Bachelor of Science and Masters Degree Online?

By Quintus Potgieter

Online education has grown in leaps and bounds in the last decade. The world has become a fast-paced and interconnected place. These days someone could find themselves in a scenario where studying an engineering degree on a campus is just not viable, due to already being employed and having other responsibilities.

According to recent reports in the industry, due to the successes of initiatives like Coursera and EdX, premium university degrees are quickly becoming an option for students around the world. These services offer free courses from some of the biggest universities in the world, namely MIT and Stanford. The platform currently has 20 million students registered and receives contributions from 145 universities. It is clear to see that students from around the world are thirsty for more knowledge or any knowledge at all.

However, is it possible to become an engineer through eLearning? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Students around the world are now able to obtain Bachelor of Science and Master's degrees through online means. Here at the Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) have announced the new Bachelor of Science and Masters Degrees in Automation, Electrical, Mechanical, Civil, and Structural Engineering.

Obtaining a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree would enable a student to practice as a technologist. Thereafter, once a Master’s degree is obtained, the student can be considered a full-blown engineer. Through online studies, engineering professionals can expand their skill set and open up new avenues in the engineering world.

"They have got some enormous opportunities for students. They're online, we have a dedicated Course Coordinator, and highly experienced instructors as characteristic ingredients of this program" said our Dean of Engineering at EIT, Steve Mackay.

Through attending online teaching sessions, and having access to engineering eBook textbooks online, engineers are able to self-study without disrupting their tight schedule. In the online sessions, engineering lecturers will keep students up to date with their studies and host webinars that teach industry-standard engineering principles.  The institution also uses cloud-based laboratories (remote labs) where top-tier industry-experienced lecturers demonstrate and allow students to interact with various practical engineering hardware and software systems.

The remote labs allow lecturers to gauge how well the prospective engineers are doing, by conducting practical exercises online. Students can then take this practical experience and use it in the main engineering industries that make the world go round. If they happen to forget some of the details, they can also go back and view previous webinars to further sharpen their engineering skills. The Bachelor of Science and Master degrees can also be completed over six years, so students already packed with responsibilities can get their qualifications in a manner that suits them.

Steve also said that students who have already completed Diplomas or Advanced Diplomas would be able to use their former knowledge and qualifications from the institution as credits towards the Bachelor of Science degrees. If an Advanced Diploma has already been achieved, exemptions for technology orientated units are granted for students who, for example, took an Advanced Diploma in Industrial Automation and are now applying for their Bachelor of Science in Industrial Automation. Some students may need to do bridging courses to further develop their mathematics and science skills in order to pursue the Bachelor of Science degree but our qualified Course Advisors can assist you with these details.

One of the benefits of taking online engineering courses, specifically through EIT, is that even if you withdraw from the degree, you will retain the qualifications from the modules completed in the unit.

Daphne Koller, chief executive of Coursera, has said that time-consuming campus-based degrees are not viable for people who have jobs, a family, and other responsibilities. Some critics of online education say that the qualifications you get from certain institutions do not hold water. The worry for some employers when it comes to online qualifications is the legitimacy of them. Koller says the perception that they are not valuable needs to be broken because the technology that can facilitate online learning is already here.

Charles Muwandagara, an engineer who is currently working on power stations across Africa, recently graduated with his Advanced Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from the Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT). Through broadening his knowledge in the industry he is currently working in, he was promoted to Project Supervisor.

When asked about his diploma and whether he felt it was a necessary addition to his skillset through online education, he said: "It was very practical. To run a project you need those basic skills."

Muwandagara also says that studying engineering whilst already in an engineering role can lead to promotion. He said: "There is promotion. I could be superintendent on my next project." He also said that he is setting his sights on a Master's of Industrial Automation through online institutions whilst working in the field, certain that it would boost his career. Colleagues of Muwandagara have also investigated online institutions due to noticing how beneficial it can be to further build on their curriculum vitae.

For students already in the field, studying online has become a very attractive option.