Theoretical and Applied Perspectives on Online Graduate Engineering Education: Learning-Centered Vision, Administration, and Course Design

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper presents a theory-based perspective on the design and development of the online Master's of Science in Mechanical Engineering (MSME) Program at The Pennsylvania State University. In its eighth year at the time of this writing, the online MSME program has experienced significant growth and over the last five years of the online MSME program has gone from a total of ~40 students in the program to 130 students. Nearly 50 students having earned their master's of science degrees via the online program. This growth is in part due to explicit theory-driven attention to pedagogy, recruitment, mentoring, and facilitated guidance. Similar to our resident students, our online students have faculty research advisors and conduct masters-level research projects. This research element makes our online MSME program unique. While there is increasingly more written about the modest growth in online engineering education, there is little that connects design and execution of programming with foundational learning theories that we know are necessary to educate scholars. In this paper, we address this gap by describing the theoretical orientations by which our program makes decisions related to course design and scaffolding graduate education for working engineers, such as Academic Literacies Theory, Cognitive Apprenticeship, and Community of Practice Theory. We offer ways in which other similar online and blended programs can leverage theory in order to frame, build, and grow their programs. We also discuss practical implications for other programs considering putting all or some of their graduate degree programs in an online context, emphasizing features that are critical to success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering

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