Frequently Asked Questions

We know you have questions, and we want you to have answers!

Have a question you’d like to see answered here? Click here: Submit a question for the FAQ.

Please keep in mind that this list is in no way totally comprehensive or definitive. If you don’t see an answer to your question below, or if you see an answer below that you don’t agree with, please take the time to Tell Us.

  1. What is Open SUNY?

    Open SUNY is a cross-system collaboration to create initiatives and services that support campuses and faculty in enhancing online-enabled education to improve student access, completion and success. Open SUNY takes the power of technology, and the power of teaching, and elevates their collective impact through the power of SUNY.

    By enhancing SUNY’s existing, and substantial, efforts in online-enabled education, Open SUNY will expand access to higher education in New York State, raise completion rates, prepare more students for success in their lives and careers, and contribute to the economic and societal health of the state, the nation, and the world.

  2. Will Open SUNY be a “new campus?”

    Open SUNY will not be a new campus.

  3. Will Open SUNY try to remove faculty control of the curriculum and modify academic standards?

    No. Faculty will retain full control of the curriculum and academic standards.

    All changes to SUNY policy will be made through the well-established shared governance processes.

    There are many intriguing developments in higher education (e.g., Prior Learning Assessments; competency based learning) that represent both potential opportunities and challenges to our traditional models. We would be ill-advised to ignore them; we should explore them to better understand where they make sense for students and campuses (e.g., PLA for returning veterans with immense non-credentialed experience).

  4. Will there be an “Open SUNY degree”?

    All degrees will continue to be offered by SUNY institutions. Neither system administration nor any Open SUNY entity will offer any degree. Some degrees will be “powered by Open SUNY +” which indicates that those degrees offer students certain supports and services (e.g., 24/7 service desk; concierge; experiential learning).

  5. What does it mean to be powered by Open SUNY +?

    The Open SUNY team is excited about expanding the circle of degrees and certificates that exemplify the best of what SUNY has to offer in online-enabled education.  We hope that you share in our excitement, because we are confident that Open SUNY+ will open doors for your students, program, and institution.

    Being a part of the next wave of programs powered by Open SUNY+ means

    • Reaching more prospective students and growing program recognition through extensive media coverage and prime real estate on open.suny.edu
    • Having a seat at the table to shape the future of Open SUNY
    • Privileged access to opportunities and resources including potential marketing pilots and multimedia design expertise

    Open SUNY+ is a partnership between campuses and SUNY system.  The following pages outline the signature elements and sub-elements that define quality for programs powered Open SUNY+.  Embodying these signature elements will require effort on the part of campuses and system.  We do not expect that every program will meet every expectation immediately, and we are eager to work in partnership with you to continue to raise the bar of online-enabled education at SUNY!

    All Open SUNY + programs will be characterized by the following elements:

    Students and Faculty:

    • Personalized student services to minimize time to degree and promote student success
    • Engaging learning experiences based on industry-relevant content in “High Needs” or “High Demand” areas
    • Comprehensive faculty support to ensure quality in course design, development, and delivery

    Institution and Infrastructure

    • Robust technology environment for online learning and effective/innovative uses of technology enablers in all aspects of the online program
    • Institutional commitment to quality assurance for online learning
    • Assessment of program effectiveness to enable continuous quality improvement
    • Strategic commitment to growth supported by robust financial model to ensure scalability of resources as enrollments grow

    For more information on what it means to be powered by Open SUNY+, please visit our signature elements page.

  6. How are Seamless Transfer and Open SUNY related?

    Seamless transfer and Open SUNY are very different initiatives. Open SUNY is a cross-system effort to create initiatives and services that support campuses and faculty in enhancing online-enabled education to improve student access, completion, and success. Seamless transfer is focused exclusively on transfer of credits across SUNY institutions and creating transfer pathways for dozens of disciplines. Open SUNY can exist without seamless transfer, and seamless transfer can exist without Open SUNY. Most students, even in the online environment, likely will choose to take all or the vast majority of their courses at a single institution. Of course, online education – which Open SUNY is focused on supporting – does permit students to benefit more fully from educational opportunities at institutions at a distance. In this way, online education could facilitate students utilizing existing transfer policies to enable completion of the program of their choice.

