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Federal grant funds on-line student-centered support network|
By Celena E. Kusch
The Penn State World Campus has been awarded $982,059 over the next three years as part of the federal Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Educations Learning Anywhere Anytime Partnerships (LAAP) program.|
Under LAAP, colleges, universities, companies and nonprofit organizations join together to expand access to high-quality learning opportunities students can access anytime, anywhere through the Internet and other media. LAAP is designed to help students in underserved geographic areas who have limited access to the traditional college campus setting and who need more flexible education and training opportunities to keep pace with changes in the job market.
At Penn State, the grant will support the creation of an efficient database-driven environment for the design, development and delivery of on-line content. The project reflects a partnership between the Penn State World Campus, Apple Computer Inc., ReportMill Software Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc.industry leaders with a strong commitment to higher education.
For faculty and course designers, the final product will provide a flexible, interactive environment for developing and teaching new courses. In addition, a faculty member who has created content for a course will have the ability to distribute that information as updates to former students or as a resource for peers or the general public.
For Penn Staters studying at a distance, this initiative will provide a modern on-line campus environment that will allow them to personalize their access to academic and administrative resources, said Robert Snyder, World Campus Web systems integrator, who is serving as the project manager.
When students log into their courses, they will find the latest information of interest to them, Snyder added. Students will have access to their courses, study environment and the departmental and administrative announcements relevant to their academic profiles. In addition, they will be able to modify pages to include content from other subject areas, such as discipline-specific updates on new research, announcements of upcoming professional meetings and co-curricular activities in their field.
Building on efforts of Penn States Integrated Student Systems for Outreach project, this new initiative will further integrate the on-line campus with existing University systems to provide seamless access to the administrative systems for students, faculty and administrative and support staff. The initiative will extend access to traditional University services, while also serving to mainstream the business practices of distance education operations.
The on-line learning environment is still very new, Dr. Gary Miller, associate vice president for distance education and executive director of the World Campus, said. This initiative has the potential to dramatically improve the efficiency and effectiveness of on-line learning for both students and faculty. We hope that the results will be of value to any institution that wants to use the Web to create on-line learning communities.
While the project will be developed by Penn State and its partners, it also will serve as a model that can be used by other institutions, as well as museums and conference centers.
An external advisory board has been created to ensure that the project can be easily adapted for use by others. Board members include: Steve Acker, Ohio State University; Kenneth Looney, Tennessee State University; Burks Oakley, University of Illinois; Muriel Oaks, Washington State University; Michael J. Offerman, University of WisconsinMadison; Ray Satterfield, Cheyney University; Philip H. Swain, Purdue University; and Robert Snyder, Penn State.
In addition to the LAAP grant monies, the project reflects in-kind donations of hardware, software, training and professional services from Penn States partners totaling more than $200,000.
For more information about the World Campus, visit the Web site at www.worldcampus.psu.edu.