Creating a Toolkit to Build Capacity for Online Programs

Concurrent Session 1

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

How do you leverage centralized expertise to create online programs in a diffuse university? A toolkit of resources for developing, implementing, and evaluating successful online programs builds capacity while supporting diverse goals and agendas. In this session you will create or enhance the infrastructure for your own institution by adapting a suggested framework and then crowdsourcing the components to support successful online program development.

Sponsored By


Rebecca Stein is Executive Director of the Online Learning Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania and is charged with developing a strategic plan for online learning at Penn while working closely with Penn schools to catalyze new online educational opportunities and collaboratively invigorate ongoing programs. Dr. Stein is an acclaimed and innovative teacher who has taught at Penn since 1998 serving for many years as Director of the Microeconomics Principles Program in the School of Arts and Sciences. A health economist and Senior Fellow of the Leonard David Institute of Health Economics, she taught large sections of introductory micro-economics to almost a thousand students each year and received multiple Penn teaching awards. On the Coursera open learning platform, she has developed highly popular courses on Microeconomics: The Power of Markets and Microeconomics: When Markets Fail. She earned a PhD (1998) and MA (1993) in Economics from Northwestern University and a BA cum laude (1992) in Economics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Extended Abstract

This interactive session offers a helpful framework for creating tools for capacity building: including market analysis, building a business plan, assessing platforms, integrating instructional design, and assessing the quality of individual courses and the program overall. Linked together through a Timeline for Program Creation, these components scaffold a program from an idea to reality.

In this session, participants will create or enhance their own institution’s toolkit through supportive brainstorming,  small group collaboration, group discussion, and crowdsourcing specific tools and best practices.

Introduction (5 minutes): Overview of University of Pennsylvania’s diffuse organizational structure and the challenge it creates in building online programs

Brainstorming (5 minutes): Within small groups, each member will be asked to list, on separate index cards, three components that a successful program requires but that they could use help with and one component they think they have a good framework for supporting.

Toolkit overview (5 minutes): The Toolkit will be presented with its current ten components.

Toolkit adaptation (10 minutes): Each group will place their cards in the relevant toolkit category, discussing the match between the task and category, what else is needed to complete this step and how the various tools tie together. They will be prepared to state whether the framework matches their intuitional needs and how to adapt it if not.

Whole room discussion (5 minutes): The overall framework will be evaluated: Is this a helpful way of thinking through capacity building? What parts are missing? What is lost by framing capacity building as a set of steps and processes?

Crowdsourcing (10 minutes): Participants will be invited to share the tools or components that they have successfully developed at their institutions.

Next steps (5 minutes): The steps for follow up will be described.

Take home: Each participant will have a toolkit outline with input from their group and contacts for follow up.

Follow up: Post-session follow up will include sharing of resources and best practices.


  1. Identify components of an online program development framework
  2. Compare tools, resources, and strategies for supporting online program development
  3. Populate a framework optimized for a specific institution


SessionEngagement Strategies:

This interactive session empowers participants to build or expand a toolkit that support successful online program development within their own institution. We'll explore a framework for breaking down the process of creating an online program into smaller components. Working collaboratively, participants will build resources for each component and then tie the components together to create a central timeline for guided deployment.  Participants will apply the framework to an online program in their environment to promote modifications that support their own institutional needs. Participants will identify existing strengths or best practices as well as areas where they need support and then crowdsource tools to populate the framework.  These crowd sourced tools will be shared post workshop.