Today, it’s not necessary to step foot on a campus in order to obtain a Penn State degree.
Penn State World Campus, the university's online school counterpart, currently offers more than 80 undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates. The interest in online education has seen a 22 percent growth — from 9,380 students in the 2010-11 academic year to 11,420 students in the 2011-12 academic year, according to a release issued via Penn State Live.
“Online education is a growing field,” Deborah Benedetti, Penn State Outreach Strategic Communications and News senior writer and editor said. “You can't always drop what you're doing and come to a campus. World Campus is perfect for this.”
The online program started in January 1998, Benedetti said. Penn State began developing the online courses the year prior. In the beginning though, it wasn’t easy to benchmark as the World Campus was being designed and developed, said Dr. Lawrence Ragan, director of faculty development for the Penn State World Campus.
“So Penn State had to use all of its creativity to envision what an online learning system should be to meet the needs of our students,” he said.
With enrollment growing, World Campus programs have received awards and rankings as a result, Benedetti said. In 2012, it received awards from the Sloan Consortium, the National University Technology Network and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association, she said.
Laura Elder (graduate-business administration) is currently enrolled in the Intercollege MBA program. The program is designed for working professionals who want to obtain an MBA, and is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
“When I was searching, I compared and contrasted programs,” Elder said. “I liked the focus World Campus had on networking.”
An annual residency program is held for iMBA students, where they meet in teams and discuss projects Elder said.
“Not a lot of other online schools have that,” Elder said. “What attracted me to World Campus was the opportunity to combine my undergraduate degrees and prior work experience.”
World Campus attempts to accommodate all students, whether they are working full-time or starting a new career, Benedetti said.
“Penn State chose to create an online campus that was part of the university, an integrated system serving all Penn State students,” Ragan said.