Penn State receives national awards for online education

January 13, 2003

Of the five major awards presented at the Eighth Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C) International Conference on Asynchronous Learning Networks: “The Power of Online Learning: The Faculty Experience,” Penn State garnered an Award for Excellence in Online Faculty Satisfaction for the UniSCOPE (University Scholarship and Criteria for Outreach and Performance Evaluation) project and an Award for Excellence in Online Cost Effectiveness.

The Sloan-C 2002 Effective Practice Awards exemplify the efforts of Penn State to further the Sloan-C purpose of making education a part of everyday life, accessible and affordable for anyone, anywhere, at any time, in a wide variety of disciplines.

Sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Sloan-C is primarily a consortium of accredited higher education providers and organizations that provide equipment, tools and infrastructure support for these providers. Sloan-C encourages collaboration, sharing of knowledge and effective practice to improve online education in the areas of learning effectiveness, access, affordability for learners and providers, and student and faculty satisfaction.

A panel of educators selected UniSCOPE “Multidimensional Model for Review of Scholarly Activity” for the Excellence in Online Faculty Satisfaction award, because the UniSCOPE project exemplifies these criteria: it has a reliable research design; it is making an impact through objective evidence of effectiveness, affordability, replicability and scalability; and it is contributing to the field by being innovative and by providing new knowledge and extending previous research.

Faculty who participate in online teaching and learning often feel penalized by a traditional institutional reward system that focuses on basic research activities. A model for reviewing faculty work that values online teaching as one form of “teaching scholarship” promotes appropriate recognition and professional rewards for online activities, and thus contributes to faculty satisfaction.

The award citation reads: “For implementing and sharing a multidimensional model that regards faculty’s teaching, research and service activities as a continuum of scholarship.”

The Penn State University Faculty Senate endorsed the UniSCOPE model in spring 2002, and appropriate changes have been made in University policies and promotion and tenure guidelines. The effectiveness of the changes will be tracked and evaluated over time.

Dr. Drew Hyman, professor of public policy and community systems, serves as chair of the UniSCOPE Learning Community which developed the model. He praised the dedication of the faculty volunteers who come from many colleges and campuses, noting, “This is truly a grassroots faculty group. When UniSCOPE started, we all agreed to meet once a month for six months. We ended up meeting monthly for several years, and everyone has been very faithful in attending meetings and wrestling with these issues.”

Hyman explained the goal of the group, saying, “The intent of UniSCOPE is to provide a framework for creating an equitable system for recognizing and rewarding the full range of University scholarship. UniSCOPE puts different forms of scholarship into a common context and provides a framework through which everyone throughout the University system can view and develop criteria for recognizing and rewarding the different forms of scholarship.”

The UniSCOPE report presents “a multidimensional model that conceptualizes each of the three mission areas of the University‹teaching, research and service‹as the forms of scholarship.”

“The intent of UniSCOPE is to recognize that basic research and refereed publications are but one type of academic scholarship,” Hyman added. “It challenges us to recognize that other rigorous academic work is being done at the University, and each type should be recognized equitably for its primary product. We consider this a work in progress, and our UniSCOPE model has precipitated a University-wide process for more appropriate recognition of applied work, Continuing Education, Cooperative Extension, Technology Transfer, creative works in the media, Distance Education and other forms of outreach scholarship for their own inherent results. The end result would be a more engaged, vibrant and diverse University and more involved and satisfied faculty.”

The Sloan-C Award for Excellence in Online Faculty Satisfaction team members were:

Dr. Theodore R. Alter, associate vice president for outreach, director of Cooperative Extension and associate dean in the College of Agricultural Sciences

Dr. John E. Ayers, professor of plant pathology

Dr. Erskine H. Cash, professor of animal science

Dr. Donald E. Fahnline, associate professor of physics

Dr. David P. Gold, professor emeritus of geology

Dr. Elise A. Gurgevich, Keystone 21 project coordinator

Dr. Peter C. Jurs, professor of chemistry

Dr. Robert O. Herrmann, professor emeritus of agricultural economics

Dr. Drew Hyman, professor of public policy and community systems and chairman of the UniSCOPE Learning Community

Dr. David E. Roth, PE, associate professor of engineering

Dr. John D. Swisher, emeritus professor of education

Dr. M. Susie Whittington, former associate professor of agricultural and extension education at Penn State and now associate professor human and community resource development at Ohio State University

Dr. Helen Smiciklas-Wright, professor of nutrition

The Sloan-C team members for the Award for Excellence in Online Cost Effectiveness were

Dr. John T. Harwood, senior director of Teaching and Learning with Technology, and

Dr. William L. Harkness, professor emeritus of statistics, for their report “Mixed Delivery Model Proves Cost-Effective,” which details their work on creating and sharing cost-effective practices for the development of an online version of the Introduction to Statistics course.

Other recipients of the Sloan-C Effective Practice Awards were Mercy College, Rio Salado College and Pace University.

To view the UniSCOPE report, visit For more information on the Sloan-C effective practices, visit