Working with the World Campus

Faculty members interested in working with the World Campus should first discuss the idea with their department head, associate dean, or dean. World Campus evaluates all program ideas through a proven multi-step program proposal process that helps to ensure good decisions are made for all parties.

If you have a question or have an undergraduate or graduate degree or certificate idea to propose for World Campus delivery, please contact the appropriate World Campus Director/Associate Director, per the list found on the Program Intake Form page.

World Campus Administrative Manual
World Campus Accessibility Office

The World Campus Accessibility Office specializes in accessibility issues in online courses. Our goals include facilitating compliance with Penn State policy and U.S. legal accessibility standards, providing leadership in identifying and implementing best practices in accessibility, coordinating academic accommodations, working with external vendors to provide accessible versions of media, preparing faculty and student training materials, conducting and disseminating informal research and experience in accessibility of online courses, and identifying and addressing access challenges specific to special audiences such as the military.

We are creating staff training and faculty development resources that may assist you in preparing accessible online courses. We are also available to provide presentations and consultation on the topic of accessibility, as well as individual accessibility reviews of online courses.

  • For more information about the World Campus Accessibility Office, contact Anita Colyer Graham.

For information about Penn State accessibility and usability in general, visit the Penn State AccessAbility website.

Proposing a Program Idea

Penn State World Campus reviews program ideas via a multi-step process, which has been continuously refined to ensure that good decisions are made. This has brought structure, thoroughness, rigor, risk analysis, and financial responsibility to the program selections process. As a result, more than 95 percent of the programs selected have been productive in terms of enrollment and financial criteria for both the academic partner and the World Campus.

Origination of Ideas

Program ideas for World Campus typically originate from one or more of three sources. These include:

  • Academic Units: Faculty members, department heads, and deans may propose a program idea to World Campus.
  • World Campus: Some ideas are generated through day-to-day discussions among World Campus staff around the curriculum of undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs offered by the World Campus. These discussions can reveal holes in the curriculum as well as points of synergy.
  • Market Scans: Outreach Marketing Research completes market scans for World Campus on a regular basis. Changing employment trends and hiring patterns can suggest emerging markets and the need for new programs.

World Campus Administrative Manual

The purpose of this manual is to guide World Campus administrative practices and to communicate information about those practices to Academic Partners and the University community as a whole. The dynamic nature of distance teaching and learning makes the process of establishing and documenting appropriate procedures and standards challenging. In this environment, procedures and standards of necessity change rapidly and repeatedly to reflect new and developing technologies, innovations, services, and expectations. In order to ensure a dynamic response to changing conditions, the material presented here will be reviewed and revised regularly in collaboration with the Penn State Online Steering Committee.

View/download the World-Campus-Administrative-Manual

1: Initial Program Idea Assessment

Initial Assessment

The Program Planning and Management (PP&M) unit within the World Campus is responsible for leading the review of new programs. They have the authority to make an initial assessment based upon past experience and the below program selection criteria, which were among the first guiding elements developed following the creation of the World Campus in 1997.

Six areas of focus in World Campus Program Selection Criteria:

  • Academic Reputation
  • Academic Readiness
  • Appropriate Technology
  • Sustainable Market
  • Income Potential
  • Scalability

These criteria are applied irrespective of whether the program idea originated from an academic unit or within the World Campus, and they weigh heavily throughout the review process. When program ideas are first proposed, PP&M uses this criteria to identify programs that are unlikely to progress through more rigorous review. For example, the proposed program may be the idea of one faculty member and with no apparent interest among colleagues. Or, the idea may fall outside of the four major areas of interest among adults pursuing online education: Business, Education, Health, and Technology.

2: Academic Unit Consultation

Early and earnest consultation with other academic units and groups of faculty who deliver similar programs in residence or have related scholarly interest is a requirement. The Graduate School, for example, has mandated that competing online degree programs will not be approved, and the World Campus does not want to compete with itself in marketing degree and certificate programs. Hence, it is very likely that delivery of a program via the World Campus will be a collaborative effort across colleges and campuses, with revenue shared among those partners, even when the idea is initiated by just one academic unit. Collaboration adds academic diversity to a program and is a great advantage in dealing with faculty capacity as program enrollment grows.

Program ideas that are not ready to move forward are tabled for possible reconsideration in the future.

After initial review by Program Planning and Management and the identification of academic partners, the review of a program idea progresses through a series of internal steps.

3: Program Intake Form

For program ideas that clear initial review by Program Planning and Management, the program champion (typically a faculty member, professor in charge, department/division head) is identified and asked to work with colleagues to complete a short Program Intake Form.

Individuals having an interest in proposing an idea should contact the appropriate Director/Associate Director, per the following list:

Arts and Architecture, Communications, Liberal Arts

Amanda Mulfinger, Director of Academic Affairs

Agricultural Sciences, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Law, Medicine, Science, Undergraduate Business

Traci Piazza, Director of Academic Affairs

Engineering, Health and Human Development, Information Sciences and Technology,

Public Affairs                                                                                             

Sonya Leitzell, Director of Academic Affairs 

Education, Graduate Business

Shubha Kashyap, Director of Academic Affairs 


Stephanie Russell, Associate Director of Academic Affairs

4: Market Research

To determine the viability of a proposed program, Outreach Market Research typically conducts a market analysis. The Intake Form completed by the academic unit is a key piece of information used in planning the market analysis. Four key factors are typically assessed in the market analysis:

  • economic trends,
  • demographic trends,
  • program demand, and
  • competition.

