InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Integrate > Program Design > Implementation Programs > Penn State University
InTeGrate's Model Programs that bring an Earth-focus to the Undergraduate Classroom
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This program description is part of a collection of institutional models which explore ways of bringing a geoscience-informed approach to sustainability to a diverse range of disciplines, institutions, and networks. These model programs also provide the documentation and resources necessary to help other groups implement similar programs.
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The Pennsylvania State University - Distance Learning Courses

Tim Bralower, Penn State University
Laura Guertin, Penn State Brandywine


The Pennsylvania State University Implementation Program demonstrates how distance-learning courses can be used to enhance programming among a collaborating set of institutions. We have developed five new, active courses in Earth Sustainability that can be taught in blended or fully online mode. The courses on Climate, Energy, Coastal Hazards, Food, and Water are at the introductory level, integrate science with engineering and policy, and are based on large datasets. The sixth course is an upper level capstone course in Earth Modeling. All of the course materials are fully accessible through the InTeGrate and the Penn State open educational resources websites. The courses constitute the basis of new certificate and minor degree programs in Earth Sustainability. Our goal is to have the courses and degree programs widely adopted across the 24-campus Penn State system and through the Penn State World Campus, which serves students, including a high proportion of adult learners, across the globe.

Program Goals:

  1. Increase understanding of critical sustainability issues for a large number of students leading to a workforce more aware of critical sustainability issues and more prepared to work on interdisciplinary teams and able to use systems thinking.
  2. Improve the effectiveness of online courses by making them active and centered on large data sets.
  3. Increase sustainability education at 2YCs and minority-serving institutions where such programs are traditionally under-represented.
  4. Attract students to take multiple courses potentially culminating in enrollment in the Earth Sustainability Minor and Certificate of Excellence programs.
  5. Increase communication and improve engagement among students and faculty in geoscience-related disciplines across a large state university system including branch and main campuses.

Program Motivation

Today's graduates must have an awareness of urgent sustainability issues including climate change, water, food, and energy to be successful members of the workforce. This implementation program aims to provide this awareness to large numbers of students through the five new blended and online InTeGrate courses through the World Campus and in the Penn State Commonwealth Campus system. In addition courses are being taught outside of Penn State at universities of course authors as well as at Fort Valley State University, an HBCU in Georgia.

The World Campus and the Penn State Commonwealth Campus system are designed to make an education more accessible. However, there are few sustainability offerings in both of these venues and we struggle to provide pathways for students to obtain a formal qualification in geoscience. We have rectified this situation with the introduction of highly relevant, engaging, and pedagogically rigorous InTeGrate courses at these locations. New Certificate of Excellence and Minor programs are designed for students to learn about a number of sustainability areas and to take multiple courses. The program has also increased communication and improved engagement among students faculty in geoscience-related disciplines across a large state university system.

Sustaining Change

The implementation program involves building three different modes of delivery of the InTeGrate courses. (1) The courses are being taught in blended format at the main campus and several Commonwealth campuses, at campuses around the country where module authors teach and at Fort Valley State University in Georgia. (2) The courses are offered online through the Penn State World Campus to students around the world. (3) Penn State Commonwealth Campus e-Education consortium. The online courses are available at six campuses with earth science programs. The goal is to allow faculty at these campuses to develop upper division earth science courses instead of teaching general education.

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This program description is part of a growing collection of models of ways to bring learning about the Earth to a diverse range of disciplines, institutions, and networks, as well as provide the documentation and resources necessary to help other groups implement similar programs..
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