Our History

Stanford student in the campus

An Innovative Past & Present

SCPD has been a pioneer in distance education since its founding in 1995, with roots that date back to the Honors Cooperative Program created in 1954 by the Stanford School of Engineering Dean Fred Terman. The HCP program allowed 23 Silicon Valley electrical engineers from General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Stanford Research Institute and Sylvania to attend classes on campus and pursue graduate degrees on a part-time basis while keeping their day jobs.

Students initially had to come to campus to take courses, but in 1969 the School of Engineering launched Stanford Instructional Television Network (SITN), broadcasting 12 graduate engineering courses on two television microwave channels to companies within a 50-mile radius of Hoover Tower. In 1972, the program introduced tutored videotape instruction, which extended the reach of the program beyond broadcast range. In 1986, the program first offered its Design for Manufacturability curriculum, developed with General Motors. In 1987, SITN broadcast courses to student dormitories via Stanford's cable network system. In 1990, it broadcast the first live seminar via satellite network.

Paving the way for expanded delivery, the Stanford Center for Professional Development (SCPD) was established in 1995. Encompassing SITN, SCPD included in its offerings degrees (through HCP), certificates, and short courses. Former Stanford computer science professor Anoop Gupta developed streaming digital video technology which was adopted in 1996 to build Stanford Online, the first university Internet delivery system incorporating text, graphics, audio, and video. In 1998, SCPD delivered the first completely online master's degree program in electrical engineering.

In 1999, the newly introduced Stanford Advanced Project Management Program began to deliver courses. Led by Professor Ray Levitt, it has bestowed many thousand credentials of Stanford Certified Project Manager.

More recent innovations included the 2008 launch of the Stanford Engineering Everywhere open course initiative and the 2013 launch an OpenEdX open-source platform, called Lagunita, in collaboration with edX.org. Lagunita was officially retired in 2020.

In 2016 SCPD joined forces with Stanford’s Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (VPTL) to foster advances in new technologies, instructional design, and pedagogical innovation for all of Stanford’s schools. VPTL was renamed the Office of the Vice Provost for Technology and Learning in 2019, as the Center for Teaching and Learning moved to newly created Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Development, Teaching and Learning.

In the fall of 2020 the Stanford Center for Professional Development returns home to the Stanford School of Engineering, renewing and strengthening its close collaboration and innovations within engineering while continuing its support to the entire university.