Online enrollment for the College of Engineering Graduate Program has enjoyed massive growth over the last two years, doubling in 2016-2017 and on-track to yield similar results this year, according to program administrators.
Construction Management posted the greatest number of new, online students, with Electrical Engineering, Systems Engineering, and Engineering Management all tied for second-highest growth. Online courses in cybersecurity have also enjoyed significant growth, stemming in part from a National Security Agency Cybersecurity Curricular Capacity Building grant that permitted the development of new courses in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE).
Fully one-third of all CoE master’s students are online students.
“We’re exploring the idea of offering more online and hybrid options to meet the potential demand among our graduate students,” said Sherry Levin, director of graduate programs for the College of Engineering.
Levin said there has also been tremendous growth in post-graduate certificate programs, shorter programs that provide training and development for working professionals. She added that new enrollments also reflect more women, African American, and Latino students.
The developments are almost certain to reinforce CoE’s impressive rankings from US News & World Report, which lists the College at 29th in the country for its online graduate engineering program.
Several trends contribute to the growth. The nature of engineering is becoming less hands-on in application, said administrators. Software, digital modeling, virtual reality and simulation greatly reduce the traditional distinctions between face-to-face instruction and online courses. Many students also express a preference for the option.
The Department of Construction, Engineering and Project Management & Systems Engineering (CEPM&SE), for example, has conscientiously undertaken innovations in their online courses to meet the demands of a new generation of engineers.
For instance, it has instituted a “High Engagement Classroom Model” that permits a greater level of real-time exchange between professor and students; a significant update to course offerings spearheaded by former Interim Dean Giuseppe R. Palmese and carried through by faculty members; and increased involvement in professional organizations with influence in the field, like the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) and the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM).
“With a global marketplace and professionals traveling more and more, online learning just makes sense. Newer engineers are very used to the digital learning platform. They demand quality and engaging online courses. We are able to provide them this,” said Dr. Julie Drzymalski, a clinical professor of CEPM&SE.
“Our commitment to quality and innovation by the CEPM&SE faculty has made a large difference in the student experience and the recognition of being an ASEM-certified graduate program confirms this,” she added.
Drzymalski also credits a new Industrial Advisory Board with helping the department reach markets previously unavailable, like transportation, and shaping curriculum for future cohorts of engineers.
Chris Morse, program manager for Systems Engineering and Engineering Management, explained the drive to recreate online course delivery through the “High Engagement” model.
“We’ve committed to maximizing the engaging elements in every course. That includes elements such as live online sessions, simulations, and group projects,” Morse said. “Essentially, the goal is to increase interactions between the students with their peers, with the instructor, and with the content.”
The biggest improvements were to the “live” sessions, he explained. While online learning originated as a way to provide instruction whenever it was most convenient for the student, today’s online students prefer “synchronous delivery” in a way that combines the best of flexibility with a high-engagement environment.
Updates and implementations are still underway, Morse added. The core introductory course for Engineering Management was recently renamed Analysis and Decision Methods for Technical Managers to reflect an inclusion of systems thinking, change management, and global culture topics.
Another core course reappears as Modeling and Simulation. The content update includes current trends and newer software in both deterministic and stochastic modeling techniques. “We aim to teach best practices in all areas,” said Drzymalski, “as well as include many of the software and modeling tools that are used in industry today.”
In the College of Engineering, just cybersecurity, electrical engineering, systems engineering and engineering management offer both face-to-face and online learning options.
Learn more about online programs offered by the College of Engineering.