By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Drexel is pulling its online division closer to the rest of the university. Online programs have been run by a subsidiary, but the university has created a new position within the administration. The new senior vice-president for online learning starts today.

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Drexel was in the “virtual” vanguard, offering online degrees since 1996 through its for-profit subsidiary.

But even if it seemed a gamble at first, online learning has become a juggernaut in higher education.

(Drexel now enrolls more than 5,000 students in online programs and has more than 13,000 students taking at least one course online.)

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With more competition from other universities, Drexel has hired veteran online educator Susan Aldridge to “reimagine” the enterprise.

Aldridge calls it a wonderful opportunity.

“With the students having grown up in this generation with technology, we’re trying to find new ways that excite them and help them learn and be successful,” she tells KYW Newsradio.

Aldridge comes from the University of Maryland University College, where she was controversial and resigned after an audit found her division may have overpaid an advertiser by as much as $3 million.  Drexel says it investigated the reports and is confident that Aldridge is the best person for the job.

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