  7. Will Open SUNY force faculty to accept credits from outside the institution (e.g., from other SUNY institutions, MOOCs, PLAs) that they do not think provide the level of learning or rigor demanded?

    Bottom line is that faculty will retain control over their curriculum and the quality level required for credit.

    Through a faculty-led process, we now have a policy that will provide students with seamless transfer opportunities across the system. When it comes to cross-registration, students are required to receive approval from their home institution before pursuing credit elsewhere.

    As with other related issues, shared governance mechanisms and the voices of faculty will be at the heart of any decisions around credit transfer. We understand that as technology and offerings evolve over time, there will be new considerations related to MOOCs and other new forms of delivery that could be impacted by seamless transfer, but SUNY will observe an inclusive governance process as new technologies and deliveries are developed.

    Currently, the Provost’s Open SUNY Advisory Committee has a committee considering the issues, implications, and recommended models for MOOCs and PLAs. The group recently completed a set of FAQs related to MOOCs that can be found here: MOOC FAQ. This will provide a valuable start to what will be a lengthy conversation about these issues across the SUNY community.

  8. Is Open SUNY and online education a smokescreen for job cuts?

    To meet the goal of educating another 100,000 students, SUNY will need more, not fewer faculty. A large and growing portion of the higher education population needs online-enabled learning due to their life situations (e.g., work, families). These students will go to another university if we do not serve them well—in fact, in 2012, the most popular transfer destination for SUNY students was the University of Phoenix. This would create ever-greater pressures on SUNY’s financial situation, which would increase (rather than decrease) the risks to faculty and to our students.

    The greatest risk to faculty job security is SUNY not responding to the fast-evolving needs of students and the offerings of competitors, particularly in the area of online-enabled learning.

  9. Will all faculty be forced to teach online?

    There is absolutely no system effort or intention to require online teaching from all faculty. Faculty should expect to see incentives and supports to develop online courses / degrees and to enhance their online teaching capabilities.

    Open SUNY aims to help faculty and campuses excited about online-enabled learning to pursue the opportunity. It also hopes to create networks to connect faculty who are exploring online-enabled education to peers of theirs that are farther along the journey.

  10. What’s the business model for Open SUNY? How will Open SUNY be paid for?

    The Academic Affairs Committee of the SUNY Board of Trustees has charged the Open SUNY team with creating a cross-system working group to develop an overall business model and funding plan for the Open SUNY effort. This group will be kicking off in early 2014. Early Open SUNY efforts have been supported through existing system administration funds combined with investments by partner campuses. While we are still exploring the business models, we are confident that Open SUNY will lead to higher enrollments achieved through a lower-cost delivery model than traditional residential education.

  11. How is Open SUNY different from SLN? Will SLN go away?

    The SUNY Learning Network (SLN) is a partnership with SUNY Campuses to provide support in the areas of pedagogy, technology, student and faculty support and marketing services. While Open SUNY will retain the rich services of SLN, it will also build on them and engage and support all campuses, not just those that are part of SLN. Organizational and operational changes are still in design, but currently we do expect that Open SUNY will subsume SLN.

  12. How is Open SUNY different from / related to Empire State College?

    Open SUNY is a cross-system collaboration to create initiatives and services that support campuses and faculty in enhancing online-enabled education to improve student access, completion and success. Empire State College is one of the 64 SUNY institutions. It has a particular rich history and intensive focus on online-enabled education, as well as important innovations to support certain student needs (e.g., offering students Prior Learning Assessment that enables them to receive credit for knowledge gained outside the classroom). There are many other campuses across the system, however, with existing or potential offerings in online education. The power of Open SUNY is leveraging for students the capabilities and contributions of all campuses that, together, can provide the nation’s leading online experience for students.

