Milestones, OLI

Four Years

August 11, 2016
By Online Learning Initiative

Image of Four Years
Full infographic below!

Four years after launching some of the first MOOCs on Coursera, Penn’s Online Learning Initiative has grown into a campus-wide effort dedicated to sharing a piece of the Penn experience with curious minds around the world.

We are happy we have made such strides in connecting people through the power of learning, and especially honored to celebrate this year’s anniversary with Executive Director Amy Bennett, who has been with OLI since 2013.

You’ve been working with OLI since 2013. How has the initiative grown?

Amy Bennett: It has been an exciting transformation over that time. We started with only a couple of schools doing MOOCs and now have all 12 schools and over 100 faculty involved. We are proud of the relationships we have built campus-wide. Our first big shift was in 2015 when we started to fund technology-based projects for the classroom, meanwhile several faculty were already experimenting with new teaching methods in their classes based on their MOOC experience. The next turning point for us was last summer when we expanded from “open” to “online” and began supporting new for-credit and degree programs.

In these past four years, how has Penn distinguished itself in the realm of online learning?

A: In the beginning, our goals were to be an early adopter (including being an initial investor in Coursera) and to build a lot of MOOCs across many disciplines. We were unique for the breadth but also for the attention we put into ensuring that learners unfamiliar with Penn got a sense of what our institution is about and how deeply our faculty care about providing access around the globe. We also published a paper of our findings based on having a high number of data points from so many courses. Our main strength is ensuring that online and technology-based learning permeate everything we do here in the spirit of experimentation; we want to bring learning and benefits back to our students here and to inform other initiatives.

What’s going to happen moving forward?

A: One of the powerful things about being in online learning is that it changes so rapidly (and MOOCs were a big catalyst for that), and new technology will emerge that we can’t predict, even six months out. That said, we’re going to focus on providing more personalized learning experiences for different segments of learners, pursuing new types of credentials (especially as the market is becoming more job-focused), and trying to break down the barriers to and negative perceptions of online education. For example, our Robotics Specialization capstone enabled students to build something and have a hands-on learning experience that didn’t require a classroom. We have been busy producing and launching courses but now is the right moment to take the time to foster innovation.

4 Years of OLI (graphic by Gloria Yuen)

Infographic and interview by Gloria Yuen