Consortia-based program delivery while engaging faculty discipline communities

Concurrent Session 6
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

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.


Dr. David Edwin Stone is the Director of Collaborative Programs. He is responsible for shared academic programs as well as Penn State’s University-wide course sharing initiative, the Digital Learning Cooperative. David works with academic leadership across Penn State’s campuses and the World Campus to leverage online and digital learning resources in support of strategic program development. Prior to his appointment at Penn State, David held the position of Director of Online Learning and Strategic Initiatives at Southern Polytechnic State University where he was responsible for the University’s online degree programs and other strategic initiatives for academic affairs. David has conducted research, published and presented on large scale higher education change in the area of online learning, provided consulting in the area of workforce development, and has conducted international research on the use of virtual learning environments for foreign language instruction. David holds a Ph.D. and a Master of Science in Instructional Technology from Georgia State University. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science from Southern Polytechnic State University.
Julie Lang serves as the OER Coordinator within Teaching and Learning with Technology at Penn State University. Julie began her career in higher education at Penn State in 2003 with University Libraries. She moved on to work as an Instructional Designer at Penn State World Campus and from 2006-2014 served as the lead designer for online programs including the MS in Children Literature, MS in Project Management, and several BS degree programs. In 2014 she accepted an instructional design position with the newly founded initiative, Campus Collaborative Programs, an effort supporting both Teaching and Learning with Technology and Commonwealth Campus Shared Academic Programs. 2016 brought the opportunity to move into the role of Open Educational Resource Coordinator. Julie moved into the role of OER Coordinator in December 2016 and greatly enjoys partnering with faculty across the commonwealth to advance the adoption, adaption, and authoring of open content to benefit students at Penn State and beyond. Julie received degrees from Penn State University in Education as well as a Master of Science in Instructional Technology from Bloomsburg University. Her professional interests include faculty development in adopting, adapting, and authoring open educational resources, content sharing best practices and strategies, and the advancement of Universal Design for Learning through the use of open content.

Extended Abstract

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:

  1. How does a large, geographically distributed university leverage investments in online learning to support the needs of student distributed throughout the campus locations?
  1. How do you coordinate academic programs that are delivered as a consortia across multiple campus locations?
  1. What resources and services support the delivery of a multicampus consortia?
  1. What are the challenges facing multicampus consortia delivery?
  1. 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.