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PSU invests $3 million in grants to make classes more flexible, interactive and affordable
Author: Suzanne Pardington, University Communications
Posted: May 21, 2013


Portland State University has awarded $3 million in grants to faculty and staff to advance new ideas and technology that make higher education more flexible, interactive and affordable — including new online teaching tools, courses and degrees.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Sona Andrews this month announced 10 one-time grants, ranging from $50,000 for electronic portfolios to assess student learning to $900,000 for three online projects in the School of Business Administration. The projects also include a new online Master of Social Work degree, redesigned introductory chemistry and biology courses, and a new way to award credit for prior work and educational experiences.  

For the announcement and full list of projects, go here:

The initiatives grew out of “reThink PSU,” a larger campus-wide effort underway to improve teaching and learning at the University by investing in innovation. 

"This is the first step in rethinking how PSU delivers education at a time when we face swift technological changes, reduced public funding and new demands from an increasingly diverse student body," said Wim Wiewel, PSU president.  

Andrews challenged faculty and staff last fall to propose new ways to adapt to the rapid changes in higher education, such as the growth of online education and the rising cost of tuition. In December, faculty and staff submitted 162 proposals for everything from interactive classroom strategies to new online degrees. 

The proposals were publicly vetted and modified through a unique online crowdsourcing process that allowed for the greatest level of campus-wide participation. Although the University could fund only a small portion of the proposals through this initiative, some other ideas will move forward on their own.

“This is a real opportunity for PSU to think creatively about the challenges we face and create learning environments for students that address current and future needs,” Andrews said. 

The grants will help change the way students learn on and off campus with new technology. For instance, students in the new combined introductory chemistry and biology course will learn more course content online, freeing up class time for more hands-on collaborative work and taking full advantage of new lab space in the Collaborative Life Sciences Building on the South Waterfront (opening in fall 2014). Combining the intro courses is less expensive and more efficient for students, because they will pay for fewer credits and move on to advanced courses faster. 

The School of Business Administration also plans to expand its reach with a set of related initiatives that could be a model for other schools, including a new online undergraduate business degree, a new certificate in social entrepreneurship, and more online support for internships and advising. The new programs coincide with the planned $60 million renovation and expansion of the Business School.