Penn State University is blending online learning with a virtual classroom in its Penn State Video Learning Network. The courses allow students at 20 participating Penn State campuses to engage with professors and other members of the class through videoconferencing.
The program was awarded the 2012 Shirley Davis Award for Excellence in Synchronous Distance Learning from the National University Technology Network.
“It’s about accessibility. It’s about support. It’s about presenting [students] with all the opportunities of a great university like Penn State,” said learning network instructor Jeff Werner in a university promotional video about the program.
A classroom at each location is fitted with video equipment that allows participants to connect with the instructor and interact with students from other campuses. Courses are held at night or on weekends to accommodate adult learners.
The system also provides real-time discussion between students and instructor. There is assigned online coursework to complete, and students are able to contact faculty between each class by e-mail, cellphone, online video chats, and virtual office hours.
“Our mission is to serve Pennsylvania adult learners that need to earn credentials and degrees at their hometown Penn State campus,” said Rosemarie Piccioni, director of the program, in a press release about the award. “Every credit has to count, so our courses run for seven-and-a-half weeks, and credits earned often can be used for a certificate and also applied toward a degree program. We also offer general-education credit courses to help an adult student begin their journey.”