Stevens gets grant to study how to create an online undergraduate mechanical engineering degree

10/11/05

Research will reveal how to best develop, implement and assess an online program

HOBOKEN, N.J. -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Professor Costas Chassapis and his team at Stevens Institute of Technology a grant of $100,000 to study how to create an accredited online undergraduate mechanical engineering degree. In addition to Chassapis, who serves as the Principal Investigator, the research team at Stevens includes, from the Mechanical Engineering Department, Associate Professors Hamid Hadim and Sven Esche, and Assistant Professor Frank Fisher. Robert Ubell, Dean for Online Learning and Corporate Development, and Keith Sheppard, Associate Dean of the Charles V. Schaefer Jr. School of Engineering, are also members of the research team.

"This is a two-phase project," explained Esche, "and the first phase will determine how best to develop, implement and assess an online undergraduate mechanical engineering program."

Over a period of one year, the investigators will create a plan for developing a fully online degree program based on the results of the initial study, which will identify areas including: potential student populations, faculty requirements, curriculum requirements, admissions criteria, accreditation requirements, implementation resources (faculty, technical equipment, financial), collaboration with other institutions and laboratory requirements. The group will then present its finding to the NSF, and based on those results, the NSF will determine whether to award Stevens a continuation grant in the order of $1 million for further study lasting three more years.

Even though many online degrees are available from some of the most respected educational institutions in the US, there are very few accredited undergraduate engineering programs offered online today. An online program would greatly benefit the many mid-career employees and non-traditional students who have yet to earn an undergraduate engineering degree, especially those in business and industry and at military installations. Online education provides working adults with an attractive alternative mode of study, as they often are unable to attend classes on campus because of distance, work schedules and family obligations and demands. It eliminates geographic barriers, offers flexibility and provides an egalitarian environment for under-represented populations of students.

The program collaboration with industry and the military is expected to have an enormous impact by raising the quality and level of performance of workers who will be able to attain full engineering degrees online.

"Stevens was chosen to research the online program because of its well-established successes in the area," said Chassapis. As an innovative education and research university, Stevens is uniquely positioned to undertake the creation of an online undergraduate education program for several reasons. Stevens' WebCampus already has experience in offering online graduate degree and certification programs; WebCampus has recently been rated the best online program in the nation by the Sloan Foundation. An innovative feature of the online program to be developed is the hybrid mode of delivery of the design and laboratory components and the integration of collaborative around-the-clock design approaches. Furthermore, this project will provide significant synergies with the existing educational reform efforts that are already ongoing at Stevens, for instance the development of case-based nanotechnology learning modules, the integration of self-directed software tutorials and other multi-media learning tools.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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