Two Innovative Fire Protection Engineering Programs Go the Distance
Getting to class through the snowdrifts of the South Pole can be a difficult task, especially when that class is several continents away. But it is nothing out of the ordinary for Sam Dannaway, who participates in University of Maryland’s distance learning program for fire protection engineering.
Dannaway is one of the estimated 16 million Americans, or 14% of all degree seekers, who is enrolled in an online degree program.
Online programs have grown in scope and have been embraced by traditional brick-and-mortar universities. These programs offer a new way for universities to reach students who, because of either work commitment or geographic constraints, cannot attend a traditional classroom program.
For example, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and the University of Maryland - College Park (UMCP) both offer a masters degree program in fire protection engineering.
“I believe that continuing education is critical,” says Dannaway. “But I couldn’t get specialized classes where I live. This program allows me to get the degree I’ve always wanted.”
Marci Dudley lives in Indiana, but is enrolled in WPI’s online program, which allows her to participate in group discussions with classmates from as far away as Japan and China.
With almost 25% of WPI’s online participants living outside the United States, Dudley says, “It provides opportunities to interact with people that you wouldn’t have in an ordinary class.”
By most accounts, these online programs are comparable to their traditional counterparts, with the same admission standards, classes, professors and graduation requirements. At both WPI and UMCP, many faculty teach both the online and classroom courses.
A typical class involves either a live feed or a recording of a professor lecturing, with the option to send questions to the professor via email. There are also live Q&A sessions with the professors and message boards where students can communicate and work together on projects.
“Because the demand for fire protection engineers outpaces the supply, it is very difficult for employers to find qualified fire protection engineers,” says Chris Jelenewicz, engineering program manager with Bethesda, Md.-based Society of Fire Protection Engineers. “To meet this demand, education needs to be the cornerstone. These programs allow an entirely new segment of students to enter this rewarding profession.”
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