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UAlbany Initiative Provides Greater Access to College Degrees for Working Professionals
Sloan Foundation grant funds project to incorporate blended learning approach

Contact(s):  Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 29, 2008) -- The University at Albany-SUNY is undertaking a major initiative to redesign courses in the School of Education, making it easier for working professionals to earn a college degree. Supported by a $260,000 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant, the redesigned courses incorporate a blended learning approach, which combines online learning and face-to-face sessions to provide greater access and flexibility to students.

"We want to demonstrate to our growing audience of non-traditional students that the University can be responsive to their needs for increased access and flexibility with more online learning," said Susan Phillips, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. "Building on our online degree programs in the School of Education, we set out to expand these instructional innovations which we know lower barriers to degree completion."

Additionally, faculty will collaborate with UAlbany's Institute for Teaching, Learning and Academic Leadership (ITLAL) to expand their learning opportunities and enhance their instruction, including exploring more creative uses of technology.

"The Sloan foundation grant has enabled us to support School of Education faculty to participate in valuable professional development activities," said Assistant Professor Peter Shea, who is principal investigator on the grant and has joint appointments in the School of Education and the College of Computing and Information. "Working with ITLAL is the logical next step to expand our efforts to the University at large."

"In general, UAlbany faculty are looking for innovations that make sense pedagogically, so this opportunity from the Sloan Foundation is very exciting," said ITLAL Director Bill Roberson. "This is a major new initiative that will have a long-term impact on University teaching and learning."

"Blended learning has allowed students to comment on each otherís work in ways that would not have been possible in classroom discussion only," said Robert Bangert-Drowns, Acting Dean in the School of Education. "It gives us flexibilities and tools -- a virtual meeting space -- that we would not have had otherwise."

To date, 40 School of Education courses have been redesigned under the blended learning project. As the project progresses, the grant will support faculty in the University's Schools of Public Health and Social Welfare.

Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan, Jr., then-President and Chief Executive Officer of the General Motors Corporation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation makes grants in science, technology and the quality of American life.

The School of Education is one of the leaders of literacy research and instruction in the nation and houses several large-scale nationally funded research projects on literacy, including the Center on English Learning & Achievement, the Child Research Study Center, and the Capital District Chapter of the National Writing Project. The School is also a leader in mathematics and science education, including the National Science Foundation studies of equity in mathematics education, and leadership on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) international panels and the New York State Math Education panel. It recently joined IBM's Transition to Teaching initiative to help fill the nationwide need for qualified math and science teachers.

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Educationally and culturally, the University at Albany-SUNY puts "The World Within Reach" for its 18,000 students. An internationally recognized research university with 56 undergraduate majors and 128 graduate degree programs, UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as public policy, nanotechnology and criminal justice. With a curriculum enhanced by 300 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers. For more information about this globally ranked University, visit www.albany.edu. For UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, visit www.albany.edu/news/experts.shtml.

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