Saturday, May 30, 2015

New Edition of E-Learning Definitions

For the past few years, Frank Mayadas and I have worked to refine a set of definitions within the online learning field.  This year, John Sener joined the team, and we have come up with a new edition of the definitions.  John, Frank, and Karen Pederson of OLC will have a session about definitions at the fall OLC conference.  Meanwhile, here is the latest version:

Definitions of E-Learning Courses and Programs
Version 2.0
April 4, 2015

Developed for Discussion within the Online Learning Community
Frank Mayadas, Gary Miller, and John Sener

As e-learning has evolved into a global change agent in higher education, it has become more diverse in its form and applications.  This increased diversity has complicated our ability to share research findings and best practices, because we lack a shared set of definitions to distinguish among the many variations on e-learning that have arisen.  This paper is designed to provide practitioners, researchers, and policy makers with a common set of terms and definitions to guide the ongoing development of the field.  Our hope is that it will move us toward a set of shared, commonly understood definitions that will facilitate the sharing of research data and professional standards in our field.  In developing the definitions below, we have tried to incorporate existing definitions developed by others and have incorporated comments from colleagues who have reviewed earlier drafts.   We do not present these as the ultimate definitions, but as a step toward more commonly held standards as our field continues to evolve.  Additions and revisions will be published periodically, as needed.

The Impact of E-Learning

While e-learning has become the primary form of distance education, it is also transforming instruction on campus.  Higher education historically is a campus-based institution.  Many students live on campus for the duration of their studies; others live near campus and commute to campus to take classes and to receive campus-based support services.  This physical connection has defined the relationship between the student and the institution.  It has also helped to shape the curriculum itself.  E-learning has blurred these traditional relationships, removing geography as a defining element in the student-institution relationship.  

Technology-enhanced learning has evolved both from enhancements to earlier generations of face-to-face teaching and enhancements to earlier generations of distance education.  Engaged intentional design of learning experiences has also evolved to promote the most effective design to serve the learners, their life experiences and the opportunities and limitations of the particular environment.  For example, many graduate programs have deliberately designed programs for working adults, which are predominantly offered online but also include short-term face-to-face residencies.

At the same time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to define a common measure for instruction.  The “seat time” measure on which common understanding of a “credit hour” is largely based, is being challenged as new instructional models and alternatives to traditional classroom lectures become more widely accepted.  However, the credit hour remains the most widely accepted measure used to compare courses across different delivery environments.  Continued growth in the number and diversity of learning environments will increase the need for a common standard by which different learning environments can be compared.  The following definitions assume the credit hour as the primary means by which courses are defined, regardless of delivery environment.

As e-learning has matured, it has begun to be used in different ways to address diverse goals.  Several models have emerged that have different geographical and curricular implications.  It is important to be able to distinguish among these factors in order to compare practices and to understand and be able to effectively apply research findings.  Shared definitions will also empower students to make better decisions.  The major goals of e-learning include:  improving access for both traditional-age and nontraditional students who are not otherwise able to attend a traditional, campus-based program and improving student choice over when, where, and how to engage in the learning process; and improving efficiency and effectiveness by using e-learning media and methods to control cost or provide other efficiencies or to make large-enrollment courses more effective for students.  In addition, we are assuming that courses and programs defined below are instructor-led experiences, distinguishing them from self-learning modules, often seen for instance in some corporate training models.


Over the years, various organizations have attempted to define different aspects of e-learning.  Often, these have been focused on the specific needs of an individual institution or organization.  In 2012, Frank Mayadas and Gary Miller posted a set of definitions designed to create a more common understanding; these were updated later that year in response to feedback from the professional e-learning community.  The following definitions are designed to replace the 2012 document.  They are designed to help both faculty and students better understand the different kinds of e-learning that are now practiced in higher education and to provide institutions with some standard models to encourage effective sharing of data about e-learning, at both the individual course and the curriculum level.  These definitions have two key characteristics:

·      They include definitions at both the course level and the program level.
·      They incorporate three key parameters:  instructional delivery mode, time, and flexibility.


The following definitions distill current practices into seven categories that reflect the variety of applications that predominate in use today.

1.            Classroom CourseCourse activity is organized around scheduled class             meetings.

Traditional classroom courses are measured by the number of hours spent in required in-person class meetings in various formats, such as lectures, studios, or workshops or other traditional face-to-face activities, such as laboratories, field trips, or internships.  Such courses may involve some sort of computer usage—for example, a software simulation or laboratory or design software for art or engineering applications—but the course is still anchored to the normal time spent in face-to-face classes.  For the purposes of clarity in these definitions, courses that use technology at this level are considered to be “classroom” courses.

2.            Synchronous Distributed CourseWeb-based technologies are used to extend             classroom lectures and other activities to students at remote sites in real time.

