Online Delivery Options

So how are online courses delivered at our University? What does “e-learning” course mean? It depends!

There are three primary ways that online courses and programs are offered at Penn State:

1. “WEB” Courses

When an academic department offers a course in a 100% online format to its own residential students, the course is designated as a “WEB” course on that campus’ Schedule of Courses. WEB courses have no meeting times or dates since 100% of the course is delivered online.

2. Penn State World Campus

Penn State launched Penn State World Campus in 1998 in order to make online courses available to students beyond our campuses’ reach. Today, the World Campus specializes in serving adult learners. More than 130 degrees and certificate programs are available via partnerships between World Campus and University academic units. Penn State policy AD-55 describes the role of the World Campus in delivering online educational programming off-campus. For more information, see the World Campus section of this website.

3. Digital Learning Cooperative (previously known as the “e-Learning Coop”)

The Digital Learning Cooperative (DLC) is a mechanism for sharing courses between physical Penn State campuses. While the courses being shared are often 100% online, the DLC is not connected with the World Campus in any way. Video courses, hybrid courses, flex courses, and other delivery types are permitted to be shared via the DLC. The Digital Learning Cooperative website is a seat reservation system used by schedulers at Penn State campuses. One campus serves as the “offering” campus by making spaces in one of its courses available to other campuses to “receive.” Via this seat exchange, campuses can schedule courses for students in residence at other Penn State Campus locations. Each campus controls the schedule of courses made available to students at their campus. For more information, see the Digital Learning Cooperative’s “Frequently Asked Questions.”

Additional Course Formats
Of course, online learning can take place in other ways, as well. Short courses and workshops, for example, that are offered as University outreach might include online components. “Hybrid” courses are becoming increasingly popular as well, combining traditional classroom-based instruction with online instruction.



MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are a valuable addition to online learning at Penn State. MOOCs are online courses that are made available to anyone on the Internet, typically without charge. Course lengths vary but usually last only 4 or 5 weeks. Participants in a single MOOC can number in the tens of thousands! Because of these large course sizes, direct engagement with the MOOC instructor can be limited, and assessments tend to be automated or utilize a peer review process. Unless special arrangements are made with a given institution, participants do not typically earn academic credits upon completion.

Why MOOCs? As a University, we desire to accomplish the following:

  • Increase Penn State’s visibility and global brand
  • Showcase key academic strengths and outstanding faculty
  • Test the Coursera and FutureLearn course platform capability to engage large audiences of learners and apply our learning to all course designs
  • Reinforce Penn State’s leadership in online education
  • Evaluate capability in providing access to high demand courses
  • Extend Penn State content and expertise to internal and external audiences to address key societal issues
  • Address Penn State student needs, such as college preparation or remediation
  • Increase visibility of World Campus courses and programs, and drive enrollments to specific programs

There are two platform options at Penn State for offering MOOCs, Coursera and FutureLearn.

Coursera: In 2013, Penn State began offering MOOCs with Coursera, an educational technology company developed by Stanford professors. This platform provides online courses, specialization certificates and degrees to students at a cost of $29-99 per course. Courses run between 4-6 weeks and include recorded video lectures, auto-graded and peer reviewed assignments and community discussion forums. Coursera also offers students access to course mentors and a learner support team to facilitate learning.

FutureLearn: In 2017, Penn State expanded its MOOC offerings by partnering with FutureLearn. FutureLearn is a UK-based digital education platform which offers free online courses. Students are able to purchase certificates of achievement at 39 Pounds (approximately $50 depending upon current currency rates) to document their completion of courses, programs, and degrees. Courses range between 2-8 weeks and involve a storytelling component that includes videos and interactive quizzes to gauge understanding. This platform focuses on facilitating social learning through discussion in context and community-supported learning.

Penn State currently has MOOCs running on both platforms.  If you are interested in offering a MOOC, please complete the MOOC Proposal Form.

If you have additional questions about offering a MOOC, please contact Traci Piazza,

Identifying Online Courses for Student Registration
In recent years, the University has determined standard formats for indicating whether a course is delivered fully or partially online in a campus’ Schedule of Courses. See the University Undergraduate Advising Handbook for more information regarding “WEB” and “AND WEB” (e.g., hybrid) notations (these designations go in a course’s “Meeting Time” field in the Schedule of Courses). Need help with how to accomplish this in ISIS? See

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