College of Education > News and Publications > 2018: 10-12 news > Venancio Ybarra: Innovating online learning

Venancio Ybarra: Innovating online learning

The Alumni Spotlight is a monthly feature in Bridges, highlighting College of Education alumni who are making a difference in the lives of the people around them. This edition features Venancio Ybarra, whose unexpected layoff in the tech field in 2001 led to a career in higher education.

It's been said that when one door closes, another opens. That's precisely what began Venancio Ybarra's journey to Penn State's World Campus.

Ybarra was working in the semiconductor industry in Austin, Texas, when the United States was devastated by the 9/11 attacks. Many tech workers, including Ybarra, were laid off during the economic downturn that followed.

Venancio Ybarra
After losing his job in the tech industry following 9/11, alumnus Venancio Ybarra began teaching part time at a community college. He now is the assistant dean for TCC Connect, the virtual campus of Tarrant County College.(Image: Submitted)
"Fortunately, I continued teaching electronics classes part time at Austin Community College," he said.

In 2003, Ybarra moved to Houston and accepted an assistant professorship at a new college in the Lone Star College System. In just three years, the college outgrew its enrollment capacity of 10,000 students.

"Because of that tremendous growth, the deans encouraged online course delivery," said Ybarra. "However, we couldn't offer my workforce education program online, because of the lab component."

An alternative, Ybarra was learning to develop hybrid courses.

Ybarra searched for online programs that would help him tackle this challenge. Penn State ended up at the top of his list.

"The World Campus website was so well laid out, from the costs of courses to the course descriptions, that all my questions were answered," he said.

Ybarra enrolled in the instructional systems program (now learning, design and technology) and continued teaching full-time until he completed his master's degree in 2012.

Following graduation, Ybarra worked as a technical trainer at Honeywell and Toshiba before becoming an associate dean at Lone Star College in 2016.

"Working in industry and academia helped me understand how my degree was applicable in both work environments," said Ybarra.

In October 2017, Ybarra was named assistant dean for Tarrant County College's virtual campus, TCC Connect, which offers 18 online programs including five associate degrees, 13 certificates and more than 350 college credit courses. In this role, he mentors faculty and shares online learning best practices with TCC Connect leadership.

Although he misses teaching, Ybarra said he is pleased to contribute to students' success in a different way.

Ybarra also holds an associate's degree in electronics technology from Alvin Community College and a bachelor's degree in computer engineering technology from the University of Houston. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife, Lucia, and their son, Daniel.