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SUNY to develop online engineering degree

By Judy Grover / August 2005

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The largest university system in the US, The State University of New York (SUNY), has been awarded $300,000 by The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to support the creation of an online bachelor's degree in electrical engineering--the world's first, according to a SUNY news release. "This signals a major trend in education and online learning," says Frank Mayadas, Sloan's program director. The foundation has provided more than $4.5 million to support SUNY's distance-learning efforts since 1994.

A collaboration between the university's schools at Binghampton, Buffalo, and Stony Brook, the new program is the first such partnership according to SUNY Provost Peter D. Salins. "We will be pooling faculty resources of three campuses to achieve something no one institution could do on its own." The program will be enabled by university's online learning arm, the SUNY Learning Network, which currently serves 100,000 enrollments on 40 campuses and already offers 94 degree and certificate programs.

According to SUNY, the program is the "first online degree in the scientific or technical disciplines of this stature coming from campuses in the "Research I Carnegie' classification." And, says Yacov Shamash, PhD, vice president of economic development for Stony Brook and dean of its College of Engineering of Applied Sciences, "the development and implementation of this program will have far-reaching impact on engineering education in the US and the world." The school views it as a great outreach tool for the school as well. Says Shamash, "This program will provide SUNY with a leadership position in engineering education."

SUNY believes the program will also represent a breakthrough for online learning itself. "It will drive innovation in online-learning technology and pedagogy, requiring the development of laboratory simulations, mathematical notation, and group project collaboration on technical subjects and designs."

According to the SUNY release, "There are tens of thousands of workers in American industry who possess associate degrees in related fields, or who are working their way toward completion of bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering. An online degree program will provide a flexible, convenient opportunity for these individuals to complete their four-year degree." And, says Mark Karwan, PhD, dean of Buffalo's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, "Geography will no longer be a barrier to a SUNY education for engineering students who live outside this state, or for that matter, this nation."--Judy Grover, Managing Editor, eLearn magazine


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