Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Penn State World Campus Adds Live E-Learning to Its Online Curriculum

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Penn State World Campus Adds Live E-Learning to Its Online Curriculum

Article excerpt

In 1892, The Pennsylvania State University became the first American university to offer correspondence courses in agriculture. This initiative was later used as a model for other academic institutions to provide instruction-by-mail programs in a variety of subjects. Now, Penn State is a recognized pioneer in online education. And the university's World Campus, which uses the Internet and other technologies to offer instruction on an anywhere, anytime basis, provides distance education programs to nearly 23,000 enrollments from all 50 states and 44 countries.

The Challenge

Two years ago, the World Campus was challenged to support its asynchronous, Web-based courses with a synchronous tool--one that enabled students to hold real-time small group discussions and also allowed faculty to conduct interactive tutoring sessions and keep virtual office hours. We also wanted a collaborative environment that supported both PC and Mac platforms. In addition, while initial price points for some synchronous tools appeared low, the cost increased when a phone bridge was required. As a result, we focused on evaluating solutions that offered integrated, high-quality VoIP technology so students wouldn't need two phone lines or a high-speed connection.

The Solution

After reviewing several collaborative software products, we determined that Elluminate Live! Academic Edition (www. was the best solution to support synchronous events in our online distance education environment. Our testing revealed that the product worked seamlessly in both PC and Mac environments and had a well-developed VoIP component.

We opted to deploy the application as a hosted service, because with the vendor acting as an application service provider we aren't responsible for maintenance and we don't have to worry about adding servers on top of those we use for course content. In addition, there have been few technical issues to deal with since students only have to download a simple Java client to use the application.

Once we conducted initial training for our faculty and staff, we were up and running quickly with our pilot project, which was to add dynamic interaction capability to iMBA, Penn State's online MBA program. Initially, our pilot of the product was limited to one iMBA course. However, based on early feedback from students and faculty, we decided to expand our usage of the synchronous environment during subsequent semesters. …

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