These courses use web conferencing or other synchronous e-learning media to provide access to a classroom experience for students at off-campus locations (such as places of employment, other campuses, etc.) while otherwise maintaining a normal face-to-face classroom schedule.  These courses may mix on-campus and remote students, with on-campus students being face-to-face with their instructor and remote students participating simultaneously via technology.  This changes the experience for both sets of students, so both settings fall into the same category.  Some types of synchronous distributed courses offer greater place flexibility than others, depending on the delivery tool used.  Synchronous distributed courses are significantly limited in terms of time flexibility, although that can be increased by recording class lectures and related activities and making them available for later viewing.

3.            Web-Enhanced Course – Online course activity complements class sessions             without reducing the number of required class meetings.

When Internet access is required to complete course requirements, and when this Internet-based work augments classroom activity or supplants a relatively small amount (typically, 20 percent or less) of the traditional classroom activity, the course is considered a “web-enhanced course.”  Traditional courses and web-enhanced courses are very similar, but are placed in separate categories because web-enhanced courses require additional faculty and student support, and very likely additional technology.  Web-enhanced courses are not normally considered to be e-learning courses, but are described here because they may be a step toward a hybrid or online course.

4.            Blended (also called Hybrid) Classroom Course – Online activity is mixed             with classroom meetings, replacing a significant percentage, but not all             required face-to-face instructional activities.

When the technologies used for education and communication outside the classroom are used to supplant some, but not all face-to-face instruction, reducing the time actually spent in the classroom, the result is a blended classroom course.  For example, if a course traditionally meets in a classroom three times per week, a blended version might use online sessions to replace one or two of the traditional weekly classroom sessions or to focus face-to-face sessions on laboratory or project work.  The offering institution should set the threshold for required online activity at that institution.  Some institutions use blended courses with traditional on-campus students to improve efficiency in the use of limited classrooms.  For example, replacing 50% of classroom experiences with online experiences would allow an institution to schedule a second course in the same room. 

5.            Blended (also called Hybrid) Online Course – Most course activity is done online, but there are some required face-to-face instructional activities, such as lectures, discussions, labs, or other in-person learning activities.

These courses are the mirror image of blended classroom courses.  Most course activity is conducted online, but a small amount of scheduled in-person classroom or other onsite group activities events are required.  Online delivery replaces all but a few required face-to-face sessions.  While this category of course may commonly be called an “online” course, the distinction is important because the inclusion of face-to-face work sets some geographic limitations on student access to the course.   The institution is responsible for setting the threshold of required online activity.

Both Blended Classroom Courses and Blended Online Courses are particularly relevant in programs that serve students within commuting distance of campus.  They increase flexibility but do not totally eliminate the need for students to have physical access to a campus facility.  Blended courses will be attractive to many traditional full-time students, in addition to non-traditional learners, typically working adults who are within commuting distance and who wish to earn a degree.

6.            Online Course – All course activity is done online; there are no required             face-to-face sessions within the course and no requirements for on-campus             activity.

Purely online courses totally eliminate geography as a factor in the relationship between the student and the institution. They consist entirely of online elements that facilitate the three critical student interactions: with content, the instructor, and other students.

While these courses may appeal to on-campus students, they are designed to meet the needs of students who do not have effective access to campus.  They may reside near the campus, or they may reside quite a distance away in other states or even in other countries.   Over the years, universities have sought to serve this “non-traditional” population through a variety of media—from correspondence courses to satellite teleconferences—but only since the mid-1990s has technology enabled easy and continuous communication—interaction—among the learners and instructors at a distance. The Internet also has made library and other information resources available to this group.  Improvements in basic technology also permit this user group access to complex data as in precision images, mathematical visualizations and simulations of various kinds.  Social networking applications allow these learners to participate in both formal and informal learning communities.

NOTE:  Since 2002-03, the Babson Survey Research Group has conducted a national survey of online learning, initially supported with funds from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  It has become recognized as a premiere national e-learning survey research effort in the United States.  Their protocol defines a Blended/Hybrid course as being up to 79 percent online and an Online Course as being 80-100 percent online.  They have maintained that distinction in order to ensure longitudinal consistency across survey years.  However, most institutions now consider an online course to be 100% online.

7.            Flexible Mode Course – Offers multiple delivery modes so that students can             choose which delivery mode(s) to use for instructional and other learning             purposes.

The distinguishing characteristic of the type of course is that it provides students with the option to select from multiple delivery modes, which also increases their control over time and place as well as delivery mode. One example is the “Emporium” model developed through several innovations funded by the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) (1). This model, designed for on-campus use, eliminates all class meetings and replaces them with a learning resource center featuring online materials and on-demand personalized assistance. This gives campus-based students control over when they study by allowing students to choose when they access course materials, to choose what types of learning materials they use depending on their needs, and to set their own pace in working with the materials.  It assumes that students have access to sophisticated instructional software and one-on-one on-site help.  It replaces formal class meetings with increased access to instructional assistance and allows institutions to combine multiple lecture sections into one large section.

