NPRC Celebrates Instructional Model for World Distance Learning Day


Distance learning has become a norm over the last several years. Where we learn, the delivery of information, and even when we learn have all gone through an overhaul. Many businesses and institutions have adapted to these changes, including Northern Pennsylvania Regional College
Accessibility and a strong distance learning model have been top priorities for NPRC since the College began. We are proud to have developed an instructional delivery model that has helped students build brighter futures right in their communities. To celebrate World Distance Learning Day, we are sharing experiences from our instructors and staff members about what makes NPRC’s approach to education so successful.

What is Distance Learning?

Distance learning can come in many different forms, with some instruction taking place live (synchronous) and some on students’ time (asynchronous). Our distance learning model brings affordable education to students throughout our 10 counties.

NPRC is not campus-based, nor an online college. The College operates over 20 instructional classroom locations in local communities. This makes attending class close to home with shorter commute times easy for our students.

Classrooms are connected using distance learning technology (Microsoft Teams). This allows students to interact live with instructors and others across northern Pennsylvania. This combination of in-person instruction with distance learning technology enables us to meet students where they are, within approximately 30 minutes from home. Attending college and balancing a job or family becomes doable for our students. Gary Sawtelle, NPRC’s Director of Information Technology and Facilities, has been foundational in helping the College operate under an evolving learning model and says his current role has been the most fulfilling of his career.

Sawtelle shares, “Until NPRC was established, the thought of attending college was out of the question for many of our students and potential students. They had few options after high school, and many could not afford to attend a four-year college away from home. That changed because of NPRC. Our students receive direct, synchronous instruction, have access to a learning management system where they can access information for their courses, and can take advantage of free one-on-one tutoring. This model puts every student in a position to succeed.”

He continued, “In 2018, I had a choice. I could have continued where I was in my career or I could come home to Pennsylvania where I grew up, work with some of the finest individuals I have ever met, and build a college that provides a service to areas that have never had an opportunity like this. I chose the latter and every year at commencement, I love to see our students graduate and move on to their next adventure.”

Why It Works

Our model is successful because unlike traditional colleges, our online component is 100 percent interactive and does not require students to spend money on additional costs oftentimes associated with college. While online institutions may offer asynchronous and synchronous instruction, NPRC guarantees real-time teaching from our industry-leading instructors.

Our team and community partners believe in this model, including the Director of Arts and Sciences, Ben Blood.

“This model provides educational opportunities to areas that have no or few other local college opportunities,” Blood said. “We bring a college education to nearly every student’s hometown. Our model allows us to break down geographic and logistical barriers in rural areas. Students who may be intimidated by the idea of moving away to college or may not feel ready are able to receive a college education close to home with a familiar support system.”

Instructor of Natural Sciences, Ron Pollock, shared about the added benefits distance learning has created for students and ways he’s kept students engaged in his classes.

“Research has shown that distance learning helps students’ needs for peer feedback, competence support, and camaraderie with their classmates. These are all positively correlated to favorable academic outcomes. NPRC offers a live learning experience to a wide audience of learners. Due to our live instruction and classroom aspects, our delivery model has increased benefits when compared to other online, asynchronous college options.”

Across many NPRC courses, hands-on materials are sent to classroom locations in the form of field kits and educational bookbags. These tools equip students to engage in shared activities with others in the room and those on the screen at other classroom locations. An example of these resources in use is in our Human Biology course. With the supplied materials, students build working models of different animal circulatory systems to enhance their learning. “Hands-on demonstrations and explorations provide a deeper, more intuitive opportunity for learning than spoken words and images alone,” notes Pollock.

Most importantly, our learning model is successful because our students embrace the unique classroom experience it creates. Our approach unquestionably makes us different than other institutions, but it is an advantage that helps keep costs low and guide students towards a brighter future no matter where they are in our region. Thanks to our learning model, NPRC can ensure that learning never stops across our region.

For more information about NPRC and the institution’s approach to distance learning, check out our website and follow us on social media.

NPRC acknowledges that the information contained in this content is complete and accurate at time of publication. It is descriptive in nature and the college reserves the right to make any adjustments it deems necessary or desirable. Updates to programs, tuition, or other academic-related items will be reflected in the online College Catalog or on the respective College web pages. Questions regarding accuracy of content may be emailed to