Distance Learning Offers Education Possibilities for PEs

By Sharon Murphy, Alta Communications May 12, 2005

Villanova University’s College of Engineering has embraced recent technology advances to improve its distance learning program. The college’s graduate level DL courses are offered both in-class and online. Since 2004 the college has offered DL courses rich in sensory and visual experiences, which make students feel as if they are actually sitting in the classroom.

Using an interactive “rich media” experience, the technology at Villanova involves a combination of streaming video and live extended graphics array (XGA) feeds into a single player window that eliminates the delay often associated with web-based streaming video applications.

Highlights of a typical Villanova DL experience include:

%%POINT%%The ability for DL students to provide real-time feedback to a live class

%%POINT%%Archived class sessions, which can be accessed by both distance learners and in-class students for later viewing and reference

%%POINT%%One viewer window that incorporates all lecture content, including, but not limited to, video, sound, graphics, feedback and more

%%POINT%%Integrated chat, phone and video teleconferencing (VTC) systems make two-way communication possible, a feature never before utilized in Villanova’s DL program

%%POINT%%Use of advanced tools such as Tablet PCs, which replace presentation devices that typically compromised quality in the DL experience

Engineering is a discipline that one might think does not lend itself well to distance learning due to the complex nature of much of the material, especially at the master’s level. However, Villanova has found that this is not the case, with the DL program exploding in popularity in recent years, in large part due to the technological advances the college has implemented.

With a healthy mix of students who hail from all over the country, the Villanova College of Engineering DL program allows students to attend class 24-7.Even during those rare times that the Internet is not available, a CD can be mailed overnight to almost anywhere.

During the Spring 2005 semester, there are 13 graduate DL courses available and two non-credit courses. The cap for in-class students is between 20 and 28 slots, depending on the size of the room, with 20 slots available for DL students in each class.

The Villanova College of Engineering has offered DL courses since 1998. However, recent technology advancements have made possible the college’s first fully online master’s degree, which was first offered in civil and environmental engineering in 2003. In 2004, the second fully online master’s degree in mechanical engineering became available to students.

For more information go to www.engineering.villanova.edu/distanceed .