Appendix U



Online Education at Penn State


Section I: The History of Online Education at Penn State

Penn State University was one of the nation’s first higher education institutions to offer online courses for credit.  Prior to the age of high speed internet absorption, however, Penn State was also a pioneer in other alternative course methods, beginning in 1892 with the offering of correspondence courses. (See for Penn State’s initial correspondence course.  Also, see Crotty, J. Distance Learning Has Been Around Since 1892 You Big MOOC. Forbes, 11/12/12.) It is, therefore, unsurprising that online courses existed before 1998 when the World Campus was launched, well before the majority of other universities offered similar virtual methods. Penn State’s World Campus has become a leader in both breadth and depth with respect to both online courses taken for credit and entire degree programs, both undergraduate and graduate. Online education has also been incorporated into Penn State for resident students as well. According to the 2016 ECAR study, 57% of Penn State’s residential undergraduate students took at least one online course as part of their undergraduate experience (D. Christopher Brooks. ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2016. Research report. Louisville, CO: ECAR, October 2016).

Section II: Current Online Offerings at Penn State

There are several alternative online delivery methods and forms currently available at Penn State University, and they can best be described as (i) Resident “Web” Courses, (ii) Penn State World Campus courses, (iii) Digital Learning Cooperative courses, (iv) Hybrid courses and (v) Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). This report will focus on “Web,” Penn State World Campus, and Digital Learning Cooperative courses; however, a brief description of Hybrid courses and MOOCs is also included below.

Resident “Web” Courses

Resident “Web” courses are classes that meet 100% online (no face-to-face meeting) and are offered by a specific Penn State campus for that campus’ residential student population on its own Schedule of Courses. These courses are identified in LionPATH by indicating “WEB” as their room location.

Figure 1 is a sample of “Web” classes offered at Penn State’s Harrisburg campus in the Fall of 2016.
Example of one class:
ACCT 532 – Accounting Information and Decision Systems

ClassSectionDays & TimesRoomInstructorMeeting DatesStatus
TBAWEBLydia Didlia08/22/2016 -

As described above: March 14, 2017 Agenda, Appendix U, Image 1

Penn State World Campus

 Penn State World Campus is the delivery mechanism which allows the academic programs from the colleges and campuses to be offered to students nationally and internationally. Penn State World Campus was launched in 1998 with the mission of serving non-residential Penn State students from across the country and beyond who are not able to study at one of our physical campus locations due to work/life obligations by offering online courses and online certificate and degree programs. The Penn State World Campus mission focuses on convenience, flexibility, and quality in delivering accredited coursework. Although the original focus of Penn State World Campus was meeting the needs of adult learners, as online education expands its reach the Penn State World Campus student population has grown to include traditional age students as well. With the launch of five programs in 1998, today Penn State World Campus has grown to be one of the nation’s largest online university platforms. In total, over 130 degree programs and certificates at both the undergraduate and graduate level are currently offered, serving more than 17,000 students who called World Campus their “home” campus during the 2015-16 academic year. Students from all 50 U.S. states, 85 foreign countries and seven continents have been enrolled at Penn State World Campus.

Unless otherwise restricted by the offering academic unit, courses offered through Penn State World Campus are also open to current Penn State students who are affiliated with either University Park or one of the Commonwealth campuses (i.e., “resident instruction students”); however, priority is given to World Campus students in registering for its courses. Resident education students are typically able to register for a Penn State World Campus course one week before the course begins.

At Penn State, we are truly one University geographically distributed. Here “a course is a course” and “a degree is a degree.” There is no notation on a student’s transcript that indicates whether a course was taken online via Penn State World Campus, and students who earn degrees through Penn State World Campus receive the same diplomas as those that physically attend class on one of our other campus locations. All programs offered by the University (including those offered through Penn State World Campus) are accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (see One additional source of competitive advantage belonging to Penn State World Campus is that the tuition rates paid by World Campus undergraduate students are set at a standard rate (typically the same rate as in-state tuition), no matter where the student lives. In the 2016-2017 academic year, per-credit undergraduate World Campus tuition is $542-$584 depending on the student’s seniority status.

List 1 includes all Penn State World Campus Bachelor’s Degree offerings as of the end of 2016.  In addition to these 31 degree options, Penn State World Campus also offers six Associates Degrees and 17 undergraduate certifications.  List 2 includes all Penn State World Campus Master’s Degree offerings as of the end of 2016. In addition to these 37 degree options, Penn State World Campus also offers 48 graduate certificates and one doctoral degree (Nursing).

