nationaldistancelearningweekonline
Photo: Laine Higgins

Not all classes take place within four walls. Penn offers many that take place within a screen.

Penn’s Arts and Sciences Online Learning office is celebrating National Distance Learning Week with events to promote its online course infrastructure. The events aim to educate the Penn community about online learning and encourage faculty involvement.

Events this week include an open house, panels featuring Penn professors who teach online courses and discussions about the new education platform. The panels will be available online as webinars and one of them will take place in the Active Learning Classroom in the ARCH building.

At Penn, the development of online and interactive education is based in the Arts and Sciences Online Learning office, which works with professors, undergraduates and graduate students to facilitate digital learning that is free and open to the world. Penn offers for-credit courses online and massive open online courses. The University also partners with Coursera — an online education platform that offers free online courses to the public.

Director of Digital Learning Initiatives and Online Pedagogies for Online Learning Benjamin Wiggins noted that developing online learning allows Penn to expand access and flexibility to education to places all around the world by enabling students to take courses at home, abroad and at any time that they wish.

Penn offers the most online courses on Coursera among the partnering institutions, Wiggins said.

Economics Professor Rebecca Stein offers classes on Coursera. “Online tools should enhance learning by allowing clear two-way communication and by expanding opportunities for collaborative work,” she said in an email. Stein will speak at a panel on Friday about how her online experience is creating changes in her live courses.

Currently there are around 40 online for-credit courses, with more on the way, Wiggins said. The Arts and Sciences Online Learning office builds new courses in its in-house recording studio, complete with a green screen and all the necessary videography equipment, as well as personnel such as animators, videographers and editors. They are currently hoping to develop systems that would help students navigate resources in a digital environment and work with a broader selection of courses.

Penn students are also involved in the process. The Arts and Sciences Online Learning team houses five student workers, who assist the team in video-editing and lighting for shoots and contribute input to the actual course-building process.

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