  13. How does Open SUNY relate to MOOCs? Will SUNY offer MOOCs or become member of MOOC groups such as edX or Coursera?

    Open SUNY is not primarily focused on MOOCs – massive open online courses. MOOCs are just one element of the evolving world of online-enabled education. Open SUNY’s efforts, however, include elements related to the exploration of MOOCs. The Provost’s Open SUNY Advisory Committee, for example, has a subcommittee that is considering how MOOCs interrelate with existing policies and what additional dialogues should occur among faculty. The group recently completed a set of FAQs related to MOOCs that can be found here: MOOC FAQ.  Additionally, the Open SUNY Scale Up lab may support testing MOOCs and considering the variety of issues that would be involved in any broader expansion of these throughout the system.

    SUNY campuses are already offering MOOCs. For example, Empire State College has offered several Constructivists MOOCs, and Buffalo State College received an Innovative Instruction Technology Grant to develop an Open Course to teach faculty how to create open content.

    SUNY and Coursera currently have a non-binding non-exclusive contract that was put in place at the request of Stony Brook University. Stony Brook launched its first MOOC on the Coursera platform on August 29, 2013. The contract also provides mechanisms for SUNY campuses to utilize Coursera course content as part of a SUNY course.

    The Contract requires that the SUNY System provide procedures to ensure the quality of courses being offered on the Coursera platform. We are in the process of establishing procedures for that activity.

  14. Will Open SUNY turn teaching into a cookie-cutter process, forcing standardization?

    Online-enabled education, like all education, is best facilitated by high-quality pedagogy and skilled, knowledgeable faculty using methods that have been proven successful through research. These tenets will help set standards of quality, but will not be used to standardize online offerings. SUNY faculty are models for high-quality education, and Open SUNY will aim to build upon that level of quality; it will never seek to diminish or restrict the immense talent that our faculty bring to the classroom.

  15. Will Open SUNY and efforts to expand online-enabled learning risk faculty intellectual property?

    There are good models for protecting faculty intellectual property (IP) in the digital world, and Open SUNY will support their broader adoption.
    First, there are campuses that have clear, specific policies and methods for protecting faculty IP. The Open SUNY team will help ensure these IP models are more widely available and ease implementation through creation of “model policies.” Second, the Open SUNY team will engage with campuses and the General Counsel staff to identify major IP questions and develop overarching responses and solutions that address faculty concerns.

  16. What happens to online students who are not in degrees powered by Open SUNY + degrees / courses?

    These students will continue to receive the high-quality education in their existing online programs / courses. Over time, we hope that supports, services and tools being introduced to degrees powered by Open SUNY + will be made available to more students through a broader set of degrees and courses.

  17. Will Open SUNY’s support for expanding numbers of students taking online-enabled degrees reduce the number of residential students?

    The objective of Open SUNY is to expand access for students across New York State and beyond to a quality SUNY education. The objective is to both reach more students as well as use online-enabled delivery to reach existing students in new ways (e.g., flipping the classroom; providing international experience through online technologies). As always, each individual campus will develop their own enrollment plans, but we believe that online-enabled education has very strong potential to expand the total number of students we serve across the system.

  18. What role will Empire State College play?

    Empire State College has two degrees included in the first wave of degrees powered by Open SUNY +. Additionally, members of the Empire State College community are playing critical roles on a variety of Open SUNY design and implementation, as well as advisory, teams. Empire State College’s innovative efforts on Prior Learning Assessments (PLAs), serving stopped out students, and massively open online courses (MOOCs) will play important roles as Open SUNY evolves.

  19. What does Open SUNY mean for our campus if we do not have a degree that was selected to be powered by Open SUNY + at the January introduction?

    Open SUNY will benefit all SUNY campuses.

    First, Open SUNY should help more prospective students find SUNY online-enabled programs. The new OpenSUNY.edu and Open SUNY Navigator will allow prospective students to easily discover all SUNY online-enabled degrees and courses. Additionally, the attention from the introduction, including press and marketing, should raise awareness for all SUNY online-enabled programs by prospective students.

