U. strikes high-Caliber agreement

Business execs taking courses in Wharton's "Working Knowledge Series" next semester need not take any big steps away from the board room to be marked "present" for class.

In the first collaboration of its kind, the University has teamed with Baltimore-based Caliber Learning Network Inc. in a distributed learning agreement that will propel traditional classroom experiences into the age of the Internet, Penn Interim Provost Michael L. Wachter announced last week.

Distributed learning -- formerly called distance learning -- takes high-tech equipment like integrated satellite, video conferencing and PC networking, and pairs them with live instruction and traditional classroom philosophies.

The result: a highly interactive array of professor-student communications possibilities for courses, seminars and programs in all of Penn's schools, Wachter said.

A priority in the Agenda for Excellence, distributed learning raises numerous issues which have been actively investigated by the Provost's Committee on Distance Learning at Penn, Wachter said. Those issues, including admissions standards and funding sources, were outlined in a report released last week by the committee (avaliable online at the Almanac Web site).

The agreement to launch next semester's "Wharton Direct," delivered through Caliber centers throughout the country, represents the first time a major business school has combined the effective elements of live classroom experience with the advanced technologies, Wachter said.

"Collaborating with Caliber allows us to reach high-potential managers who do not have access to Wharton's on-campus offerings," said Robert E. Mittelstaedt, vice dean, executive education and external affairs at Wharton.

Previous distance learning initiatives at Penn have included courses and programs ranging from an advanced Latin course, in which more than 300 students and scholars around the world participated, to a 16-month master's program in nursing.

And, Vice Provost Jim O'Donnell and Professor Al Filreis this spring conducted a non-credit, e-mail course with 32 students -- some from as far as Pakistan and Malaysia -- who had enrolled as members of the class of 2002.

Originally published on April 30, 1998