The HyFlex blended learning model is another one in use at several colleges and universities. The model was developed at San Francisco State University to give students choice over the mode of study (2).   In HyFlex courses, students have both classroom-based and online options available for all or most learning activities, giving them the flexibility to choose when and where they study based on their own needs, desires, and preferences. Students can also choose to change which option they use to attend courses weekly.


Similar distinctions among delivery environments can be made at the program level.  Degree and certificate programs can be designed with a mix of traditional and e-learning courses in order to serve populations who have different levels of access to campus.  Currently, there appear to be four major kinds of practices in wide use:

1.              Classroom Program—The program may include a mix of traditional, web-enhanced, or hybrid courses, but all courses require some face-to-face lecture sessions.

These programs take advantage of web-based applications to enhance learning, but without changing the requirement that students attend classes on campus or in other face-to-face learning environments.  As a result, online elements do not significantly improve access to commuting or distant students.

2.            Multi-Format Program – A program mixes classroom courses with other             formats that may use a variety of different delivery modes, web-enhanced,             blended, fully online courses, synchronous distributed courses, etc.,             without a specific access goal.

These programs use a variety of technologies and course designs to provide a variety of learning experiences.  Typically, choice of technology is less related to the geographic or time needs of students than to curricular goals or instructional needs.   

3.            Blended Program – A significant percentage, but not all of the credits             required for program completion are offered fully online.  Typically, up to 30             percent of the curriculum may be offered as face-to-face or blended             courses or other face-to-face formats or as independent study.

These programs provide increased access to distant students who are able to come to campus for some courses, laboratory work, intensive residencies, or other occasional group sessions.  Ideally, face-to-face sessions will be organized to minimize travel requirements for distant students.  Some academic support services should be available to distant students as well.  While a model in which 30 percent of the program consists of face-to-face or blended courses is given as a guideline, institutions should determine the percentage of the curriculum to be offered fully online based on local needs. 

4.            Online Program – All credits required to complete the program are offered             as fully online courses.  Students can complete the program completely at a             distance, with no required face-to-face meetings.

Fully online programs are designed with the truly distant student in mind.  Institutions that offer fully online programs should also take care to provide support services—registration, testing, advising, library support, etc.—at a distance.

Emerging Innovations
As e-learning matures, innovative new ways to teach and learn will continue to emerge.  Recent examples are massive open online courses (MOOCs) and competency-based education. At this stage in their evolution, these innovations can be adequately described within the course and program definitions described above;  MOOCs and competency-based courses can be understood as operating within one or more of the defined  categories. 


The authors are indebted to the many colleagues too numerous to list individually who have contributed to these definitions by providing feedback on earlier drafts and who, in some cases, have pioneered in developing innovative applications of technology to create new learning environments.

These definitions are a work in progress that will be updated periodically as needed.   The authors welcome comments and anticipate that they will prepare occasional companion pieces to add new definitions as the field evolves, in the hope the community will come together around a common set of definitions that will guide research, practice, and policy.  We encourage researchers and professional associations to adopt the definitions with the goal that a shared vocabulary will facilitate the sharing of research data, increase the transfer of research into practice, and, ultimately, promote standards of excellence for the field.

Comments are welcome in this ongoing discussion.


(1) “The Emporium Model.”  National Center for Academic Transformation.  Retrieved from the Internet on February 16, 2015:

(2)  “Student Choice, Instrtuctor Flexibility: Moving Beyond the Blended Instructional Model.”  UAiR: Issues and Trends in Educational Technology,Vol. 1, No. 1. University of Arizona, 2013.  Retrieved from the Internet on February16, 2015:

Version 1.0  8/2/2012
Version 1.1 9/7/12
Version 2.0 4/4/15

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Service Learning Year: A Proposal

