New School News

Remembering Stephen J Anspacher, Pioneer of Online Distance Learning at The New School


Stephen J. Anspacher, who helped bring online distance learning to The New School and was for several years the director of the New School Online program, died August 26 in Pittsburgh, following a brief illness. He was 60 years old.

In 1993, The New School began the first stages of an adult education curriculum on the Internet by building a new model of online distance learning. Stephen Anspacher—at the time a Columbia University graduate student working on his doctoral dissertation on online education—helped to design the initiative by recommending software and developing the interface for course syllabi, online registration, and instruction. The program, called DIAL (Distance Instruction for Adult Learners), was launched in the spring 1994 semester with three courses. Shortly after, Anspacher was named director of the division, with responsibility for managing the systems and administrative side.

DIAL proved to be a pioneer in online learning. At time when most higher education online offerings were merely supplementary, DIAL allowed for entire courses to be taught online. In addition, the courses were not just an electronic version of a correspondence course: while most interaction was asynchronous, the online portal could be used to distribute a variety of learning media. It made possible ongoing online “classroom” discussions among students and the instructor.

Anspacher directed the technical side of the program for ten years, by which time The New School offered more than 60 courses online every semester, and students could complete certain bachelor’s and master’s degree programs entirely online. Anspacher helped to establish The New School as an early leader in the growing field of online learning—a position it maintains today

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