DISTANT LEARNING IN ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING ON MASTER’S LEVEL: TEN YEARS OF FURTHER EDUCATION AT A PUBLIC UNIVERSITY
In this paper we describe the development of and nearly ten years of experience with a further education program in Electrical Engineering (M.Sc.). In 2002 we started with the development as a part-time distant learning program. The first batch of 13 students was taken in in 2007. Actually there are 184 students enrolled and 140 students successfully completed their course so far. The program became a remarkable success in the education market and with a more than sufficient demand of students and hence enough course-fees to sustain the program. Further education in Electrical Engineering as well as in other engineering subjects is a good choice for public universities, since here a certain amount of laboratory work with expensive equipment (in particular on the Master’s level) is required to include practical learning.
Lab trainings are mandatory to link the mathematical theory with complex applications. Therefore we use a hybrid distant/face-to-face learning scenario with several weekend sessions per semester at the university. Face-to-face lectures and laboratories take place every four to six weeks. The sessions are prepared beforehand by four weeks independent learning at home using printed scripts, on-line content and virtual interaction via the forum of the learning environment. These distant learning phases are followed by social learning during the weekend sessions. This is straight forward implementation of the flipped classroom concept.
The described novel learning scenarios as well as continuous improvements of the syllabus and the excellent support from academic and non-academic staff are key factors for the academic and commercial success of the program. The average student needs only 0.3 semesters more than the standard period of study and the drop-out rates are extremely low (< 10%). Such quality measures show that this course is highly competitive and an excellent choice if one searches for further qualification.
The instruction design and the learning and teaching scenario were successfully transferred to three other further education programs on the Bachelor’s and on the Master’s level. These programs are offered in cooperation with another university. Their development was funded by the German Ministry for Education and Science in the program “Upward Mobility through Education”. The courses form a network for technically oriented further education in southern Germany. The large number of enrolled students and the public funding in the range of several millions of Euro are a trigger in the whole university for higher appreciation for further education and innovative teaching methods.