            The question of how we create community in a time when technology has made physical location irrelevant is an important issue for us and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.  We are still in the very early stages of building a new society.  Right now, it seems, many younger people are being left behind.  They lack money.  Many lack a traditional family structure to guide them.  They lack a sense of membership—and thus a sense of both personal responsibility and control—in the broader civic community in which they live. They lack influence and access.  At the same time, individual citizens are losing power to larger corporations that exercise undo influence over our elected officials.  What do to?
            Here is a thought:  Institute a mandatory Year of Service Learning for every American, to begin 30 days after they graduate high school (or on their18th birthday if they are not enrolled in high school).   This would not be a military draft, although the military is one place a person might choose to do service.  Other venues might include:
·      Peace Corps and other federal service organizations
·      State and National Parks
·      Hospitals (janitorial and other duties, such as the old “candy striper” assignments)
·      Schools (janitorial and other duties)
·      Infrastructure (highway repair and maintenance of other state/national infrastructure)
·      Retirement homes and senior home care
·      Community-based volunteer organizations
·      Volunteer fire departments
·      Apprenticeships with key employers in the community
            In every case, the individual Service Learner would be required to work at least 20 hours a week, for which they would receive hourly wages.  In addition, service learners in a given community would meet together, with adult leadership, as part of a community-based service learning group to share their experiences.  They would also be encouraged to take at least two technical training courses or college courses (online or at a local college) during the year.  Costs for these courses would be paid as part of their compensation during the service learning year and could later be applied toward a certificate or degree. 
            Some costs could be funded by the organizations in which Service Learners work, including companies that offer apprenticeships.  Other costs—training and education—would be paid out of federal vocational and higher education scholarship funds.
            Ideally, the Service Learning Year would be seen as an extension of high school—a transitional experience for citizens as they learn about their role as adults in a community and, at the same time, begin to develop occupational and academic skills that will carry on into a more formal work or higher education experience.  Key elements are to develop occupational skills, but also to give young people the experience of being part of a working community before they go on to college or other pursuits.   The Obama administration has already proposed that the first year of community college education be free to qualified students.  This is a variation on that idea, but one that would be available to all young citizens as they turn 18 and that would provide, for some, a transition from school to work; for others, it would be an introduction to career options that they can move on to develop through higher education; and, for everyone, it would provide an introduction to adult membership in the community.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Rerum Novarum: Then and Now

In May 1891, Pope Leo XIII opened a new chapter in the mission of the Catholic Church when he issued an open letter entitled Rerum Novarum—Of New Things.  The letter dealt with the Church’s position on an issue of increasing global concern:  the dangers of unregulated Capitalism.   Much of the Western world was still in the throes of the Industrial Revolution.  Capitalism was in full flower, and other beliefs—the labor movement, Socialism, Communism—were developing in response to it.  The letter addressed the responsibilities of Capitalists to the larger community.
            Under the banner, “The Rights and Responsibilities of Capital and Labor,” the Pope noted:
. . . some opportune remedy must be found quickly for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class: for the ancient workingmen's guilds were abolished in the last century, and no other protective organization took their place. Public institutions and the laws set aside the ancient religion. Hence, by degrees it has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hardheartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition. The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different guise, but with like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men. To this must be added that the hiring of labor and the conduct of trade are concentrated in the hands of comparatively few; so that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the laboring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself. 

            The Pope argued that the remedy proposed by the new Socialist movement—to renounce private property—was not ethical, as it “would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community” and that “Socialists, therefore, by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner, since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life.”
            Instead, the Pope called for a regulated approach to Capitalism that protected the worker and the Capitalist.  He wrote, “ . . . the first thing of all to secure is to save unfortunate working people from the cruelty of men of greed, who use human beings as mere instruments for money-making. It is neither just nor human so to grind men down with excessive labor as to stupefy their minds and wear out their bodies.”  He added, “ . . . wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner.  If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice.”  He argued that unions were a proper mechanism for ensuring that workers receive proper compensation and conditions for their work, comparing them to medieval guilds.
            One hundred and twenty-four years later, the Pope’s words continue to ring true.  The Information Revolution and the resulting globalization of capitalism have pretty much destroyed the ideal of community in many industries.  No longer do bosses and workers live in the same physical community, dependent one another for services outside the workplace.  At the same time, globalization—in the form of a global business supply chain—has diminished the impact of community on workers themselves.   In the process, greed becomes less tangible when the boss never even sees his workers and the workers have no relationship with their bosses outside work, not even a shared culture.
            For centuries, greed has been a “deadly sin” in the Christian community.  It was Christ, after all, who said that it is easier to put a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. The issue goes well beyond money.  It speaks to our respect for each other across social classes, for sure, but also across significant cultural divides in this new global economy.  What Pope Leo XIII did 124 years ago set a new direction for the Catholic Church at the height of the Industrial Revolution.  The question for today is whether we can re-invigorate the Rerum Novarum as both an individual morality and a societal ethic that will guide us through the dangerous waters in what has yet to take shape as a new social order.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

