The University has entered into a partnership with Keypath Education to launch online graduate degree programs in civil engineering and electrical engineering.
To advance in their careers, most professional engineers need two power boosts: experience and specialized education. While their jobs usually provide the experience, professional and family demands can make graduate school seem out of the question.
But new online programs that Michigan Technological University will develop with the help of Keypath Education could change the equation for engineers across the country. By partnering with Keypath, an online program management firm that works exclusively with higher education institutions, Michigan Tech intends to address a key need in the professional engineering market: providing high-quality graduate education for working engineers who want to move forward in their careers, but can’t move away from their homes and jobs to get the training they need.
“Michigan Tech’s faculty are the content and subject matter experts,” says Audra Morse, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Keypath will help us build these online courses so that delivery includes best practices. That will improve our effectiveness. We may even be able to translate that effectiveness back into our on-campus classes.”
“Keypath will help us meet modern standards and make our online courses more engaging for students,” adds Dan Fuhrmann, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “They know what works.”
Working with Keypath, Michigan Tech will offer an online Master of Science in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in structural engineering, and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering with an emphasis in communications and signal processing.
A Niche Audience of Civil Engineers
There’s no easy path to becoming a civil engineer. All those who aspire must have a four-year undergraduate degree from an accredited program, earn passing scores on competency exams, gain numerous years of work experience and meet state licensure requirements.
To become a structural engineer, there are a few more hills to climb. Structural engineers need to understand advanced structural dynamics—such as how a building made of timber, steel or concrete might respond during an earthquake. To earn the Structural Engineering (SE) certification, engineers need additional education and a passing score on the SE competency exam.
“The online program we’ll develop with Keypath will help professional engineers prepare for that exam,” says Morse. “It’s an important niche audience who needs this education, and Michigan Tech wants to be the one to provide it for them.”
Engineering on a Carousel
For the new online master’s program in electrical engineering, Fuhrmann says his department is working with Keypath to “take an existing degree program and deliver it in a way that’s entirely new.”
The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has offered online programming for more than a decade, including an online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (MSEE) that focuses on power and energy. For Fuhrmann, building an online MSEE program with a communications and signal processing focus makes sense.
“It’s theoretical material that lends itself well to online learning,” he says, “and it has practical application. Students will be able to use it immediately in their professional work.”
The first course in the electrical engineering program will be offered next fall—an entry-point for all enrollees, tentatively titled Mathematical and Computational Methods for Engineering. The course will focus on foundational math and computer programming skills to make sure all students are on the same page.
From there, students will follow what Keypath calls a carousel model. On the first carousel, the courses will have no prerequisites (other than the entry-point course), and students can take them in any order. Once those courses are completed, students jump to the second carousel and complete another round of courses in whatever order they choose. When they jump to the third carousel, students can choose to focus on communications or signal processing.
“The first carousel should be ready to go in January,” Fuhrmann says, noting there is more work required in developing online courses than traditional classroom courses. “It’s a much more rigorous process, but our feet will be held to the fire by Keypath. They have a schedule, and they know what both parties need to do to make this program successful.”
The master’s program in civil engineering will follow a similar format; students will be able to start the civil engineering program in January 2019.
Living the Mission
Fuhrmann and Morse note that students who enroll in these programs would come from many states, which would broaden Michigan Tech’s domestic student enrollment. Michigan Tech’s Provost Jacqueline Huntoon notes that this is right in line with the University’s academic and strategic goals.
“Michigan Tech is known for the quality of its programs and as we become more involved in online delivery, we have the potential to serve more students than ever before,” Huntoon says. “By providing accessible, necessary education to working engineers, we will be building and developing the workforce, not only here in Michigan, but across the United States.”
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.