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GCAC-213 Residency and Related Policies for Off-Campus Degree Programs


The intent of this document is to encourage creative ways of addressing student and community needs in off-campus graduate degree programs, while ensuring that such graduate degree programs maintain academic standards parallel to those of more traditional programs. For the five essential elements of residency, alternative techniques and technologies are suggested as ways of providing in off-campus graduate degree programs benefits comparable to traditional residency.

Element 1: Interaction between faculty members and students above and beyond direct instruction

The objectives of out-of-class interaction include socializing students to their professional fields, providing a broad exposure to developments in the disciplines, supporting the students in their academic programs and career and professional development, and building a community of scholars and professionals. On campus, these objectives are typically met through advising sessions with faculty members and through participation in a variety of informal and formal events in which students and faculty can share ideas and experiences.

Techniques for achieving interaction include

Mentoring, academic counseling, and career counseling. Faculty members can offer one-to-one advice and counsel on a range of academic and professional issues beyond the scope of a specific course. Advisers can provide academic and career-related counseling.

Off-campus example: Mentoring and counseling can be conducted via a variety of means assisted by technology, including email, audioconference, or videoconference. If a course uses interactive video, the faculty member can arrange for the video connection to remain open after class to permit video-based office hours.

Open discussions. Faculty members can arrange for open discussion of ideas and issues related to the professional field but not limited to specific course content. Discussions can be moderated or unmoderated.

Off-campus example: Open discussions can be conducted in real-time chat areas online or as threaded (topic-specific) discussions using online conferencing applications or social media. They can also be conducted via audioconference or videoconference, for example.

Non-class lectures and seminars. Lectures and departmental or interdepartmental seminars presented by other faculty members or visiting scholars offer students opportunities to interact with faculty representing a range of knowledge and perspectives.

Off-campus example: Technology-assisted conferencing via a variety of means (e.g., audiconference, videoconference, podcast) allows faculty members to provide off-campus students opportunities to interact with specialists from either the campus or around the world. The guest speaker can provide an advance set of readings for discussion or make an online presentation, then be available to answer questions or participate in online discussions over a period of several days.

Element 2: Interaction between peers (i.e., among students in a given program)

The primary objective of interaction among students in a given program is to permit students to share and benefit from the diverse social and educational experiences other students bring into the program. In a resident program the students are able to benefit socially and educationally from interaction and shared experiences in classes as well as other activities, including student- and campus-sponsored events and organizations. Resident students also have the advantage of exposure to interaction with students in other disciplines on campus through classes and campus events.

Techniques for achieving this type of interaction include

Collaborative work groups. Group or team projects allow students to pool their varied knowledge, skills, and experiences in solving a content-based problem or in developing a course-specific project. Collaborative groups can be monitored or facilitated by a faculty member or graduate teaching assistant.

Off-campus example: Technology can be used to connect and support synchronous or asynchronous group collaboration on case-study preparation, project development, class presentations, etc. Videoconferencing and audioconferencing, for example, can connect students at different sites for real-time development and presentation of a variety of collaborative projects including debates and panel presentations.

Peer counseling. Senior graduate students can provide advice on academic issues such as preparation for exams and administrative procedures. They can also provide important support for less-experienced students by offering encouragement and advice relating to the challenges of juggling multiple roles and responsibilities.

Off-campus example: A variety of technology-assisted media can provide students in a program with synchronous or asynchronous opportunities to interact with other students who have successfully coped with a variety of graduate student experiences. Interactions can also be scheduled via videoconference or telephone conversations.

Discipline-based student clubs and inter-disciplinary social organizations. Student clubs give graduate students in a particular field of study an opportunity to meet and mix with peers who share similar academic interests and goals. Organizations that include graduate students from a range of disciplines offer a chance to socialize or otherwise interact with peers representing a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

Off-campus example: Students can use technology to form discussion groups based on mutual interests, whether academic or social. Social media sites can support the exchange of information among students interested in a particular area of study or in a particular hobby or pastime.

Element 3: Meaningful engagement with libraries, laboratories, and research facilities

The objective of meaningful engagement with libraries, laboratories, and research facilities is to expand the educational experiences afforded to the students beyond what can be provided by instructors. For most resident students, this provision can be assumed because graduate programs are generally structured around information resources available on the campus on which the program originates.

Techniques for achieving this access include

Providing access to content experts other than the program's instructors. Inviting guest lecturers to a class or outside experts to campus to offer seminars or workshops enriches the learning experience by providing other perspectives on or extended knowledge of topics or subject areas.

Off-campus example: A variety of means assisted by technology, such as videoconferencing, for example, offer ways to connect students directly to extra-institutional content experts. Online seminars and workshops with experts around the world, structured and facilitated by the instructor, greatly expand the geographic range from which these experts can be drawn.