List 1: World Campus Bachelor Degree Offerings

  • Accounting
  • Advertising/Public Relations – Strategic Communications Option
  • Agribusiness Management
  • Biobehavioral Health
  • Business
  • Criminal Justice
  • Digital Multimedia Design
  • Economics (Bachelor of Arts)
  • Economics (Bachelor of Science)
  • Energy and Sustainability Policy (Bachelor of Arts)
  • Energy and Sustainability Policy (Bachelor of Science)
  • Finance
  • Health Policy and Administration
  • Human Development and Family Studies
  • Information Sciences and Technology
  • Integrated Social Sciences
  • International Politics
  • Labor and Employment Relations (Bachelor of Arts)
  • Labor and Employment Relations (Bachelor of Science)
  • Law and Society
  • Letters, Arts, and Sciences
  • Marketing
  • Nursing
  • Organizational Leadership (Bachelor of Arts)
  • Organizational Leadership (Bachelor of Science)
  • Political Science (Bachelor of Arts)
  • Political Science (Bachelor of Science)
  • Psychology (Bachelor of Arts)
  • Psychology (Bachelor of Science)
  • Security and Risk Analysis
  • Turfgrass Science

List 2: World Campus Masters Degree Offerings

  • Accounting
  • Applied Demography
  • Applied Statistics
  • Art Education
  • Business Administration – MBA
  • Community and Economic Development
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Data Analytics
  • Data Analytics – Business Analytics Option
  • Earth Sciences
  • Educational Leadership
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Engineering Management
  • Enterprise Architecture
  • Finance
  • Geodesign
  • Geographic Information Systems – GIS
  • Health Policy and Administration
  • Higher Education
  • Homeland Security Base Program
  • Homeland Security – Agricultural Biosecurity and Food Defense Option
  • Homeland Security – Geospatial Intelligence Option
  • Homeland Security – Information Security and Forensics Option
  • Homeland Security – Public Health Preparedness Option
  • Human Resources and Employment Relations
  • Information Sciences – Cybersecurity and Information Assurance
  • Learning, Design, and Technology
  • Lifelong Learning and Adult Education
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Nuclear Engineering
  • Nursing
  • Nutritional Sciences
  • Organization Development and Change
  • Project Management
  • Psychology of Leadership
  • Public Administration
  • Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems – Bioenergy Option
  • Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems – Solar Energy Option
  • Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems – Sustainability Management and Policy Option
  • Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems – Wind Energy Option
  • Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems Base Program
  • Software Engineering
  • Special Education
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Systems Engineering
  • Turfgrass Management

Digital Learning Cooperative

The Digital Learning Cooperative (DLC) is a mechanism for sharing online, hybrid, and interactive video-delivered courses across Penn State’s physical campus locations that is managed through the Office of the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses. The DLC is not connected to Penn State World Campus, even though many of its courses are offered 100% online (see The DLC provides an enrollment reservation system where one campus can make “seats” in one of its courses available to other campus locations.

Campuses and colleges have made use of the DLC in order to:

  • Provide other campuses’ students with access to minors or electives within their majors within the first two years of their programs;
  • Offer course capacity in under-enrolled courses to other campus locations in order to increase enrollment;
  • Implement single or multi- term/semester course sharing agreements;
  • Provide students with courses they need to make progress in their major to help them avoid a required change of campus location;
  • Support individual student needs (via guidance from advisors) so that students can take the best mix of courses for their programs; and
  • Coordinate the delivery of courses as part of programs delivered as a consortium between campuses and colleges (See

Hybrid Courses

Hybrid courses are defined by Penn State as those that combine “Web” and traditional face-to-face classroom instruction. Hybrid courses are organized to reduce or replace the number of required face-to-face class sessions in order to improve effectiveness and flexibility for instructors and students and/or to achieve other efficiencies. Hybrid courses reduce by approximately 40% or more of the number of required classroom sessions, although some classroom sessions are required (See


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can be defined as “a model for delivering learning content online to any person who wants to take a course, with no limit on attendance” (definition from The general goal of MOOCs is to provide open access to educational experiences across the globe. At Penn State, MOOCs have been offered since 2013 through Coursera ( Beginning in Spring 2017, it will also be possible to offer a MOOC through FutureLearn ( Currently, Penn State offers the following MOOCs:

  • Epidemics: The Dynamics of Infectious Diseases (Eberly College of Science)
  • Maps and the Geospatial Revolution (College of Earth and Mineral Sciences)
  • Dairy Production and Management (College of Agricultural Sciences)
  • Creativity, Innovation and Change (College of Engineering)
  • Geodesign: Change Your World (College of Arts and Architecture)
  • Energy, the Environment, and Our Future (College of Earth and Mineral Sciences)

It should be noted that MOOCs cannot be taken for course credit at Penn State. Penn State has offered MOOCs as a strategy to stay relevant in the market for online education, to increase the University’s global brand, and to attract students to Penn State resident and online programs. MOOCs also provide a way for students to become reacquainted with material that they may have not had for some time without adding a significant burden to their educational expenses or time to degree.

Section III: Budget Models for Resident “Web,” Penn State World Campus, and Digital Learning Cooperative courses

Resident Web Budget Model

Tuition for Resident “Web” courses is handled in the same manner that tuition is handled for face-to-face resident courses. In other words, for the purpose of budgeting, student credit hours generated by enrollments in “Web” courses are not considered any differently than student credit hours generated by face-to-face courses.

Penn State World Campus Budget Model

Penn State World Campus is the University’s self-supporting online education delivery unit, governed by University policy AD 55 ( Unlike “Web” courses, tuition generated by enrollments in Penn State World Campus-delivered courses is considered “new” revenue that is shared between the World Campus and the academic units who provide the course content and instruction.