AAUW Used Book Sale: A College Town Tradition

Yesterday marked the end of this year’s AAUW Book Sale, one of the great college town events in State College.   We went several times, buying books at each stop, including half-price day and three bags full on the last day-- Bag Day.   In the end, we refreshed our library with novels by Jorge Amado, Walter Mosley, James Lee Burke, and others, memoirs by Joan Baez,  Dan Rather and Alan Alda, short story collections, an early twentieth century collection of folk music from the Kentucky hills, and a cookbook, among other finds. 
            The AAUW sale has been a tradition in our family since our undergraduate days.  It was founded 54 years ago, initially operating out of a public meeting room in the Methodist church.  It moved to the Penn State HUB student union in the late 1960s and, eventually, took up residence in the new Agricultural Arena out by Beaver Stadium.  Today, it is one of the largest sales of its type on the East Coast, attracting 9,000 book buyers last year. 
            This year, State College residents donated 200,000 books for the sale.   There were tables of biographies, hardcover and paperback fiction, literature, social sciences, history, languages, children’s books, cookbooks, religion, humor, hobbies, travel, philosophy, science fiction, and at least four tables of mystery novels.  There was also a section for CD’s and DVD’s, a couple of tables for old collectibles and, in another room, a  group of rare books.  A student organization managed a food counter that included hot dogs (with and without sauerkraut), pastries, coffee and soft drinks and, a special treat, Penn State Creamery ice cream.   The event covered the entire Ag Arena floor.
            The four-day event was organized by the AAUW, which will soon start collecting books for the 2016 sale.  It is a year-long effort involving 250 volunteers who sort through donated books, organizing and pricing them, and then managing the sale itself.  The sale raises money to support scholarships for young women whose education has been interrupted but who want to return to school to finish their degrees.  It also supports a variety of national and local AAUW initiatives, including other local educational and library projects.
            We’ve never missed the sale since we discovered it around 1970.  Even when we moved to Maryland, we always came back for the AAUW Book Sale.  It is not only an opportunity to find some new books, but provides a chance to see old friends, discover new writers, and enjoy being part of a community.  I am always excited when I come across books from the libraries of faculty members with whom I studied as a student.  This year, for instance, I saw a copy of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas with a note inside that English professor Thomas Rogers bought it in London in 1951. 
             AAUW groups in other college towns also organize annual book sales in their communities. Needless to say, we will be recycling some of our new finds by dropping them off at the AAUW book collection site in the coming months, helping to feed the sale for next year.  The sale is a great tradition that captures the true spirit of a university community.   I hope continues to thrive for many years to come.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Building Cross-Generational Neighborhoods

In the aftermath of the Baltimore riots, the New York Times published a piece by David Brooks called “The Nature of Poverty”  in which he noted that the solution to the poverty and hopelessness that underpinned the riots was not simply in more jobs or more money.  The real barriers to mobility,” he wrote, lie in “the quality of relationships in a home and a neighborhood that either encourage or discourage responsibility, future-oriented thinking, and practical ambition.”   Brooks also paraphrases Jane Jacobs, noting that “a healthy neighborhood is like a ballet, a series of intricate interactions in which people are regulating each other and encouraging certain behaviors.”
            “Until the invisible bonds of relationships are repaired,” Brooks concluded, “life for too many will be nasty, brutish, solitary and short.”
            What do we do? 
            Many decades ago, anthropologists noted that humans tend to gather in three-generation households and that a primary role for the grandparent is to pass along the basic ideals and mores of their culture.  Grandparents, the thinking goes, are why we have civilization.  That basic familial structure seems to have eroded across American society, and especially so in our poor urban neighborhoods.   The question must be asked:  What can we do to re-energize the three-generation social unit in these neighborhoods?
            Perhaps a hint can be found in the Occupy movement. In Present Shock Douglas Rushkoff noted that this social movement, which gained national attention by publicly demonstrating against the economic excesses of the military-industrial complex, is like “a form of play that . . . is successful the more people get to play and the longer the game is kept going.”  It also has elements of the “free university” movement of Boomer days: 
“Both online and offline spaces consist largely of teach-ins about the issues they are concerned with.  Young people teach one another or invite guests to lecture them about subjects such as how the economy works, the disconnection of investment banking from the economy of goods and services, possible responses to mass foreclosure, the history of centralized interest-bearing currency, and even best practices for civil disobedience.” (p. .58)

            Imagine a similar not as a short-term protest, but as an ongoing cross-generational engagement within neighborhoods.  The goal would be to use current issues to stimulate inter-generational conversations about a wide range of topics, from the kinds of personal skills usually passed down by parents and grandparents to understanding the impact of broad social issues on the local neighborhood.  The purpose would be to rebuild a sustainable cross-generation conversation that is essential to guiding young people into a vital community life.   An approach like this would need a home base and governance structure that would help ensure its long-term stability in the neighborhood, one that guaranteed that everyone’s issues get discussed, but that also pushes to consensus and, where needed, action. 
            Such an approach would not replace the family structure, but should be designed to complement it, guaranteeing that young people have access to conversation with neighbors of other generations who can form a kind of extended family within the neighborhood.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Fifty Years of Public Broadcasting: Celebrating the Anniversary of Penn State Public Broadcasting

Fifty Years of Public Broadcasting:
Celebrating the Anniversary of Penn State Public Broadcasting


David L. Phillips and Gary Miller

NOTE: The following is the script for a talk presented by
David Phillips and Gary Miller in February 2015 at the
Central Pennsylvania Torch Club.

