University of Idaho's Engineering Outreach program has been ranked 17th in the nation for comprehensive technical programs, which offer master's in engineering degrees that are delivered online and in other "distance formats.”
The ranking, administered by GetEducated.com, compared the 56 accredited distance-learning master's in engineering programs in the U.S. Program comparison factors include technology innovation, comprehensiveness and cost/value to students. Last April, Newsweek magazine highlighted GetEducated.com for its unbiased and critical rankings of accredited online/distance delivered degree programs.
UI's Engineering Outreach program was the first program of its type in the country to initiate the transition to a DVD, Web-supported delivery format for all 70-some courses it offers each semester. The EO program delivers complete graduate degree programs in nine disciplines, as well as certificate programs in 10 technical areas. The program also offers courses in a number of focus areas including business and statistics.
After exploring a variety of delivery options, EO began
converting most of its engineering distance programs to the DVD/Web-supported
format in 2003, said Barry Willis, head of EO and associate dean for
outreach in UI's College of Engineering.
“The majority of our students are working professionals who need to keep up with coursework while traveling on business,” said Willis. “In the past, travelers had to rely on the bandwidth limitations wherever they traveled. If connections were poor or bandwidth limited, downloading course content or accessing high-bandwidth Web-based courses could be slow and frustrating.”
In contrast, the immense storage capabilities and superior resolution available with the DVD format provided a good solution, added Willis.
”We now can match the DVD's superior visual quality with the Web for low-bandwidth distribution of print materials, instructor and student feedback and interaction.”
In feedback surveys, students express appreciation for the portability of the DVD materials, their review and reference features, and no more dependence on centralized university computer storage devices.
From a producer‚s perspective, the digital format assists in program storage, editing and distribution. Instructors may update and modify individual course lessons and modules with greater ease and efficiency, said Willis.
This medium, along with Web support, e-mail, toll-free phone, interactive Web chats, assignments and tests, provides a rich course environment for students and instructors alike.
“It takes us one step closer to the hybrid environment where the delivery systems become transparent, enabling the focus to remain where it should – on the process of teaching and the rewards of learning,” said Willis.