LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas is offering a new graduate distance learning program to meet the needs of working engineers and industry across the Kansas City metro.
The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) launched the distance learning program in collaboration with Garmin to provide the company's employees with real-time access to graduate courses on the Lawrence campus. Engineers are able to earn their master's degree in electrical engineering within three years while continuing to work full-time.
"Being able to attain a high-quality EECS graduate degree through the convenience of distance learning has generated a lot of interest in the program," says EECS Associate Chair for Graduate Studies Victor Frost. "It really is a win-win situation. Companies enhance their productivity and innovation as engineers gain additional knowledge and skills."
Frost is working to expand the distance learning program to other companies within the metro. The growing high-tech industry, engineering firms, telecommunications companies and life-sciences organizations present multiple growth opportunities for the program.
Currently, the program offers courses leading to a graduate degree in electrical engineering with a focus on RF Systems Engineering. Frost says industry demand will lead to the opening of additional focus areas and EECS degree programs.
Streaming high-definition video conferencing connects the Garmin classroom with the Distance Learning Classroom in Learned Hall on KU's main campus. Five Garmin students enrolled this fall for two distance learning courses. The department will double the number of distance learning courses this spring and will offer multiple classes in 2013-2014.
EECS Associate Professor James Stiles said he was pleased with the interactions among the working engineers and traditional students in his Microwave and Radio Transmission Systems course. He thought the blended course provided a richer exchange of ideas and the superior HD quality allowed Garmin students to participate fully in discussions, projects and other in-class activities.
"Since students view these live lectures at the Garmin facility where they work, attending class essentially becomes just another event in their workday schedule. Once class is over, they can be back at their desk in a matter of minutes," said Stiles, who led the implementation of the distance learning program.
Headquartered in Olathe, Garmin is a global leader in GPS navigation systems for vehicles, aviation, fitness and numerous other applications. The number of EECS alumni at Garmin, its areas of expertise and good working relationship with the department made it an ideal initial partner in the distance learning program, said Stiles.
Stiles, who earned his master's degree through a pioneering program in the 1980s that broadcast courses from Dallas universities to Texas Instruments classrooms across the metro, wanted to create a similar program at KU. He approached Garmin with the idea and led the pilot program. He believes a strong working partnership between academia and industry can help Kansas City become a premier technology center.