GARY:  Introduction
         This year—on March 1, in fact—WPSU-TV is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary of providing public and educational television to viewers here in Central Pennsylvania and, through, its productions, across the state and, in some cases, the nation.  Both Dave Phillips and I were involved in the station’s work during its first twenty years—Dave as a director of operations and the station’s second general manager.  We’d like to talk tonight about those early years and where public broadcasting is today.
         Penn State has had a long history with educational media and public broadcasting.  Very early on—in the 1920s—Penn State experimented with broadcasting courses over the radio.  But it was at the Nittany Lion Inn back in 1953 that the federal government announced its decision to set aside bandwidth to support noncommercial educational television stations. That same year, WDFM went on the air as a nonprofit student-operated FM radio station. As early as the 1940s, Dr. Ray Carpenter had begun to research educational uses of film.   In the 1950s, he received a Ford Foundation grant to test the use of television to alleviate high-enrolling classes.  They set up an on-campus television network that connected 24 classrooms with one-way video and two—way audio. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s—when the GI Bill and the early Baby Boom generation were crowding its classrooms, Penn State also used television on campus to capture important course lectures and to distribute popular courses.  Dr. Kenneth Nelson taught Accounting 101 through this system for many years.  The Colleges of Engineering and Business routinely recorded  lectures from courses in the TV studio.  Students could then view these in the library or as part of their class sessions.  The University Division of Instructional Services grew up around these uses of media.
         In 1963, the federal government passed the Educational Facilities Act, which stimulated funding of new educational television stations.  During that time, the emphasis was on education; many stations focused on delivering videotaped lessons to K-12 classrooms.  In Nebraska, this involved broadcasting from an airplane to increase geographic coverage.
         In 1964, Penn State received a construction permit for what was then called WPSX-TV—which would become the nation’s 101st public television station.        
DAVE:  The Early history of WPSX
Gary mentioned Ray Carpenter, who was one of several people instrumental in getting WPSX started.  Others included Les Greenhill and Arthur Hungerford.  But the person who is most identified with the founding of WPSX is Marlowe Froke.  Marlowe came to Penn State in 1959 after having served as a news director for the Armed Forces Radio and Television service, as news director at KWAT-AM in Watertown, South Dakota, and news director at WGN radio and TV in Chicago.  He taught television news at the University of Illinois before coming here as associate professor of journalism.  In 1964, he was named the first Director of Broadcasting for WPSX-TV and devoted the rest of his long career to the development of educational and public media at Penn State.
         Gary also mentioned the construction permit for WPSX and makes getting a construction permit sound simple. It usually is, only in this case, it was anything but. 
         In the late 1950s, The FCC’s initial educational television allocation was for UHF channel 45. In the cities, that would work fine but in rural Pennsylvania the reach of UHF would encompass very few people.
         The largest area would be covered by a low-frequency VHF channel — channels 2 through 7 would be best. The limiting factor would be the required separation between stations to avoid what is referred to as co-channel interference. For our purposes, that would be approximately 120 air miles. So the engineers started measuring. Starting with Channel 2, they didn’t have far to go.  They found Channel 3 stations in Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Syracuse. They drew their 120-mile circles and –lo, and behold – they found a one-mile triangle on Penfield Mountain near Clearfield, Pennsylvania. Penn State requested allocation of Channel 3 and was granted permission to operate a remote studio. Which answers the perennial question of why Clearfield is identified as the station’s location.
         To digress for a moment: the other perennial question is why wasn’t it called WPSU in the first place. The answer is that a small junior college in northern Virginia already had those call letters and didn’t relinquish them until long after Gary and I were gone.
         Operating under a conditional license, the station finally went on the air on March 1, 1965. It operated initially only in the daytime, offering classroom supplementary materials to schools, which had banded together as the Allegheny Educational Broadcasting Council with the purpose of selecting and paying for the broadcast materials.
         On June 7, 1965, the evening schedule began. Remember – there were no live networks at that time. Programs were distributed by mail on film or the primitive version of videotape then available.
         Finally, on June 17, 1965, WPSX-TV received its full license to broadcast as the 101st educational television station.
         At that time, staffing was less than minimal. Everybody did a little of everything to keep on the air. There was no studio. Programs originated on film or videotape from our remote truck, which could operate two live cameras if the opportunity presented itself.
         Offices were in Wagner Building, which we shared with the ROTC and University Press.  Wagner Annex was under construction. It was basically an addition to the Wagner ROTC Armory. It would house a studio and control room.
         WPSX had an advantage of a rich source of programming utilizing Penn State’s faculty and staff. The first live program was actually a continuation of a program –  Farm, Home, and Garden  originated by Agricultural Extension and distributed via microwave to Channel 10 in Altoona. Later, a segment of that program featuring Penn State meteorologists was split off into its own 15-minute program called The State of the Weather/ Shape of the World.  It continues today as Weather/World.
