Institute prepares next generation of online education leaders

September 23, 2009

Penn State and Sloan Consortium partner to help institutions engaged in online learning and those just getting into the field

University Park, Pa. -- Faculty and staff members from 17 higher education institutions are participating in the new Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning, sponsored by Penn State and the Sloan Consortium, an organization focused on online education.

“The online learning field is expanding so rapidly, it is extremely challenging for colleges and universities to keep up with advances in technology and the higher expectations of students,” said Wayne D. Smutz, executive director of Penn State World Campus and associate vice president for Academic Outreach. “To help address this challenge, Penn State and the Sloan Consortium have created a program to help prepare the next generation of higher education online education leaders.”

The institute began in August at Penn State with 24 participants who took part in an immersive experience focusing on Sloan-C’s Five Pillars of Quality Online Education -- learning effectiveness, scale, access, faculty satisfaction, and student satisfaction. It is continuing with a five-week online symposium and will conclude Oct. 27 at Sloan Consortium’s conference in Orlando, Fla.

“We’re now in a period of innovation in online learning, driven, in part, by the maturation of social networking applications. The next decade will be very exciting,” said Gary Miller, executive director emeritus of World Campus, who began working with Sloan-C in 2006 to create the institute.

Lawrence C. Ragan, director of faculty development for World Campus, and Christopher Dufour, senior conference planner with Penn State Conferences, co-directed the institute. Another institute is planned for Aug. 9-12, 2010, at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel. For more information, visit online.

“The institute is helping mid-level managers, directors and faculty involved in online education better understand the issues they need to focus on and what skill sets and knowledge they will need to move their institution’s goal for online learning forward,” Ragan said.

University faculty and staff who received awards covering their expenses to participate in the institute are:

James L. Rosenberger, professor and acting head of the Department of Statistics and developer of the online Certificate in Applied Statistics and the new online Master of Applied Statistics program, found Sloan-C’s five pillars “a great framework for our online applied statistics programs.” Rosenberger, who teaches an online course, said, “The institute made me aware of all of the components that need to be in place for a successful online experience.”

Keith Bailey, director of the e-Learning Institute, College of Arts and Architecture, manages the design and development of online courses. “The institute was a wonderful opportunity for administrators and others to get together to talk about the challenges of e-learning," he said. "It helped to validate some of the challenges we face, and it was useful to discuss strategies to solve online education issues.”

Carrie Teetzel, director of Online Education and Apprentice Programs for the Center for eBusiness and Advanced Information Technology (eBizITPA) at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, said the institute gave her “new business models for online education and access to resources and market research” she will use to develop programs for businesses. “I’m continuing to get useful information from participants and faculty,” she said.

Eva Klein, assistant director of Continuing Education and summer programs at Penn State Abington, said, “It was very helpful to hear from leaders in the online education field and to network with my counterparts at other universities.” Klein plans to use the knowledge she gained to develop hybrid courses (partly online and on campus) for summer delivery. “I’m also looking for ways to put our noncredit programs online.”

Penn State World Campus ( is part of Penn State Outreach, the largest unified outreach organization in American higher education, serving more than 5 million people each year, delivering more than 2,000 programs to people in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, all 50 states and 114 countries worldwide.


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Last Updated September 25, 2009