and Accessibility
The School of Health and Rehabilitation Services (SHRS) is home to the #1 Physical Therapy program in the U.S., along with five other top-ten programs. As faculty advanced world-changing health research (in cutting-edge fields like physiologic sensing and robotics), the school’s leadership recognized a trend: tuition had been steadily creeping up since the early 2000s.
At the same time, the Dean noticed that more and more universities, including SHRS’s peers, were launching online programs. He began to investigate how the two trends intersected and whether online programs could help make a high quality education experience like the one offered by SHRS more affordable and accessible.
Using Online to Open Opportunities
School leadership was intentional about the program’s purpose from the beginning: to broaden and diversify the student body and decrease the cost of graduate professional programs. They needed a partner that could collaborate and also extend their capabilities.
Building Agile Offerings
The University of Pittsburgh’s prestigious School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) partnered with Noodle starting in 2019 to launch a series of high quality online programs.
The most obvious way to lower the sticker price of a program is to cut tuition. But tuition cuts—at least those significant enough to reduce the debt burden on students—would stifle SHRS’s instructional and administrative budget. Offering both online and on campus programs became the solution.
Through engaging with the University Center for Teaching and Learning (UCTL), SHRS leaders recognized UCTL’s expertise but found it lacked the operational capacity for rapid program deployment. A collaborative partnership became imperative.
An Ambitious Plan
Pitt SHRS and Noodle launched their first program together, the online Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI), in the spring of 2020. The program already existed on-ground but with relatively small enrollment. Dr. Parmanto noted that by bringing the MSHI program online, SHRS opened it up to more students, with increased diversity including students across different life stages and professional backgrounds.
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