Crystal Donlan is a career educator, but a medical diagnosis forced her to reimagine her teaching. She is immuno-compromised and has mobility issues, leaving her unable to stand and deliver learning experiences as she did previously. But she refused to give up her life’s work.

Donlan turned to Penn State World Campus to pursue a graduate degree focusing on educational technology and facilitating learning through alternative modalities.

“I could pursue my educational goals from home,” she said.

Her son saw his mother’s experience and decided to enroll online, too. They’ve both found success as online learners through Penn State World Campus.

An accessible education online

Crystal earned her Master of Education in Learning, Design, and Technology online in December 2020.

A photo of Crystal Donlan.
Crystal Donlan
Courtesy photo

She said she evolved as a learner and an educator and grew as an individual throughout the program. She also found great support from faculty members.

“There is a tremendous bias out there that online learning is impersonal and inauthentic, but that has not been my experience at all with Penn State World Campus. Our program faculty have been so supportive of my growth and progress, and I appreciate that genuine presence,” she said.

Crystal currently works as an instructional designer and adjunct professor at area colleges and is the founder and CEO of Clarity Learning Design LLC. She’s also pursuing a doctorate in lifelong learning and adult education at Penn State University Park.

Her son Ethan Donlan chose Penn State World Campus to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Journalism and Media. He sought to gain more knowledge in the field as well as earn a degree to increase his value as a candidate in the workforce, but he said he needed flexible learning methods due to a neurological condition.

“Penn State has always been a university I’ve held in high regard, and Penn State World Campus was the best choice for me given my health limitations,” he said.

A photo of Ethan Donlan in front of a bookshelf.
Ethan Donlan
Courtesy photo

He wanted a world-class education along with student support and advocacy resources. Penn State World Campus offers various student support services, including academic advising, disability accommodations, and technology resources.

“I’ve had passionate and accommodating professors and have also been exposed to a beneficial online learning environment,” he said. “The college is always there to support you. Despite the limitations you may have, Penn State World Campus will help guide you through whatever challenge you may encounter.”

Crystal is grateful that she and her son found an institution that gave them the opportunity to learn.

“We are so fortunate to engage as learners in a way that provides us equity of opportunity,” Crystal said. “I cannot emphasize enough that online learning is indeed real, robust, and academically rigorous — and if it were not for Penn State World Campus, we’d have not been able to pursue our goals.”

Learn more about the more than 175 degree and certificate programs offered online through Penn State World Campus.