Depending on the proposed program, other factors may need to be considered.

The typical World Campus student is an adult learner, often working full-time and having family obligations that make education in traditional settings a challenge. In most cases they are location-bound—unable or unwilling to relocate to continue their education. Most adult learners are seeking education programs that advance them in their careers or help them pursue a new career. For that reason, the market analysis focuses on the occupations and careers that are related to the proposed program.

Economic Trends

The economic trends that are assessed may include related occupational employment and growth, industry demand for education and training, and new and emerging technologies that may drive the need for education and training. A target audience is developed, which comprises the occupations that would derive the most benefit from completing the proposed program. In addition, career pipelines are used to determine the motivations and incentives that would drive the decision to enroll in that specific program. Industry demand for specific skills is often assessed by industry trends and advertised job openings. These needs are then compared with the curriculum of the proposed program to determine if they align.

Demographic Trends

Demographic trends such as retirement and turnover rates, educational attainment, average and median salary are reviewed to determine if there will be possible job openings for graduates, if there would be a significant number of individuals educationally prepared to enroll in the program, and if they have the ability to pay for their education. Gender, ethnicity, and residency status may also be significant factors, depending on the proposed program.

Program Demand

The number of awards conferred nationally for the proposed program, as well as the student pipeline, are assessed by looking at degrees awarded in the program area. The number of students completing programs is an indication of how many prospective students would potentially be interested in the program. In some cases, enrollment numbers are available and they would also be used to determine the popularity of a program. Programs that have very low conferral or enrollment rates are likely to have very small target audiences.


The number of institutions awarding credentials related to the proposed program is a good indicator of the level of competition. The more institutions offering the program, the more choices the target audience has for an education provider. An Internet search for online programs related to the proposed program is used to determine the key online competitors. Key competitor programs are reviewed for tuition, curriculum, credential being offered, admission requirements, and program features. The competitor programs are compared to the proposed program to determine if the proposed program would have a competitive advantage in the current market. In some cases, program ranking data is available and would also factor into the competitive assessment.

After compiling the market information, recommendations are made based on

  • the market potential for the program,
  • the ability to compete with similar offerings, and
  • the ability to reach and attract the target audience.

There is no set formula for a go/no-go decision. In some cases, other factors such as industry relationships, faculty expertise, and Penn State’s reputation may uniquely position the program, potentially making it more viable than the market would indicate. In these cases, the intake form can provide crucial information that can allow market research to make a more accurate assessment of the market.

5: Internal Review of Market Research

Evaluate Market Research

All market research on proposed programs is thoroughly reviewed prior to sharing it with academic partners in a meeting that includes the market researcher who completed the analysis, representatives from Outreach Marketing who will develop the marketing plan for the program if it moves forward, the World Campus program manager who will manage the program during development and delivery, and the respective DAA and other relevant staff.  The six areas of focus in World Campus Program Selection Criteria noted earlier are major points of discussion in this internal review.

6: Enrollment and Financial Analysis

The next two analysis steps have been added in recent years to improve the business rigor of the review process. In cases where the market analysis is positive, a multi-year enrollment and financial profile and a project management timeline are prepared.

Enrollment and Financial Profile

The enrollment and financial profile shows how enrollments and finances are anticipated to develop over an initial five or six year period. The market research and patterns of growth in similar programs offered via the World Campus are used to inform the development of enrollments. World Campus tuition rates and the University’s Gross Revenue Sharing Policy are used to predict total tuition income and revenue the academic units and World Campus should expect to receive if the enrollments materialize. The World Campus completes a further analysis for its own use that shows the resource investment it will need to make to deliver the program. The information in the profile facilitates a similar analysis by the academic partner(s).

7: Project Management Timeline

Project Management Timeline

Once the market research for a proposed program results in a positive forecast, World Campus program managers next develop a comprehensive project timeline. This initial draft details all of the tasks that will be involved in moving the program through development and into delivery, including curriculum review, roll-out activities, learning design plan, new faculty/instructor orientation, and much more.

8: Meeting with Academic Units

Upon completion of review activities, World Campus will meet with the academic unit(s) to review market research, the enrollment and financial profile, and the draft project timeline, leading to a joint decision on one of three paths forward.

  • “Yes” Decision – Move Forward
    A “Yes” decision leads to the World Campus program manager developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Academic Partner and the World Campus to offer the program and formally move it into planning, development, and delivery as detailed by the project timeline.
  • Need for Further Exploration – Pause to Review
    There may be the need to conduct more market research or consider new information before making a decision.
  • “No” Decision – Idea Tabled
    The joint decision may be not to move forward – to table the idea for a period of time. An example is a master’s degree idea that was tabled for five years to allow for the number of individuals with bachelor’s degrees to increase.
Where to Direct Questions

If you have a question or have an undergraduate or graduate degree or certificate idea to propose for World Campus delivery, please contact the appropriate World Campus Director/Associate Director, per the list found on the Program Intake Form page.

Gross Revenue Sharing
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