         Our production resources at that time were minimal. We had two bulky black-and-white TV cameras, which required a crew of at least six people to operate. Or we had black-and-while film cameras, which required one person (or two, if we added audio). We also were fortunate to have a real, live documentarian on staff. His name was P. J. O’Connell. P. J. had a real gift for single camera, cinema verite style production – very intimate looks into the lives of people in central Pennsylvania.  Over the years, he and his team produced several series and specials that documented life in rural and small town central Pennsylvania communities.  Some examples:
·      NOTES ON AN AMERICAN BUSINESS—a documentary series about a smelting company in Mifflin County that, while PJ was filming, was working through a decision to relocate the company in the South.
·      THE SPIRIT OF PUNXSUTAWNEY—which took a close look at a small town newspaper—The Spirit—and its relationship to the community.
·      A TALE OF RELIANCE AND HOPE, the story of two Philipsburg area volunteer fire companies.
·      THE LAST PROUD DAYS OF ELSIE WOOSTER, which followed an elderly Central Pennsylvania woman as she prepared for her final journey.
·      VISITING WITH DARLENE, a series of observational documentaries that followed a poor Appalachian family in Blair County—who PJ re-visited a decade later.
Unfortunately, P..J. retired some years ago and was killed in a bicycle accident in Colorado.   I am happy to report that P.J.’s documentaries are still available through Media Sales at Penn State.
GARY:  Engaging the Community
         From the outset, WPSX-TV was committed to building bridges between the university and the communities that we served.  An early mission was to use Channel 3 to extend televised lessons to K-12 classrooms.  It was a partnership that involved the University, school districts throughout the area, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  Before the station even went on the air, Marlowe Froke met with the superintendents of the many school districts in the 29-country viewing area. They created a nonprofit organization—the Allegheny Educational Broadcast Council—AEBC—that was the liaison between the station and the schools.  Participating schools paid an annual membership fee that supported AEBC staff.  Every spring, representatives of the member schools met to review available programs and to match them with curricular needs across the K-12 curriculum.  WPSX then acquired the programs, with PDE funding, and broadcast them during the school year.
         Working with the AEBC and the PDE—and Penn State faculty—we also produced programs for K-12 teachers and students.  One example is Investigative Science for Elementary Education—a series of science demonstrations for grades1-3 developed with Dr. Paul Welliver of the College of Education.  Another popular series was What’s in the News, a weekly current events series that eventually was broadcast nationally and helped students understand current events.  The series was hosted originally by Stu Chamberlain, who went on to a career with ABC Radio in New York.  Today, many people remember Katie O’Toole’s long-standing role as host when the series went national.
         We also worked with faculty across the university to produce a wide range of instructional programs for adults, many in cooperation with the Cooperative Extension Service or various Penn State Colleges.  Topics were wide-ranging:  Beginning to Sew, Parenting, woodcarving, fly fishing,  etc.   Several college credit “tele-courses” were also developed, including Principles of Accounting, Business Logistics, and a collection of courses in the inter-disciplinary Science, Technology, and Society curriculum on topics like behavior modification, limits to resources, and bio-ethics.  These STS courses were part of a collaborative among faculty at Penn State, Temple University and the University of Pittsburgh.
         In the mid-1970s, the station joined a statewide Community Service project, broadcasting programs about community issues with supporting materials and, in some cases, organizing community meetings around those issues throughout the viewing area.  Examples include:  Small Town Repair Kit, FoodSense, To Age is Human, and a series of national specials on major diseases.  These projects often involved community organizations around the viewing area and local Penn State campuses, which organized local community meetings.   We also arranged for Penn State faculty to travel to libraries around the viewing area to give lectures on programs of historical and literary interest, which helped not only to generate audiences for the shows but to create new demand for related books in local libraries. 
DAVE:  Connections:  Statewide, Regional, and National Networks
I mentioned earlier that in 1965 there were no “live” networks. Each station was its own fiefdom and served its area as best it could under its educational license. But even then, many station managers recognized the value – even the necessity – for co-operative programming and co-operative planning for growth beyond the confines of an “educational” designation.
         The early distribution of programs was facilitated by the Educational Radio and Television Center, later National Educational Television Center or NET. Stations that produced program series would offer them to the other station and NET would organize copying and delivery, very much the way it worked for years in educational radio.
         One of the early efforts to be more pro-active in planning and producing programs was EEN – the Eastern Educational Television Network. It included a mix of stations from small ones like State College to ambitious and well-funded stations in places like Boston, New York, Washington, DC, and Chicago. They saw the wisdom of pooling resources to improve quality – and it would be best, of course, if that pooling was done at their stations.
