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Silicon Valley Nation: Best online engineering graduate programs
Brian Fuller Brian Fuller
1/18/2013 05:37 AM EST  

bf sv nation best online engineering schools SAN FRANCISCO--What are some of the best schools to obtain a graduate engineering degree online?  Turns out they're many of the same universities that have great brick-and-mortar programs.
U.S. News and World Report is out with its top 50 rankings, this week, and the top five probably won't surprise:
  1. USC Viterbi School
  2. Penn State
  3. Columbia (Fu Foundation)
  4. Purdue
  5. Michigan

By contrast, the top 5 institutions on U.S. News' "regular" engineering-schools list are, in order, MIT, Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Georgia Tech and Cal Tech. Michigan ranks 8th, Purdue 10th, USC 11th and Michigan 15th in that list.

The magazine published an extensive methodology that went into its onling rankings, starting with a definition of a distance learning program:

A program for which all the required coursework for program completion is able to be completed via distance education courses that incorporate Internet-based learning technologies. Distance education courses are courses that deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously.

The magazine weighted a number of factors within areas including student engagement, faculty credentials, students services and technology, admissions selectivity.

Cost equation
Curious to me is that cost is not weighed in the magazine's methodology. (This is odd at a time in North America where the cost of college in general is coming under fire and since the cost structure of distance learning, at least theoretically, should offer some tuition bargains).

Here's a sample of the online tuition costs, which vary widely:
  • USC ($1,569 per credit)
  • Columbia ($1,578 per credit)
  • Purdue ($1,111 per credit)
  • N.C. State (#7, $726 per out-of-state per credit)
  • UCLA (#11, $916 per out-of-state per credit)
  • Texas Tech University (#50, $1,515 per credit in-state and $3,621 out of state).
Generally, engineers can secure higher-paid positions with graduate degrees, and, since it's hard to put your budding career aside to got back to school full time, online is option to advance your career. And it's good know there are some excellent (if not cheap) programs to consider.

Here's the complete list.

My question to you is:
  • Have you participated in online graduate-engineering programs and, if so, what was your experience?

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re: Silicon Valley Nation: Best online engineering graduate programs
greggwilliams30   2/21/2013 8:40:44 PM
Online schools are really taking off especially for engineering schools. Pretty much every school has one now. I know that Purdue has and a lot of the other schools have similar websites. Thanks for the list!

old account Frank Eory
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re: Silicon Valley Nation: Best online engineering graduate programs
old account Frank Eory   1/22/2013 6:24:58 PM
A couple decades ago -- before online courses were a real thing -- NTU was a favorite option for many engineers. How cool that you could take DSP courses from Georgia Tech or IC design courses from UC-Berkeley, without leaving your home town or your day job! In those days, they mailed you the videotaped lectures -- given by a real professor in a classroom full of students -- on VHS tapes, and you faxed or emailed in homework assignments, and took proctored exams at your work place. It's great that online education has evolved, but I kind of miss the old-school method. Even with the time delay of VHS tapes in the mail, you felt like you were really part of the class, got to know your professor, etc.

Robotics Developer
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re: Silicon Valley Nation: Best online engineering graduate programs
Robotics Developer   1/20/2013 1:43:04 AM
On factor for me was the cost for sure, my current employer only helped with college costs (did not even cover the cost of 1 3 credit hour grad course per year). I was able to start on the masters but then economics caught up and the advanced degree is on hold until finances recover. I wonder if some enterprising college will capitalize on the low overhead on-line delivery methods AND offer lower costs to on-line students? This could be the next big education growth market with so many people working so hard at their regular jobs, having an on-line / on my time method to take courses would be a major success if the price was right.

Thomas Chongruk
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re: Silicon Valley Nation: Best online engineering graduate programs
Thomas Chongruk   1/19/2013 4:53:04 AM
I would think a significant factor for many engineers doing online programs is the cost, and potential reimbursement by their companies. Companies change reimbursement policies (rules and yearly limits), and often don't reimbursement immediately (or quickly).

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re: Silicon Valley Nation: Best online engineering graduate programs
elizabethsimon   1/19/2013 12:47:25 AM
They left out University of Idaho. I got a graduate degree from them and was reasonably satisfied with the experience. Of course when I started their distance education program, it was not as online oriented but they were moving in that direction. It was nice to be able to watch the lectures on MY schedule. I also found that the pause and rewind buttons were really useful.

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re: Silicon Valley Nation: Best online engineering graduate programs
Bert22306   1/18/2013 9:42:01 PM
Wow, some excellent universities in that list (including the long list). I have a few colleagues that went this route, and I'd say from the results, it's a valuable addition to higher education. I'm all for it. It seems to me clear why both medicine and education costs keep rising so fast. The reason is, these are two industries in which, until quite recently anyway, the human labor component has not been reduced. Other industries have made big strides in exploiting automation, to increase their productivity and keep their costs in check. So online educational programs seem to be just the right approach. A university can reach orders of magnitude more students that way, and even if the costs might appear high for each course, a degree should come out costing far, far less to the student. Economies of scale. And from the list you provided, the degrees can come from very prestigious, name-brand universities. So it's not like there's any compromise in quality here (well, you do miss that social interaction with the other students, although that is less important in gard school, perhaps).

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