    Additionally, all SUNY faculty can become members of the new center that promotes online teaching excellence at SUNY and the supports it offers.

    Furthermore, campuses will benefit from the exploration and investment in new tools and services to support online-enabled education (e.g., Learning Management System add-ons at attractive pricing from contracts that leverage SUNY’s scale).

    Finally, there will be another wave of Open SUNY + degrees launched for Fall 2014, so campuses will have an opportunity to nominate degrees to participate in that wave.

  20. Is participation in Open SUNY required for all campuses?

    Open SUNY will have multiple elements that will have a broad impact and improve online-enabled learning including fully online, hybrid, and even face-to-face. All campuses will be required to list their online degrees and courses on the Open SUNY website and report their data to institutional research in an accurate and timely manner. Details regarding services and systems are being developed and will eventually be overseen by appropriate advisory structures for Open SUNY. We anticipate that Open SUNY will involve a combination of no-cost/mandatory elements as well as optional fee-based services.

  21. Will Open SUNY impact residency requirements/policies?

    No. Open SUNY will not impact residency requirements.

  22. Will Open SUNY assist my campus with cross-registration and associated financial aid?

    The SUNY Office of the Provost is working with System Administration IT Services on an initiative to better integrate the SUNY Student Information Systems (SIS) environment. Plans are being developed to create applications to streamline the student and faculty components of cross registration, and allow staff from the student’s home campus to monitor student activities at the host campus.

  23. Who are we trying to serve with Open SUNY?

    As the public University for New York State, we seek first to serve the citizens and workforce development needs of New York. Open SUNY is particularly interested in serving the more than six million New Yorkers without a post-secondary degree.

    However, student experiences are always enhanced by the diversity that international and out-of-state students bring to the classroom. Where appropriate, we will utilize our online learning environments to extend SUNY’s highly valued learning opportunities to the nation and the world.

  24. Are we trying to reduce costs for students through Open SUNY?

    Yes, we are looking to reduce costs for students. These savings can come in various forms such as reduction in textbook costs to students through the adoption and creation of open education resources. If we can save each of our 469,000 plus students $30 in textbook costs, we will generate over $14,000,000 in savings. Online courses also allow students to save on costs associated with commuting and childcare. During the Open SUNY development process costs and cost sharing will be reviewed with the goal of creating a rich, rewarding, and affordable experience for all students.

    Additionally, we will provide technical platforms and services so that campuses and faculty can openly share the materials and courses they create with learners throughout the world. These open environments will provide free learning opportunities for anyone in the world.

  25. Who is going to help train faculty on my campus in online-enabled instruction?

    Faculty support services will be a key element of the Open SUNY initiative. Many campuses have organizations that provide such services. University-wide programs such as the SUNY Learning Network and the SUNY Center for Professional Development also provide professional development for online-enabled instruction to many campuses within the SUNY system. Open SUNY will launch a new center for online learning excellence which will improve, extend and enhance faculty supports to create and deliver online-enabled courses.

  26. Are we offering courses or content for free?

    Yes. Open SUNY will work with faculty and campuses to develop and utilize a variety of Open Education offerings including: Open Education Resources, Open Courseware, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Open Textbooks and Open Journals.

  27. Will our campus Learning Management System be compatible with Open SUNY?

    Yes, however, over the course of the next several years we hope to reduce the variety of Learning Management Systems in use by SUNY campuses. This will allow greater efficiencies in development and provision of support services, ease campus collaborations, and provide a more seamless experience for students who are taking courses from multiple SUNY institutions.

  28. Will the growth in online courses and programs be part of approved funded enrollment?

    When identified through strategic enrollment management, online growth may be considered approvable funded enrollment. Campuses may also want to consider offering online programs on tuition alone recognizing that appropriately managed online programs can be delivered at lower costs than traditional programs. Movement into online environments also allows a campus to diversify its instructional delivery methods, opening new opportunities to reach non-traditional learners across the education pipeline.

  29. How do I make sure that my voice is heard in the development process?

    Visit the following page and Tell Us what you think!