         In 1967, the public television movement was gaining traction, which also provided the basis for a different kind of network in Pennsylvania. WPSX and WITF-TV in Hershey established microwave interconnection that allowed us to extend the reach of our local shows, while demonstrating the power of a more networked system.  This helped to create a rationale for the creation of the Pennsylvania Public Television Network.  PPTN was a co-operative of the seven stations in the Commonwealth. Although it talked a good game about public affairs programming that would expose citizens to the working of government, etc., it s two main goals were to (1) provide a live interconnection of the station, and (2) – most importantly – provide subsidies to all seven stations to ease their fund-raising needs.  This strategy worked well for more than 15 years until state budget concerns and the stations’ successes ended the largess.
         As I said, the public television movement was moving ahead nationally and became a reality in 1967 with the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, although it wasn’t until two years later, in 1969, that PBS was created to manage the programming on the new public television interconnection. Although early proponents envisioned CPB and PBS as clones of Britain’s BBC, which is funded by a tax on TV sets, Congress had other ideas and has kept tight reign on government funds going into the system. There are periodic attempts by legislators to eliminate funding for CPB and PBS, saying the public should fund “public” broadcasting, but viewers of signature programs like “Sesame Street” have prevailed to this point.
GARY:   New Delivery Environments: Satellite and Cable TV
         In the mid-1970s, WPSX joined an experiment called the Appalachian Educational Satellite Project (AESP).  Funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission, AESP used an experimental communications satellite to deliver teacher education courses, nursing courses, and other professional education and training resources to the otherwise isolated communities up and down the Appalachian chain.   Then, in 1978, the first information revolution happened when PBS shifted to satellite to deliver its national program service.  Not only could every station receive programs from the network, but stations could also uplink programs to the network.  Having a national satellite network stimulated several important innovations.  For instance, in 1980 university-owned stations created the National University Teleconference Network, which allowed us to share live television seminars with other universities—essentially offering national conferences.  The first national satellite conference from WPSX gave faculty in Nuclear Engineering the opportunity to share with their colleagues around the country video from the damaged Three Mile Island nuclear reactor.  PBS used the system to create the PBS Adult Learning Service, which made video-based credit courses available to stations—and local colleges and universities-- nationally.  Then, Walter Annenberg gave the Corporation for Public Broadcasting $150 million to fund the creation of postsecondary video courses rooted in national-quality television series on a wide range of topics.  The CPB/Annenberg Project—supported by PBS Adult Learning Service— brought many colleges and universities around the country into a new era of extending access to education for adult, part-time learners. 
         Around the same time, cable television was maturing.  For cable television operators, satellite meant that they could capture and re-distribute signals well beyond their local area.  In Pennsylvania, a group of cable operators worked with WPSX and others at Penn State to create PENNARAMA, which was envisioned as a statewide educational delivery system.  WPSX managed the service, which essentially meant programming a second 24-hour channel that offered credit courses and other educational programs.
DAVE:  Today’s Public Media Environment:  Multiple Channels
         Back then, programming a second channel was a big deal. In today’s digital world, three or more channels are the norm.
         WPSU-TV, for example, has its main channel with sufficient bandwidth to provide high-definition television. It also has two sub-channels: one is called Create, and provides a mix of arts and crafts and cooking programs that have been a mainstay of programming since the days of Julia Child and Bob Ross, the guy who paints “happy little trees” with spatulas. The second channel – The World –  features public affairs, science, and general interest programming.
         Likewise, WPSU-FM has its main channel and two sub-channels on HD FM, giving the community access not only to classical music, but also jazz and news radio.
         At the same time, the new technology provides PBS with the means to by-pass the stations by creating their own cable channels such as PBS Sprout, which is a network of children’s programming, and PBS Online, an internet based channel that includes access to past programs such as Masterpiece Theatre, Nova, and Live at Lincoln Center.  PBS  also has an online repository of programs that meet K-12 education goals and that can be downloaded by classroom teachers.
GARY:  Public TV Today
         Over the past half century, public broadcasting has seen many changes.  Certainly, it has had to adjust to incredible changes in technology—from the early days of black and white television programs recorded on two-inch-wide videotape to microwave and satellite delivery and, most recently, the Internet. 
         But a lot has stayed the same.  It was created at the beginning of the Information Revolution, stimulated in part by the government’s response to the Cold War—the Sputnik challenge to improve American education, especially in science.  It operates today in a media-rich Information Society, where education is again becoming an important societal issue as “STEM”—science, technology, engineering, and math—skills have emerged as essential skills to helping our communities maintain their competitive edge in an increasingly global economy.
         What hasn’t changed is the importance of the “public” in public broadcasting—what is now probably better-called “public media.”   These things tend to work in cycles, and we’ve gone from a period of high public investment through federal and state budgets to public investment by individuals who use public media’s resources and foundations and businesses that grant funds for specific programs.  Today, we are again seeing government interest in using public media for education.  
         What has remained the same, though, is a commitment to engaging and working with local communities.