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With the demand for access to quality online education on the rise, an increasing number of working professionals and post-graduate engineering students are realizing they now have the opportunity to pursue advanced degrees, certification, and specialized training without compromising their career track or current location.
“I decided to pursue an online education because I considered it to be the best alternative for working professionals that would like to further their education while maintaining an active professional career,” stated Brian Castro, an online civil engineering student currently employed by the Illinois Department of Transportation. “The main factors I considered in choosing the right program were reputation, quality and flexibility. I strongly believe that Illinois has satisfied and exceeded my expectations in those areas.”
“Illinois’ civil engineering program is consistently ranked at the top of all programs in the U.S.,” explained Chuck Gullakson, who earned his BS in civil engineering at Illinois in 1983. “Since I live in Florida, and the only institution I would consider to obtain an MS in civil engineering from is the University of Illinois, the online education was the obvious choice for me.”
“I am somewhat of an unusual student in that I am 29 years into my career, and will likely retire within the next 10 years,” said Gullakson, who works as a project manager at a railroad transportation company. “I felt the strong urge to work for an MS to update my technical skills and stay current and relevant in the last years of my career. It is my expectation that this will certainly help me as an engineering leader with my employer.”
“The Engineering Online program is about more than just offering web-based courses, certificates, and degrees,” stated Frank Hoskinson, director of Online and Professional Engineering Programs at Illinois. “It is about providing lifelong learning opportunities with the same level of quality that students of University of Illinois experience on-campus.” Hoskinson noted that online students can expect the same course curriculum taught by the same faculty, and to be challenged to earn the exact same degree or certification as on-campus students. Online students also have access to a variety of campus resources, including the Grainger Engineering Library, Engineering Work Station (EWS) computer laboratories, and various professional development and career services.
Technology advancements have helped to overcome limitations of earlier online education models. Rich media tools such as Echo360 lecture capture and interactive web-based communication tools like Skype, Elluminate, and Adobe Connect enable students to experience the classroom setting and interact with the course in ways that were never before possible. But it is not just technology that makes the experience.
“The faculty has very much made me feel very much like a member of the Engineering at Illinois community,” Gullakson added, noting a number of “small” things, such as making reference to online students during class, and being very accessible via email or telephone for questions or comments.
In addition to Civil Engineering, master’s degrees in Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering are currently available through Engineering Online, as well as 14 certificate programs and more than 80 individual courses from several top-ranked departments. As popularity surges with each new semester, more new courses are finding their way online, and development of more certificate and degree programs are underway.
“Engineering Online at Illinois provides an accessible world-class education that will provide immediate impacts on your engineering skill sets,” Castro said. “The instructors do a great job of teaching real world scenarios that are used on professional practice.”
Gullakson agreed. “The program has exceeded my expectations. The faculty and administrative staff supporting the online program have been extremely helpful and responsive. I highly recommend the program.”