Course Blocks & Dissertation


The curriculum has six course blocks: (click on any block for more information)

The five academic blocks are designed to be stand-alone and can be taken in any order, depending on when a student is admitted to the program. Three academic blocks are offered per calendar year, in a set schedule. No academic blocks can be waived. The Dissertation block can only be taken when all academic blocks have been successfully completed. The Dissertation block begins once a year, in the fall, and all eligible students begin this block at the same time, regardless of when they completed their academic blocks. Students who are admitted without a master’s degree must also take the PennCLO master’s thesis course after they have successfully completed three academic blocks.

Complete PennCLO course block schedule

More information on tuition and fees


Rigor and strategic insight need to be tightly linked. This course block advocates that learning leaders play a key role in strategy development and implementation, working closely with CEOs and C-level teams to design creative growth opportunities for all employees, as well as to manage change initiatives. Learning executives are called upon to identify and assess profitable business ventures, lead mergers and acquisitions, establish alliances, and shape internal growth strategies. They need to be able to lead teams, communicate the value of learning, and form alliances with their peers within the organization. Consequently, they need to gain a deeper understanding of strategy, build leadership skills, and better communicate the importance of learning to other leaders.


  • Aligning and Integrating Learning and Performance with Organizational Goals
  • Building and Utilizing Influence, Credibility, and Organizational Savvy
  • Fostering Ethical Fitness
  • Leading, Managing, and Coaching People at Work
  • Generating Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
  • Leading and Managing Organizational Change
  • Learning Leader as Performance Consultant
  • The CLO Working with Other C-Level Leaders
  • Communicating the Value of Learning and Performance
  • Intercultural Communication in the Workplace

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    The seminars in this course block explore what it means to be an effective learning and performance leader of an organization in the 21st century.

    Fundamental shifts in adult learning trends have created a challenging context. With complexity comes a corresponding need for informed, purposeful, and dynamic work-based learning and performance leadership. Encouraging an organizational culture in which all employees are regarded as learners—and all interactions are regarded as potential learning experiences that lead to enhanced performance—requires the development of a compelling vision for the learning function.

    This course block explores what constitutes quality learning experiences for working adults in a rapidly-changing world. The seminars in this course block are grounded in a scientific approach to learning rather than a simple instructional design or adult learning theory approach. This approach encompasses psychology, cognitive science, education, computer science, electrical engineering, anthropology, sociology, and a range of other disciplines.


    • Work-Based Learning and Learners
    • Pedagogy and Curriculum in Adult, Work-Based Learning
    • Philosophical Underpinnings of Work-Based Learning and Performance
    • The Relationship between Leadership and Learning
    • Introduction to Organizational Learning
    • Implications of Diversity for Work-Based Learning
    • Informal Learning
    • Corporate/Higher Education Partnerships and the Structure of Higher Education
    • Evaluating Work-Based Performance and Learning
    • Developing Performance-Based Assessments for Adults

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      Change is constant in the workplace today, and learning leadership is more important than ever in giving organizations a competitive edge. Everyone needs to understand the link between learning and organizational outcomes, and all employees need to take charge of their own development. Managers and leaders play a special role in creating an environment where strategy, culture, and human potential are seen as fully intertwined and mutually supportive.

      The Business Acumen academic course block provides PennCLO students with the core business knowledge in areas such as finance, marketing, leadership, and strategy based on current research and best practices. This knowledge, seen through the lenses of learning and leadership, prepare PennCLO students to have profound and meaningful impacts on their organizations—while they are in the program and beyond. 


      • Leading and Managing the Learning Function
      • Knowledge Management
      • Managerial Accounting
      • Corporate Finance
      • Outsourcing and Off-Shoring: The Global Context of Managing Learning
      • Strategic Marketing of Work-Based Learning (double module)
      • Project Management and Work-Based Learning
      • Managing Distributed Learning

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        As organizational life becomes increasingly complex, the PennCLO program aims to equip students with a deep understanding of what it means to be a scholar-practitioner. With an emphasis on developing research and critical thinking skills, the Evidence block provides students with the basic frameworks, skills, and practices needed to critically evaluate research, as well as the ability to design and conduct research with a solid conceptual, methodological, and action-oriented understanding.

        In this block, students develop a critical understanding of the various considerations in, and stages of, qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research, which helps them prepare for dissertation research and apply the course material to their profession. This includes the development of researchable questions, theoretical and conceptual frameworks, methodological stances, research designs, data collection and analysis plans, data collection instruments, and research reporting skills.


        • Research Ethics
        • The Role of Positionality and Subjectivity in Research
        • Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Research Design
        • Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks
        • Designing Researchable Questions
        • Research Validity
        • Data Collection and Analysis Techniques
        • Transforming Themes into Findings

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        Technology interfaces with business and human interactions. It has created new opportunities and challenges: delivered massive economies and efficiency gains, re-engineered the workplace, and spawned a sub-industry to provide the required skills and knowledge to make it all function successfully. The impact stretches beyond where and how people work, but also where, how, and what they learn. This process demands that learning leaders need to develop and implement technology strategies, not in isolation, but in the context of the overall business approach and enterprise use of technology tools. And there is no escape from the technology vortex: in a geographically distributed and time-challenged business environment, technology is, increasingly, an integral part of any learning solution. Learning executives must understand technology in terms of both its broad context, as well as specific tools and techniques. They have to know how to evaluate its appropriateness and effectiveness and be able to report this back to senior executives. A CLO has, above all, to be able to apply a technology frame to learning. 

        In today's business world, learning leaders must be poised to innovate. In this academic course block, students are exposed to cutting edge technology and learning practices that can drive a company's manufacturing, service, and product development cycles—and its success. This course block exposes leaders to learning technologies in order to master the skills needed to lead innovation in organizations of all sizes. 


        • History of and New Directions in Learning Technologies
        • Designing Technology-Enabled Learning Environments
        • Managing Learning Technologies
        • Using Simulations and Games
        • Choosing E-Tools: What is the Correct Tool from the Technology Tool Bag?
        • Emerging Technologies
        • Security and Privacy in a High-Tech World

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          The last block for all students is the PennCLO dissertation block. In this block, students attend multiple in-person and virtual sessions designed to prepare them to conduct doctoral-level research and write a dissertation. The sessions are led by dissertation faculty and supported by peer-to-peer learning. Students are expected to write papers that demonstrate their researcher positionality, problem statement, conceptual and theoretical frameworks, major bodies of literature, and research methods. Midway through the dissertation block, students are assigned a Dissertation Chair who serves as the principal investigator for their research and works with them independently through the remainder of the dissertation block. The entire PennCLO program can be completed in three years, including the dissertation.