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Blue & White Vision Council Talks Penn State's Future at Seminar

by on January 21, 2013 4:13 PM

The recently formed Blue & White Vision Council met with representatives from other university groups charged with forging Penn State's path in the months ahead at a seminar on Saturday. 

The seminar, titled "Planning for a New Higher Education Ecosystem," was held at the Nittany Lion Inn and one of the important topics discussed was the university's progress with technology, and how the World Campus has given Penn State a "stable foothold amid rapid breakthroughs in online learning, like massive open online courses or MOOCs," according to Penn State Live

"It's important that we have an understanding of how technology has already transformed teaching, learning and scholarship at Penn State," said Karen Peetz, chairwoman of the council and a university trustee.

"And how is that likely to change even further in the future? We need to understand the relationship of the advancements in technology, the infrastructure and development of platforms required, as well as the relationship to other pressing issues facing the university, such as sustainability of funding, maintaining and developing our physical plant, and tuition issues. What would a winning digital strategy for Penn State look like and how might it help strengthen Penn State's academic mission, while also containing costs," Peetz said. 

The 24-member council was formed in November and is comprised of trustees as well as academic and administrative leaders from Penn State. According to the university, "the council's aim is to identify key strategic challenges and opportunities facing Penn State in the next five to 10 years and to assess the implications for the university, including the pending search for a successor to President Rodney Erickson." 

Erickson has announced his plans to retire by June 30, 2014. 

The council is advised by former University of Illinois President Stan Ikenberry, who is now a senior fellow at Penn State and a leader in higher education.

Representatives were welcomed on Saturday from the University Presidential Search and Screen Committee, the President's Council, the Academic Leadership Council and the Penn State MOOC Strategy Group. Students, as well as Outreach and information technology staff members were present, Penn State said. 

Council member and trustee Joel Myers said Penn State must 'transform' in an effort to be prepared to experiment with new approaches to online education, especially considering diminished state funding and a significant decrease in Pennsylvania's high school population.

"Revolutions rarely happen as anyone expects," Myers said.

"We need to be flexible. The path we are on is unsustainable and the current model from which we operate will have to change. Alternatives to traditional higher education keep appearing and are rapidly multiplying offering a lower cost alternative. How will we compete," Myers said.

According to Penn State, Myers said there should be an integration of digital devices, mobile technology, video, social media, new applications and content and game theory in creating a learning experience in the classroom and online that's more 'individually tailored' and 'fosters more entrepreneurial spirit.'

Myers said while Penn State considers its options, it has multiple advantages, including the alumni network, strong brand recognition, dedicated and experienced faculty and staff, diversity, clubs and activities, sporting events and the World Campus.

When it was started in 1998, the World Campus had only five programs, Penn State said. Today, the World Campus has 90 programs and university officials project 25,000 students will be enrolled in the online campus by 2020. Enrollment for fall 2012 neared 12,000, a more than 16 percent increase from the previous year.

Guest speakers included Michael Horn, executive director of Innosight Institute, a San Francisco-based think tank, and Clay Shirky, an author and instructor on new technologies and social media.

The day concluded participants breaking off into smaller groups and discussing topics including "institutional strategy and response," "positioning Penn State as a leader in the digital revolution" and "technology infrastructure" among them. Afterward, each group presented its findings to everyone.

The council will continue its discussions over the next year as its members look for strategies that will help Penn State cope and adapt to changes in education. 

Read the entire press release from Penn State on the council's seminar here

Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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