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Online classes in Pennsylvania have revolutionized the way students can pursue higher education. Learn about some of the programs and services designed to help Pennsylvania students make the transition to online education.

Online Schools in Pennsylvania

Online education is a growing movement, both within Pennsylvania and on a national scale. According to research from the Sloan Consortium, 60 percent of private U.S. colleges and universities have implemented long-term online learning strategies.

As online programs continue to expand, it is imperative that schools enact quality controls, embrace new technologies, and train both teachers and administrators in the nuances of distance education. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education reinforces these ideas, holding a yearly virtual conference where teachers and administrators can learn how to better incorporate technology into their curriculum and improve the quality of their online programs. The conference offers attendees a variety of session topics, including tips on transitioning from traditional to online teaching, and how multimedia tools and social media can enhance the online learning experience - just to name a few.

The Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference is a another state-sponsored event with the goal of improving classroom technologies - including virtual classrooms - and is supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communication and Technology, and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. This annual convention offers lectures to teachers and administrators who want to learn about technological advancements being made in both traditional and online environments while also allowing exhibitors to showcase their latest products.

Online Education in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania's higher education system strives to promote academic excellence within the state. To wit, organizations throughout Pennsylvania have established a number of programs designed to advance distance-learning opportunities for the state's students. PA Universities Online, for instance, connects students with online classes offered by the 14 universities that comprise the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, the state's largest system of higher education. PA Universities Online says its goal is to provide Pennsylvania students with a supportive and rewarding experience as they pursue higher education online.

The Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications and Technology, PAECT, is another organization that works to improve the state's online learning initiatives. According to its website, PAECT positions itself as the leading advocate for educational technology, and one of its primary goals is "...to promote technology fluency at all levels K-20."

The Pennsylvania Department of Education recognizes that earning a traditional degree is no longer the only pathway for someone to achieve economic success in this day and age. As such, they have established the Distance Learning Project (DLP), which is a statewide program designed to improve access to nontraditional online learning opportunities for adult learners. This includes programs that promote high school completion, offer workplace skill development, and teach basic math and reading skills.

College Degrees in Pennsylvania

One of the most notable factors driving the expansion of online education in Pennsylvania could be the state's increasing need to expand its college-educated workforce. According to a 2012 publication entitled "A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education" by the Lumina Foundation, data from the U.S. Census indicates that 38.6 percent of Pennsylvania's working-age adults held a two-year degree or higher in 2010. If the current rate of degree production continues, Lumina notes, nearly 48 percent of Pennsylvania's adult population will hold college degrees in 2025.

However, this simply may not be enough. A report by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce called "Help Wanted" projects that 57 percent of Pennsylvania jobs will require postsecondary education by 2018, and the Lumina Foundation projects this number will increase to 60 percent by 2025. In other words, Pennsylvania could need 12-percent more college-educated workers in 2025 in order to meet employer demand.

If Pennsylvania wants to remain competitive economically, the Lumina report concludes, it must find ways of improving educational access and achievement for future workers. Continued growth and support of online education in Pennsylvania may be one way of achieving this.

Online College in Pennsylvania

Many Pennsylvania colleges and universities are dedicated to establishing and improving distance learning access within their ranks. Penn State is one such university, thanks largely to its World Campus. According to its official website, Penn State's World Campus offers students access to more than 80 "career-enhancing" online programs, including those that could result in certificates and degrees. Penn State believes that students taking courses online are able to receive the same quality of education as those sitting in traditional classrooms.

The University of Pennsylvania, UPenn, is another college that offers students a variety of online education options - this includes medical, dental and nursing courses, English-language programs, and an executive education business program for working professionals. UPenn also offers non-credit, online versions of some of its traditional courses through partner site Coursera.org - according to Coursera's website as of late 2012, anyone may enroll in its online courses for no tuition cost.

In addition to public institutions, there are a number of private online college programs in Pennsylvania from which prospective students can choose. One such school, Carnegie Mellon University, has established an online learning platform called Open Learning Initiative (OLI). OLI gives students and faculty the opportunity to attend or teach courses online, and focuses on using student measurability and data to improve its courses. Arcadia University of Pittsburgh is another private institution with a host of fully-online degree programs and certificates, including everything from creative writing to physical therapy.

Sources:
Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, http://www.passhe.edu/Pages/default.aspx
Sloan Consortium, http://sloanconsortium.org/
PA Distance Learning Project, https://sites.google.com/a/tiu11ces.org/dlp/
Lumina Foundation, http://www.luminafoundation.org/
The Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference, http://www.peteandc.org/
Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications and Technology, http://www.paect.org/
Pennsylvania Department of Education, http://www.education.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/pennsylvania_department_of_education/7237
Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, http://cew.georgetown.edu/
Open Learning Initiative, http://oli.cmu.edu/

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