Friday, November 6, 2009

Penn State's Online Program Wins Top Award

The Sloan Consortium, an association of accredited educational institutions offering online degree programs, named a Penn State master's program in Geographic Information Systems the 2009 Most Outstanding Online Teaching and Learning Program. The degree is offered through Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at the University Park campus.

The award was presented October 29 at the 15th Sloan-C International Conference in Orlando, Florida, and honored the school "for creating and sustaining the foremost online graduate program for current and aspiring geospatial professionals."

"Our online geographic information systems programs are designed to meet the education needs of working GIS professionals," said David DiBiase, faculty coordinator of the Department of Geography's GIS postbaccalaureate certificates and master's degree programs.

According to officials at Penn State, “GIS professionals use computer technologies to visualize, analyze and display data. They work in local government, environmental engineering and resource management, utilities, transportation planning, emergency management and homeland security, and many other fields.”

DiBiase noted that about 500,000 people use GIS as part of their jobs and this is increasing at 15 percent a year. To make its GIS program available online, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences partnered with Penn State's World Campus, the online "campus" for distance-based learners. Since developing its first online GIS certificate program in 1999, the Department of Geography has expanded its GIS offerings to 26 online courses. To date, the department has awarded nearly 1,300 GIS certificates and 55 Master of GIS degrees.

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