The Penn State World Campus revenue sharing policy was established by the University Task Force on Gross Revenue Sharing Models for World Campus: Final Report, January 31, 2011. “The purpose of the policy is to define revenue distribution categories (RDC) that ensure the long-term viability of World Campus and maximize discretionary revenue to Academic Partners. There are three categories (RDC-1, RDC-2, and SAVE) based on who takes primary responsibility for course development and instructional design. Penn State World Campus has no faculty of its own nor is it considered an academic unit. It partners with academic units, who, for all programs under RDC-1, RDC-2, and SAVE, hire, pay, and evaluate all faculty who develop and teach Penn State World Campus-delivered courses.” (See the Penn State World Campus Administrative Manual, the 2015-16 academic year $80. 9M in revenue generated through World Campus was shared with the Colleges and Campuses. (See the Penn State World Campus Profit and Loss Statement 2015-16).

Digital Learning Cooperative Budget Model

Courses offered through the DLC follow the standard University tuition model for the campus that is offering the course. It is possible for the campus offering the course to charge a fee of $65 per student per credit hour to a campus which has reserved a seat (e.g., one student enrolled in a three-credit course would translate into a $195 fee). This fee helps the offering campus defray costs associated with offering the course. Whether or not to charge a fee is determined by the campus offering the course. (See

Section IV: Overview of College and Campuses that Offer Online Courses

Penn State colleges and campuses deliver courses online either through Penn State World Campus or as a “Web” course. The Colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Information Sciences and Technology, the College of Health and Human Development, the College of Communications, the College of Engineering, the College of the Liberal Arts, Arts and Architecture, Eberly College of Science, Smeal College of Business, Penn State Great Valley, Penn State Altoona, Penn State Berks, Penn State Abington, Penn State Behrend, Penn State Harrisburg and University College all have extensive online course and program offerings, with their own fully developed administrative units and faculty support structures to help them oversee their online courses and programs.

Section V:  Overview of University Resources Providing Faculty Support for Hybrid and Online Education

There are a variety of support services available to provide faculty support and development for online education, with several providing support for the entire University. (See These include:

  • Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence;
  • World Campus Learning Design, Outreach and Online Education;
  • Education Technology Services, Teaching and Learning with Technology;
  • ITS Training Services, Teaching and Learning with Technology; and
  • The Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness.

In addition, most colleges and campuses employ professional instructional designers (also referred to as learning designers) to provide support to faculty interested in developing and/or teaching hybrid and online courses. Additionally, some Colleges and Campuses have created centers and institutes to support their online programs, including:

  • The Center for Teaching & Learning, Penn State Berks;
  • Centers for Teaching and eLearning Initiatives, Penn State Erie;
  • Office of Digital Learning, Eberly College of Science;
  • e-Learning Institute, College of Arts and Architecture;
  • eLearning, College of Agricultural Sciences;
  • Dutton e-Education Institute, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences;
  • Faculty Center, Penn State Harrisburg;
  • Learning Design, College of Information Sciences and Technology;
  • Outreach Office, College of Health and Human Development;
  • eLearning Design and Innovation Group (eLDIG), Smeal College of Business;
  • Instructional Design Unit, Penn State Great Valley;
  • Continuing and Distance Education Office, The College of Engineering;
  • Filippelli Institute for e-Education and Outreach, College of the Liberal Arts; and
  • Teaching & Learning, Penn State Abington.


Additional University Resources:

A wealth of information about hybrid and online education has been created across the University to support faculty and staff who are involved in these endeavors. For the latest list of resources, see the “Web Learning at Penn State” website –

Section VI: Overview of the Penn State Governance Structure for Online Education at Penn State

The University has created a governance structure for online education to facilitate communication across administrative and academic units. The structure is composed of four integrated levels that focus on different aspects of the work of improving online education at Penn State.

  1. The Penn State Transforming Education Steering Committee is the University’s e-learning governing board.
  1. The Penn State Digital Learning Academic Council focuses on the broad academic administrative issues that arise in digital learning. It is intended to align with the charge of the Transforming Education Steering Committee to advance topics that are directly related to academic matters.
  1. The Penn State Online Coordinating Council aligns with the charge of the Digital Learning Academic Council and was created to support academic policy, particularly with regard to scale and planning in online operations.
  1. The Penn State eEducation Council aligns with the charge of the Online Coordinating Council and was created to implement policy and best practices, particularly with regard to technology-enhanced teaching and learning.

More information about each of these governance bodies can be found on the “Web Learning at Penn State” website –

Traci Piazza, Director of Academic Affairs for Undergraduate Business and Sciences, World Campus, and Ann Taylor, Director, John A. Dutton e-Education Institute, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences provided the Committee on Outreach with valuable assistance in the creation of this report.


  • Richard Brown
  • Dennis Calvin
  • Jill Eckert
  • Renata Engel
  • Terry Harrison
  • Alex Hristov
  • Beth King, Vice Chair
  • Lisa Mangel
  • John Potochny
  • Rama Radhakrishna
  • Elizabeth Seymour, Chair
  • Jonathan Stephens
  • Cristina Truica