Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering has launched an online master’s degree, the Master of Engineering in Computer Engineering, marking the school’s first entry into the never-show-up-on-campus era of higher education.

“The new online MEng: CE is aimed at providing engineers with expertise and skills essential for keeping pace with artificial intelligence (AI) technologies embedded in intelligent systems—from self-driving cars and autonomous robots to virtual assistants and augmented reality” is how the school describes it here. “Asynchronous virtual lectures are coupled with group projects that model real-world work environments. Faculty will host live, online sessions across multiple time zones to offer real-time feedback and support. Online students can schedule one-on-one meeting with faculty during virtual office hours, as well as access online academic, student life, and career services support.”

As a rule, existing colleges have been unenthusiastic about creating online-only versions of themselves for obvious reasons, with more exalted schools being more reluctant. The field has been led by online-only, often for-profit schools, or places like Southern New Hampshire University that didn’t worry about tainting a national reputation. But the pandemic, demographic changes and the financial realities of a college education are forcing their hand.

Dartmouth offers two hybrid, “low-residency” master’s degree programs—the Master of Health Care Delivery Science through The Dartmouth Institute (TDI) and Tuck School of Business’s and TDI’s Master of Public Health.

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