I'm a huge fan of what Drexel University Online has done in online learning.
Kenneth E. Hartman's IHE column The No Wake Syndrome  shows how Drexel developed the "will" and the "way" to become a major player in online learning, with now more than 7,000 unique online students from all 50 states and more than 20 countries.
A recent example of Drexel’s leadership role in the development of online learning is its Gateway to Online Learning Scholarship , a program designed to allow an initial group of RN's to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
This scholarship, initially offered to a class of 30 registered nurses, provides selected students a risk free introduction to the full online nursing program through the College of Nursing and Health Professions. The program covers the cost of the first course in the RN to BSN program. Students who successfully complete the first course are invited to apply to the full program.
Drexel provided me with logins to review this course access to the course’s shell, titled Nursing 324: Introduction to Online Learning and Scholarly Writing, which is taught on Blackboard. I was impressed with Drexel's model of course design, as the course is clearly laid out in modules with explicit learning objectives, opportunities for collaboration, and project based learning.
This scholarship is clearly a great deal for the nurses admitted into the program. For zero dollars they receive college credit, a leg-up on the full degree, and real world experience in a rigorous online course. The course is designed to transition students into the online mode of learning. The curriculum, assignments and projects are designed to facilitate students thinking about their learning styles and strengths, with participants able to practice methods of studying, writing and participation that will serve them well in the full program.
With all of our discussion about MOOCs and new forms of online learning, it is worth keeping in mind that we have many options to provide cost effective educational opportunities that retain the intimacy of a traditional cohort led small course.
Drexel already has a very successful online nursing program, with over 1,600 students currently enrolled. My hope is that this Gateway to Online Learning Scholarship is a success, with large numbers of participants choosing to apply to the full program - and a high proportion of these new students successfully working towards a degree. The program has already gained momentum with enrollment more than doubling for the Winter 2013 term.
A success in this scholarship program like Drexel's may bolster arguments to move resources away from marketing and towards subsidizing the tuition of a program's first credit bearing course.
Are there other examples of programs like Drexel's Gateway to Online Learning Scholarship?