Classes advance deeper into cyberspace

You can now attend Penn without having to come to Philadelphia. Instead, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, Penn will come to you.

The program that makes this possible is called PennAdvance, housed in the College of General Studies.

Through PennAdvance, high-school and college students can enroll in selected Penn courses delivered over the Internet. The courses are the same ones offered to full-time undergraduates, taught by members of the Penn faculty, and PennAdvance students receive full college credit and a regular Penn transcript for their work.

All that is required to enroll in a PennAdvance course is a computer, a Web browser, an Internet connection and an e-mail account.

So far, all but one of the courses offered through PennAdvance are introductory courses, reflecting the program’s original focus on high schoolers. But CGS hopes to offer more upper-level undergraduate courses as the program expands, and may eventually offer graduate-level courses, non-credit mini-courses, workshops and conferences.

The PennAdvance program began last year, but its origins go back a few years further, to a groundbreaking course in Latin literature offered on the Internet by Classical Studies Professor Jim O’Donnell in 1994.

“The course was offered through CGS, and I believe it was the first one we offered in the School of Arts and Sciences, and maybe even the first one anywhere at the University,” said Richard Hendrix, associate dean for continuing education in SAS and director of CGS.

At the time, most of the faculty interest in the Internet focused on serving the existing campus community, but the CGS staff realized that the technology offered the potential for them to reach out to new groups of potential students.

But little headway was made towards realizing that potential until late in 1997. By that time, top University officials — including

O’Donnell, now vice provost for information systems and computing — were keenly interested in establishing a Penn presence in the field of distance learning, and that interest led to a partnership between the University and Caliber Learning Network to deliver Wharton and CGS courses on line (see “Q&A,” Current, May 14, 1998).

What led CGS to strike out on its own this semester was the greater flexibility offered by Internet delivery. Under the original PennAdvance program, “students went to their local Caliber center in order to attend class sessions delivered live as satellite broadcasts,” explained Director of Distributed Learning Jean Scholz. “Now, a student can take a Penn course right in his or her home, and we are expanding the audience to include students over 18.”

Under the Caliber arrangement, enrollment had risen from 46 students in two courses in Fall 1998 to 114 students in four courses this past summer. With the new arrangement, it looks like fall enrollment will be even higher. “We’ve gotten a very strong response for Fall 1999,” said Luise Moskowitz, CGS external affairs coordinator.

The new PennAdvance program has also succeeded in broadening its geographic scope. According to Scholz, students in 29 states and three foreign countries have applied for admission to the program this fall. “Students who have no Penn affiliation still need to apply for admission to CGS,” Moskowitz said. “Alumni and current students, or students who have previously taken a PennAdvance course, need only register to enroll.”

To find out more about PennAdvance, visit the PennAdvance Web site, e-mail or call 215-898-1684.

Front page for this issue | Pennsylvania Current home page

Originally published on September 16, 1999