How Is Higher Education Taking the Virtual Leap?


On October 22, 2015, we will sponsor a panel at The Economist’s 2015 Higher Education Forum 2015: Disrupting Traditional Models in New York. The Higher Education Forum, chaired byEconomist senior editors, is designed for senior-level decision-makers in the public and private sectors of higher education. The Forum’s keynotes and panels will address macro trends shaping higher education, including how to pair tradition and innovation for long-term success in the industry.

Our panel, Taking the Virtual Leap: Navigating the Online Education Market, will be moderated by Matthew Bishop and feature AnnaLee Saxenian, Lucas Swineford, Harrison Keller and Jim Shelton. The panelists will discuss how to develop online programs that meet or exceed the quality and outcomes of on-campus programs. They will also confront and dispel myths about making online education part of a university’s curricular offering and explore the value that online degrees can provide as a long-term strategic investment for a university. We expect that the diversity of the panelists’ experience will lead to a lively discussion.

In anticipation of the panel, we asked our panelists a few questions about the future of higher education. Below are their full bios, responses and Twitter handles. If you will not be at the event, you can follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #HigherEdForum.


Jim Shelton

Chief Impact Officer, 2U


In three words, what is the future of higher education?

Transparent. Valuable. Affordable. 

When was the last time you had a meaningful connection online?


What is your least favorite buzzword in higher education?


About Jim Shelton

James "Jim" Shelton is 2U's chief impact officer overseeing university partner program implementation, research and university relations. Jim holds a bachelor's degree in computer science from Morehouse College as well as master's degrees in both business administration and education from Stanford GSB and GSE. Prior to joining 2U, Jim served as the deputy secretary and COO of the U.S. Department of Education and led a range of management, policy and program functions in support of educational access and excellence for America's children, especially those least advantaged.



AnnaLee Saxenian

Dean, UC Berkeley School of Information


In three words, what is the future of higher education?

Bigger and better.

When was the last time you had a meaningful connection online?

FaceTime with my son in Vietnam.

What is your least favorite buzzword in higher education?

MOOC — the hype has been over the top.

About AnnaLee Saxenian

AnnaLee Saxenian (Anno) is professor and dean of UC Berkeley’s School of Information (I School) and holds a joint faculty appointment with the Department of City and Regional Planning. Anno pioneered the development and launch of datascience@berkeley, a globally recognized online Master of Information and Data Science program offered by the I School in partnership with 2U. Her book, The New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in a Global Economy (Harvard University Press, 2006), explores how and why immigrant engineers from Silicon Valley are transferring their technology entrepreneurship to emerging regions in their home countries — Taiwan, Israel, China and India in particular — and launching companies far from established centers of skill and technology.


Swineford-2U-Higher-Ed-ForumLucas Swineford

Executive Director of the Office of Digital Dissemination and Online Education, Yale University Center for Teaching and Learning


 In three words, what is the future of higher education?

Maximum learning engagement.

When was the last time you had a meaningful connection online?

Six days ago my two kids, a son who is seven and daughter who is four, connected with my niece, who is six, through FaceTime on the computer in our kitchen. They see each other a lot, but not nearly enough as they’d like, so they use FaceTime to catch up in between visits. During this particular chat, my daughter showed her cousin a dance move she thought would get a laugh (it did), my niece pulled off some new gymnastics move, my son told a joke he heard in school, and then the two older kids took turns talking about books they just read. Like I said, they see each other every month or so, but sitting there, watching these three kids use the Internet to share — and demonstrate — things that are important to them with a family member they love was cool. 

What is your least favorite buzzword in higher education?

“Flipped class.” Maybe it’s just me, but I worry that some interpret this term to mean something like, “I tape my classroom lectures from last semester, put those one-hour lectures online, give students tests or a writing assignment in class, and…boom! Done. My class is flipped. You’re welcome, students.” To create an engaging and successful blended learning experience is so much more involved than this. 

About Lucas Swineford

Lucas Swineford currently serves as executive director of the Office of Digital Dissemination and Online Education within the Center for Teaching and Learning at Yale University. He also oversees the Yale Broadcast Studio. Lucas leads the efforts to support University initiatives that leverage technology to enhance and extend Yale teachings. Lucas and his teams collaborate with colleagues on campus to use online initiatives to improve teaching and learning at Yale and to explore ways to amplify the impact of their great instruction beyond Yale. Lucas was awarded the first-ever Yale University President’s Award For Excellence for his work to support and further Yale’s achievement of its core mission.



Harrison Keller

Deputy to the President for Strategy and Policy, The University of Texas at Austin


About Harrison Keller

Dr. Harrison Keller is deputy to the president for strategy and policy at The University of Texas in Austin. In this role, he focuses on advancing the president’s strategic vision for the university by coordinating long-range planning, policy development and strategic implementation among academic and administrative units. Dr. Keller also oversees a portfolio of strategic initiatives, including initiatives developed with policymakers and other colleges and universities to increase students’ academic preparation and success, accelerate educational innovation, and enhance institutional productivity.

Learn how 2U is changing perceptions in the higher education market in our 2015 Impact Report.