Empire State College: The Development of Online Learning


  • Patricia J. Lefor
  • Meg Benke
  • Evelyn Ting




Empire State College was founded in 1971 to meet the needs of adult and other nontraditional student populations in the state of New York. Its initial delivery model was individualized instruction with a student working with a full-time faculty member to develop a unique plan of study and learning contracts to support that plan. By 1979, the College established the Center for Distance Learning, which developed and still offers structured, print-based courses to students with no requirement for on-site meetings. It began to experiment with computer-supported learning activities in the late 1980s, employing professional staff to support the exploration of technology and to provide assistance to faculty in instructional design. However, it was not until 1994, with the formal creation of the Center for Learning and Technology, that the development of online courses and programs was systematically pursued. This article outlines the development of online programs since that time, emphasizing the issues and challenges faced by the institution in seeking to provide quality, cost-effective distance education.

Author Biographies

Patricia J. Lefor

Patricia J. Lefor,Vice President for Educational Technology SUNY Empire State College, earned her Ph.D. in art history from Northwestern University and has worked for Empire State College since 1972. Dr. Lefor was a Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellow and was awarded the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Her office oversees the Center for Learning and Technology, the Office of Computer Services, the Center for Distance Learning, and International Programs.

Meg Benke

Dr. Meg Benke, Director, Center for Distance Learning, ESC, has been with Empire State College since 1990, and has been involved in distance education since 1983. Dr. Benke's work in education has focused on the connections between work, employers and education. Since coming to Empire State College, Dr. Benke has written and presented primarily in the areas of learner supports for distance learners and union/employer sponsored distance learning.

Evelyn Ting

Evelyn Ting is the Director of the Center for Learning and Technology at SUNY Empire State College where she has worked with development and delivery of web-based education and services. She holds her Ed.M. from Harvard Graduate School of Education and an M.B.A. from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia.




How to Cite

Lefor, P. J., Benke, M., & Ting, E. (2001). Empire State College: The Development of Online Learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 1(2). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v1i2.22



Research Articles