Penn State to invest $20 million to grow World Campus to 45,000 students

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State’s online campus, the World Campus, is poised to more than triple students enrolled in online education programs from 12,000 to 45,000 within the next decade. The University is committing $20 million over five years from World Campus revenues toward this new expansion goal. Penn State President Rodney Erickson announced the goal today (April 29) in a letter to the University community.

This initiative is designed to help more people earn degrees by providing exceptional academic and co-curricular experiences for students who need the flexibility of online education while working and managing multiple responsibilities. By reinvesting revenue in the World Campus, Penn State intends to fund new technologies, provide additional faculty capacity, enhance student services, support research and development initiatives, and improve infrastructure and marketing efforts. This year, World Campus revenue is projected to total $90 million.

“Since the mid-1990s, Penn State has led the development of a sustainable model for delivering online education, emphasizing high-quality programming and superior student services,” said Erickson. “Today’s rapid advances in technology, coupled with cultural shifts, are changing the way students engage. With this new goal, Penn State is reaffirming its commitment to meet the needs of current and future students through online and hybrid programs, in addition to resident education programs.”

The World Campus opened its virtual doors in January 1998 with 41 students enrolled in five academic programs. By 2012, nearly 12,000 students from every state, the District of Columbia, three territories and 72 countries were enrolled. Its target audience is adult part-time learners at a distance. The World Campus now offers more than 90 graduate, undergraduate and professional education programs. This year, the World Campus is celebrating 15 years of providing online education, marking one more milestone in Penn State’s distinguished distance education history, which began in 1892 with a correspondence course for farmers delivered by mail.

Wayne Smutz, executive director of the World Campus and associate vice president for Academic Outreach, pointed out that “What sets Penn State’s online education model apart is that it is embedded within the University, is an integral part of the academy, with strong relationships with University colleges and campuses, and involves the same faculty who teach on campus. The result for all students is a Penn State degree, regardless of how it is earned.”

Enrollment in online education continues to grow, according to a Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C) survey, which found more than 6.7 million students — almost a third of higher education students — were taking at least one online course in 2011. Sloan-C is a professional society for e-learning practitioners.

“What makes the World Campus unique among higher education providers of online education is the motivation and enthusiasm of Penn State and its faculty and staff to reach out to students who cannot come to campus to learn and provide a high-quality online pathway to education,” said Frank Mayadas, senior adviser to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and founding president of Sloan-C. The Sloan Foundation provided nearly $4 million to fund creation of the World Campus.

To enable student success in the online learning environment, the World Campus provides an array of support services, including admissions counseling, academic advising, library resources, tutoring, exam proctoring, financial aid, scholarships, transfer of credits, credit for prior learning, career services and technical support. Students also can access podcasts, webinars, town halls, student blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube videos, Flickr photo galleries and more.

The World Campus’ student engagement opportunities won the 2012 Distance Education Innovation Award from the National University Technology Network. As Penn State expands its online offerings, it will take advantage of faculty research funded by its new Center for Online Innovation in Learning. In addition, the University is partnering with Coursera to offer five massive open online courses (MOOCs).

Contacts: 
Last Updated April 30, 2013