Consortia-based program delivery while engaging faculty discipline communities
Concurrent Session 6
Learn how Penn State University is leveraging online and video conferencing courses to build new blended academic programs that cross campus locations. Lessons learned during the development and implementation of consortia delivered programs across multiple campuses and how faculty disciplinary communities are strengthened and supported by the efforts. Examples of shared services and partnerships with University service providers will be highlighted.
This session will describe the case of Penn State's consortia delivered shared academic programs and will provide lessons learned, implementation strategies, as well as plans for future operation and improvements. Participants will be engaged in the discussion about the challenges faced and questions about solutions will be addressed.
Questions to be answered in this session:
- How does a large, geographically distributed university leverage investments in online learning to support the needs of student distributed throughout the campus locations?
- How do you coordinate academic programs that are delivered as a consortia across multiple campus locations?
- What resources and services support the delivery of a multicampus consortia?
- What are the challenges facing multicampus consortia delivery?
- What is the future of multicampus consortia delivery
Like many institutions, Penn State has both residential and online programs that have grown and thrived over the years. Students are seeking a wide range of degree programs and institutions with a broad range of academic programs and disciplines face many challenges in meeting the needs of students both in traditional residential programs and online environments. Many students value a mixture of residential and online courses to fit their scheduling needs or to maximize their opportunities to explore majors and areas of study. Penn State has a large number of courses and subjects available in the university catalog, as well as a presence at 24 locations within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Penn State University, as a large research institution, has a long history of multi-campus collaboration. From the first shared degree program in Nursing in 1973 to the intercampus sharing facilitated by the Digital Learning Cooperative, the core of collaboration has been faculty disciplinary communities. Leveraging strengths of faculty, students, and staff as well as institutional capacity has lead to unique learning experiences for students as the next generation of academic programs are being built. By offering academic programs in a shared structure across campuses and colleges we are providing new opportunities for students, who may not otherwise have had access to a larger student and faculty community. Faculty can also benefit from engagement with each other in discipline communities, degree programs, or interdisciplinary groups. Shared programs also offer new capabilities for the University to partner with local communities and regions. By working within the contexts of the campuses and colleges we are identifying opportunities for collaboration among degree programs and shared resources that will strengthen access to the full capacity of the University as a whole.
In 2009 Penn State's President formed an Academic Program and Administrative Services Core Council to conduct a formal review of Penn State's academic programs and administrative services in order to advance Penn State's strategic goal to "advance academic excellence and research prominence". Introducing new academic programs, phasing out underperforming degree programs, and the greater sharing of administrative infrastructure among campuses were among the recommendations provided by the Core Council. Penn State has operated a campus course exchange system since the early 2000s by which campus locations could coordinate the sharing of online courses across campus locations. Campuses located in the west of Pennsylvania hired shared faculty positions to support the Administration of Justice, Psychology, Nursing, and IST Programs. The dual challenge of phasing out under performing programs as well as building new programs presents many challenges. One of the key challenges is ensuring that sufficient faculty are dedicated to offer new degree programs, as well as ensuring that students have access to the courses required to complete programs in a timely manner. This multi-campus collaboration requires relationship building, alignment of both program and academic goals, formal commitments, as well as ongoing communication. Obstacles to collaboration include: institutional disincentives, historical and ideological barriers, power disparities, societal-level dynamics creating obstacles to collaboration, differing perceptions of risk, technical complexity, political and institutional cultures (Gray 1989). Each commonwealth campus has a unique history and culture, as well as a local environment created by a combination of sociotechnical factors.
Approach and Results:
In order to support the challenges associated with multi-campus collaboration, a Director of Collaborative Programs was hired along with two instructional designers from Penn State's Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT). The Penn State World Campus, has been a longtime partner of the Commonwealth Campuses for multicampus program delivery with the Bachelor of Science in Business and course sharing between the World Campus and residential instruction has been piloted in many forms over the years. A review of existing shared programs and course sharing initiatives within Penn State was conducted from September 2014 through February 2015 as part of a Task Force on Shared Academic Programs. In consultation with academic officers across the Penn State Campuses as well as research conducted by the Task Force, a description of roles and responsibilities of a Professor in Charge for shared academic programs was developed. The Professor in Charge was designed to support both the program level decision making necessary for multicampus collaboration as well as to ensure that faculty disciplinary communities were engaged across campus locations. Each shared program has unique academic requirements and current staffing and future staffing plans were considered as formal agreements were developed with each campus Chief Academic Officer in order to ensure a common commitment to the support the programs as a joint effort. Support services and infrastructure reviews and plans were reviewed and mulitiyear course sharing agreements were developed to facilitate staffing plans. As programs were implemented there were common issues identified and the work has shifted to improving the operation of the programs by removing administrative, logistical, and technical issues that hinder smooth program operation. Key to this operational review has been partnerships with existing University units including and resources available to consortia partners.These cross-institutional teams and partnerships have yielded benefits for both academic program units who are seeking to increase program offerings, as well as benefited technology and other service units that have goals to innovate and increase connections with academic units. Resources such as the World Campus faculty development courses on online teaching and existing university online infrastructure was brought to bear on residential program delivery. Programs such as a custom eLearning Series targeted at the needs of shared program faculty was created with the Penn State Teaching and Learning Technology group. pport resources that would allow them to build showcase courses.
Some of the challenges facing shared program delivery also benefit single campus needs. Course sharing provides opportunities for a wide range of department, campus, college, and university goals. Campus or college needs for capacity sharing, access to courses, and increased enrollment in underenrolled courses can be supported via cross campus course sharing. Cross campus capacity can be built in order to meet partnership or consortia needs. Program or initiatives that exist within the university along themes such as entrepreneurship, sustainability, or external funding requirements can be supported by the dissemination of topics, courses, and minors to broader audiences. A revision to the thirteen year old eLearning Cooperative system is poised to enable many new types of multicampus course sharing agreements in future years.