AEP Foundation gift fuels West Liberty University’s Distance Learning Project

West Liberty University News Release

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va.  — Distance learning is at the top of the needs pile in education thanks to the pandemic and the necessity of remote instruction. AEP Foundation stepped forward recently to support this need by funding a Distance Learning Project at West Liberty University.

“I am excited to announce that AEP Foundation generously presented the WLU Foundation with a $25,000 check to assist us in our distance learning project. This project will greatly advance our ability to provide distance learning opportunities for students. It also will assist us in recruiting faculty from a larger talent pool,” said Angie Zambito-Hill, executive director of the WLU Foundation.

“The American Electric Power Foundation is happy to support the West Liberty University Foundation, and excited to be a part of this important project that supports higher education in the Mountain State,” said Chris Beam, president and COO of Appalachian Power, an AEP company.

WLU was already beefing up distance learning when COVID-19 gripped the country and changed everything.

“The need for distance learning is more important than ever before. Long term, the university plans to create five Distance Learning Classrooms in multiple academic areas, but the first priority is to begin with a classroom in Campbell Hall to be used by the physician assistant (PA) program and other health sciences programs,” said Joe Rodella, chief information officer.

Rodella leads the Information Technology Services department at the university which has increased remote learning, Zoom technology and Wi-Fi capabilities throughout campus for several years.  

“This particular distance learning enhancement has two big positives because it not only reaches out to students at a distance, but allows WLU to attract professors who will be able to teach medical specialties from another site. It strengthens the PA program in a big way,” Rodella said.

The build out will include new projectors, audio reinforcements, video conferencing, TV monitors, a microscope that projects a screen, and more, which will give instructors a manageable control capability, according to Rodella.

“We welcome this much needed improvement. With the new Distance Learning Classroom, whatever is happening in the classroom is happening on the screen thanks to the improved technology. The control system consolidates all the classroom tools into a manageable touchscreen environment that faculty appreciate. We are grateful to AEP for assisting us in this manner,” said Dr. Bill Childers, director of the PA master's degree program.

This platform will allow us to deliver more sophisticated online courses, which is an immediate need due to the pandemic and the preference to offer as many online and hybrid options as we can to accommodate social distancing.

“The technology allows faculty to teach courses from a distance, enabling WLU to recruit faculty from a much larger talent pool and this is important since we have faced a challenge recruiting PA faculty for some courses,” noted Childers.

“We hope to complete the new classroom by spring 2021 and are currently seeking additional funds to match AEP Foundation's generosity and complete the budget of approximately $50,000,” Zambito-Hill said.

The Master’s in Physician Assistant Studies program at West Liberty University began in summer 2012 and offers students a 24-month, year-round program of study. Fully accredited, it is just one of several health sciences majors offered by WLU’s College of Sciences to serve the needs of today’s students and the region.

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