Providing access to a broad range of discipline-specific and interdisciplinary resources. Libraries and other repositories of information complement the information and knowledge provided in the classroom. From these and other sources students gather the raw materials they need to develop a personal knowledge base and a coherent approach to their field of study.

Off-campus example: DVDs, online searches, and electronic connections to library and other data collections offer access to vast collections of data and information. Course Home Pages can offer course-specific resources or direct students to related sources of information. Students can combine these resources with others available onsite and with course content to enhance learning and expand their knowledge base.

Providing access to research facilities. Research projects introduce students to the ways in which knowledge in their fields is constructed and validated. The research process gives students a way to participate in the discovery of new knowledge and opportunities to integrate what is learned in the classroom with what is learned empirically.

Off-campus example: Often students in off-campus programs are pursuing professional master’s degrees in a field in which they are currently employed. In such cases, their work environment offers opportunities both for conducting original research and for putting the results of that research into practice. Such "situated" research and practice provides an excellent way for students to integrate classroom knowledge with new knowledge gained from research and practice.

Element 4: Exposure to and socialization in the field of study, including but not limited to seminar series, workshops, research exhibitions, discussions with professional peers, informal departmental activities, and other shared experiences

The objective of exposure to and socialization in the field of study is to provide students with a range of educational experiences that introduce them to the language and issues of their disciplines. Seminar series, workshops, research exhibitions, discussions with professional peers, informal departmental activities, and other shared experiences serve this purpose for resident students.

Techniques for achieving this socialization include

Seminars. Seminars can introduce students to current issues of research and/or practice and provide a forum for interaction with colleagues within the student's field.

Off-campus example: Groups of peers can use a variety of means assisted by technology to discuss a seminar topic introduced by an outside expert or a member of the group. Discussion can be synchronous or, carried out over a period of days.

Skill-enhancement workshops. Workshops on specific aspects of professional practice, such as writing for publication or designing effective conference presentations, offer students opportunities to build skills necessary to actively contribute to their fields.

Off-campus example: Faculty or practicing professionals can present skills workshops via a variety of means assisted by technology, including audioconference, videoconference, or podcasts, for example. Depending on the requirements of the content, both presentation and interaction can be either synchronous or asynchronous.

Research displays. Exhibitions or displays of in-process or completed research allow students to get an overview of the types and areas of investigation being conducted in their fields. These activities can facilitate networking with those who share students' research interests or suggest possible directions for personal research.

Off-campus example: Students can develop multimedia "poster sessions" of their research for display in cyberspace. They can also view the results of others' research and react to/discuss the displays over a period of days or weeks via a variety of means assisted by technology.

Discussions with professional peers. Discussion with peers at conferences or other meetings of discipline-related professional groups allows students to exchange ideas and network with practicing professionals in their fields.

Off-campus example: Off-campus students can be encouraged to participate in regional and/or national conferences and professional society meetings in their geographic areas. Additionally, faculty members can structure and facilitate student participation in the online pre- and post-conference discussions that are associated with many academic conferences.

Element 5: Providing adequate and individualized academic advising

The objective of providing adequate and individualized academic advising is to ensure that students are receiving the guidance and personal support required to complete their programs in a successful and timely manner. Resident students can take advantage of their presence on campus to schedule meetings with program advisers or career counselors, if necessary.

Techniques for achieving this support include

Meetings with an academic adviser. Academic advisers offer guidance in establishing and completing a course of study that reflects a student's academic goals. Faculty members or student support staff can notify students of and explain departmental and institutional policies that govern advanced academic programs.

Off-campus example: Faculty or staff advisers can conduct individual academic counseling sessions via a variety of means assisted by technology (audioconference, videoconference, social media, etc.). General policies and procedures should be posted on program websites for access at the students’ convenience, and support related to administrative functions (registration, payments, grades, etc.) should be available online as well as by telephone or email. The faculty member with general responsibility for the off-campus program should be available by telephone or email during specified “office hours” to answer questions or direct students to the right source of information about broader issues relating to a student's program.

Meetings with a career counselor. Career counselors provide advice relating to entry into or advancement in fields related to the student's course of study.

Off-campus example: Students at remote sites can meet with career counselors in a variety of ways assisted by technology, including telephone, email, or videoconferencing sessions. General information such as position listings, information for developing resumes, tips for job interviews, etc., should be posted on program websites for access at the students’ convenience.

Further Information

A glossary of terms related to e-learning and distance education is available through the World Campus website.

Revision History

This page was generated on June 16, 2024 at 5:02 PM local time. This may not be the most recent version of this page. Check the Penn State Graduate School website for updates.