The conference focus this year: Students, Quality and Success, ran over three days, from the 29th November to the 1st December 2017 and was attended by 800 delegates, of which almost 100 were higher education students.
Steve Mackay, our Dean, and Caroline Patterson, our Compliance and Accreditation Manager, were selected to present their paper entitled: Australia’s first hands-on online engineering master degree. The graduation of our first cohort of Master of Engineering (Industrial Automation) students was deemed significant by the TEQSA presentation selectors.
Steve and Caroline’s presentation was, however, also attended by a number of sceptics, “You can’t teach engineering students fully online!”, “How do they get their hands dirty?” Steve explained briefly that the Internet of Things has resulted in the connectivity of engineering tools; a situation which has enabled competent applied learning via remote laboratories and simulation software, as everything is now connected. For many, however, the ‘winds of change’ cause a slightly different form of disquiet; they sense that traditional approaches to learning may be undermined and therefore threaten their jobs too.
Caroline’s presentation was structured around the feedback from the master graduates and our current master students on both the industrial automation and electrical engineering degrees. As part of this she mentioned that a large proportion of students rate online learning more highly than face-to-face. An attendee was astounded and pressed for qualitative support to this assertion.
EIT students, past and present (engaged in any EIT program), it would be great to receive your comments. This is how Caroline explained it: she described how the live online platform we use allows for student-lecturer interaction which encourages students to engage in the learning process. She also mentioned that the interaction was less threatening; an increased level of anonymity eliminates the feeling of ‘being put on the spot’. She confidently added that despite the compulsory attendance at the live webinar sessions, the platform meant that both working and remotely-based students were able to acquire a qualification without the upheaval of campus attendance.
Separately Steve expressed enormous pride in the master degree thesis projects that were submitted, commenting on their high standard and relevance to industry. He explained that this was in large part due to the fact that students are working while they study. He admitted that in many ways they have an unfair advantage over students who don’t have this exposure to industry, and indeed, life.
And finally, the audience was able to appreciate the reach of the online platform: apart from our internationally-based lecturing team, our students come from 140 countries. For various reasons there are countries that cannot satisfy student education needs; online learning has resolved this deficiency in many instances. Offering a solution is particularly poignant when we receive word that our graduates, scattered around the world, have been promoted and received salary increases with their qualifications.
Our congratulations and thanks go to our Master degree graduates; we wish you everything of the best. Please keep in touch.