Sloan Foundation renews support with $650,000 for Penn State's World Campus

Dec. 11, 2001
University Park, PA-The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded a $650,000 grant to Penn State in support of its World Campus, the University's on-line distance learning program.  The grant recognizes Penn State's leadership in developing and delivering innovative and high-quality educational programs that meet the needs of learners nationally and internationally who would not otherwise have access to a campus-based program.

"We are grateful to the Sloan Foundation for its generous investment in our continued efforts to extend access to Penn State courses. This support from the Sloan Foundation has enabled Penn State to build a highly interactive e-learning environment for learners from all 50 states and 47 countries," said Jim Ryan, vice president for Penn State Outreach and Cooperative Extension.

In 1997, the New York-based Sloan Foundation first awarded a $1.3 million grant to Penn State to help launch the World Campus. With this most recent grant, the Sloan Foundation has contributed a total of $4.75 million to Penn State over four years for the development of a content-rich and interactive on-line learning environment that brings together the quality and expertise of faculty members and instructional designers, the flexibility of advanced information technologies, and the support of comprehensive, distance-based learner services.

The new grant will help Penn State continue its leadership in Asynchronous Learning Networks (ALNs) and will be used to support faculty research and development, student services, and administrative systems, according to Ryan.  In asynchronous learning environments, students and faculty do not need to meet at the same time or place in order to exchange ideas (as with e-mail or bulletin boards, for example).  The Sloan Foundation supports the use of this technology to reach learners and encourages institutions of higher education to make the leap to distance learning on a large scale. 

According to Frank Mayadas, Learning Outside the Classroom program director for the Sloan Foundation, since 1993, the ALN program has provided 136 grants for more than 100 college and university projects totaling $30 million.

"The Sloan Foundation's overall goal for Learning Outside the Classroom has been to make learning available to anyone who wishes to learn, at anytime and anyplace and at an affordable cost," Mayadas said.  "In order to accomplish that goal, it will be necessary for at least a few large universities to establish large-scale on-line learning efforts which offer hundreds of on-line courses, 20-40 degree and certificate programs and enroll over 10,000 learners annually.  Penn State has excellent prospects in this respect.  It has a strong foundation in serving off-campus populations through other kinds of distance education programs, and it has strong commitment from the executive management."

Gary Miller, Penn State associate vice president for distance education and executive director of the World Campus, notes that the Sloan Foundation has played an essential role in the success of the World Campus.  "Sloan Foundation support made it possible to establish the World Campus within the mainstream of Penn State's academic community.  As a single distance education portal serving all academic units, the World Campus has both contributed to and benefited from University-wide innovation in e-learning " Miller said.

Miller added that integrating these teaching and learning techniques throughout the University is one of the most exciting challenges for the World Campus.  "The excitement comes from the opportunity to build a new organization that extends the University's land grant mission of matching the knowledge and teaching resources of the University with the lifelong learning needs of learners regardless of time or place."

Already Penn State has made an excellent start in achieving wide-spread faculty support, Mayadas noted.  "It is necessary to strengthen faculty involvement and support for ALN nationwide," he explained, "and the next stage of the World Campus program will be aimed at doing that through the mainstreaming focus.  We support these important efforts and look forward to seeing the World Campus and ALN gain strength and visibility in the Penn State community and in the academic community at large."

Having completed its third full year of operation, the World Campus now provides 200 course offerings in 26 certificate and degree programs, and many more programs are in development.  University officials expect to have 10,000 course enrollments in 300 courses and 30 degree and certificate programs by 2003. 

For more information contact:

Frank Mayadas, Senior Program Officer and Executive Director, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at 212-649-1634 or Mayadas@Sloan.org

Jim Ryan, Vice President for Outreach and Cooperative Extension, Penn State at 814-865-7581 or JHR1@outreach.psu.edu

Gary Miller, associate vice president for distance education and executive director of the World Campus, Penn State at 814-863-3248 or GEM7@PSU.EDU

Tracey Huston, Director of Outreach Communication: 814-865-8108 or tdh7@cde.psu.edu