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New master's program offers learning via electronic classroom

Two dozen engineers began a new degree program recently, and their classrooms could be office cafeterias, basement dens or even airport lobbies.

The Master of Engineering in Professional Practice (MEPP) program is an innovative effort to bring instruction to the working professional by offering an entire advance degree via the World Wide Web.

The classmates will share an electronic classroom for the next two years and pursue a master's degree without interrupting their careers. Karen Al-Ashkar, the program's adviser, says the program is giving people who are juggling professional and personal lives new access to higher education.

"These students need to be able to access courses on their time, not ours," Al-Ashkar says. "The curriculum is specially designed for adult learners who have a wealth of experience in industry, and for independent learning in the online world."

Employers strongly supported the concept, Al-Ashkar says. Most enrolled students have all or most of their tuition covered by the company, and some are getting work time to devote to coursework.

Companies that have employees enrolled in MEPP include Mercury Marine, Trane, Kohler, John Deere, GE Medical Systems, Hewlett-Packard and the National Guard.

More than half of the courses in the two-year degree are not covered anywhere else, including problem-solving with computers, technical communication and virtual engineering offices. The program focuses on the types of skills engineers report are in demand in the field.

Instruction will have a real-time, interactive quality, and include collaborative projects with teams of students. Students provide their own computer equipment and can connect with the class on their own schedules.

For more information, contact Al-Ashkar, 608/262-0133, She also can provide names of students and company representatives for interviews.