Before the pandemic made remote classrooms a necessity, the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn LPS Online virtual courses have been bringing together students of all ages, backgrounds and academic goals from all over the world to bring out the potential they all share.
Under the College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS), Penn LPS Online was launched in 2019, recognizing that a quality education can take place at any time of day, room of a building or phase of life. The curricula are thoughtfully designed by world-class faculty and professionals with relevant experience to meet the unique needs of working adults and nontraditional students alike, while its many courses, certificates and bachelor's program offer the flexibility to fit into a busy life while still delivering an Ivy League education’s satisfying challenge.
“We hear that [Penn LPS Online] programs are incredibly interesting because students really enjoy and are able to apply the curriculum,” says Kathy Urban, Director of Undergraduate Programs, of the various for-credit virtual offerings. “They’re able to learn something on Monday and apply it in the workplace on Tuesday.”
Just the variety alone of today’s nontraditional students, ranging from those choosing Penn LPS Online as their first attempt at a college education to those broadening their academic horizons for either professional or personal growth, necessitates the program’s exhaustive options to evolve with their needs and aspirations. To underscore the accessibility of the program, Urban explains: “Both the course-taker and certificate programs are open enrollment … Anyone who has an interest in one of our certificates or one of the online courses through Penn LPS Online can literally just register.”
The open-enrollment courses cover nearly two dozen areas of interest, providing hands-on, collaborative learning that can scratch an intellectual itch, build up a new skill or interest, or can be taken as a series or block to either receive a certification or build a degree. The 13 online certificate programs include in-demand studies such as data analytics and neuroscience, and options to strengthen on-the-job skills benefiting any profession, as well as timely topics such as digital culture and diversity and inclusion.
“We also have an undergraduate degree program and, while that’s not open enrollment, we don’t require standardized tests like SAT scores because we find that they’re not really indicative of success for working professionals,” Urban points out. With eight concentrations, the Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences is an accredited liberal-arts curriculum inviting participants to tailor their experience to suit today’s schedule with tomorrow’s goals in mind.
Bringing a variety of educational opportunities directly to curious, passionate learners is part of “the beauty of online learning.”
“We’re able to reach students from all over the world,” Urban says. “I find that the students who are attracted to this kind of program are an intellectually curious group who come from a variety of backgrounds, and that curiosity and interest in doing a deep-dive is the thread that stitches them together.”
And while each student has their own reason for enrolling in Penn LPS Online, they all come with a desire to further their education on their own terms while immersing themselves in the Ivy League institution’s high standard of academic excellence.
“[Online learning] really does serve our outreach mission, where our goal is to offer a Penn education to people who are not necessarily able to relocate to Philadelphia, or who need to access their education after the traditional day hours because they’re working professionals,” Urban observes. “They absolutely love the faculty that teach in this program, and they find the courses very engaging and they’re thrilled with what they’re learning.”
She adds that feedback has been filled with not only praise for the program but also anecdotal stories of personal growth that students often attribute to their online courses: “I think the best feedback is when we hear from certificate students who’ve discovered a passion they didn’t realize they had and it really propels them into changing their career or pursuing a different avenue that they really weren’t aware of.”
Urban notes that students also emphasize how welcome they feel, thanks to the program’s warm outreach and readily available information sessions for the bachelor’s degree program. “We have live virtual information sessions, and students can also talk with a recruiter to get many of their specific questions answered. One size doesn’t fit all, in particular for the adult-student population.”
With a dedicated faculty and staff ready to lend their guidance and a hand to anyone interested in furthering their education through Penn LPS Online, all that’s left for the individual is to take that first step—and believe in themselves.
“I strongly encourage students who are interested in any of the programs that we offer to reach out, to sign up for a virtual information session, to email and ask to speak with a recruiter,” Urban urges. “Don’t opt out because you think ‘Oh, I don’t know if I can do this.’ You absolutely can do it! These are outstanding courses and it’s a phenomenal opportunity to engage with one of the finest institutions in the world.”
Penn LPS Online University of Pennsylvania
3440 Market Street, Suite 100, Philadelphia, Pa.