Northeastern is the first university in the U.S. to create a model of online education that will integrate experiential learning into every degree program, adding the benefits of real-world experience to the virtual classroom.

The school will draw on its global network of almost 3,000 co-op employers to add workplace experience to online degree programs in one of several ways: by including a co-op, internship, or corporate residency; by collaborating directly with employers to create the curriculum; or by focusing curriculum on real case studies and industry-related projects.

Northeastern is one of the top three providers of online and hybrid degrees among the nation’s private research universities, offering 54 such programs, from an MBA to graduate degrees in expanding fields such as bioinformatics.

The initiative is grounded in the university’s leadership in evolving a model for higher education that is more responsive to the needs of the current generation of college students. Today, 85 percent of college students nationally are so-called “nontraditional learners”—older students, part-time students, and off-campus students.

“Online programs are growing as an option for nontraditional students,” says Susan Ambrose, the university’s senior vice provost for undergraduate education and experiential learning. “By integrating the professional workplace into these programs, Northeastern is transforming online education, just as the university has transformed on-campus learning with cooperative education.”