Cultivating Community, Mentorship, and More in Purdue’s Online ME Graduate Program
March 31, 2021 | edX team
If you’re a mechanical engineer looking to take your career to the next level, enrolling in an online master’s degree program from a top-ranked institution like Purdue University is one valuable pathway to consider. Fully online, with a flexible curriculum, the program is designed to be tailored to meet each student’s unique needs–while allowing them to stay close to home.
While online learning in higher education isn’t exactly new, it certainly has expanded dramatically in recent years. More than ever, students are comfortable with the idea of earning college credentials in an online learning environment. Increasingly, many prefer the tech-enabled flexibility and other learning benefits to the traditional in-person model.
But it’s fair to consider how the online learning experience will compare to the in-person experience. Will you still learn and master the key skills and knowledge needed to get ahead in mechanical engineering? There are many questions that prospective mechanical engineering students have about their online learning experience. We’ll explore many of these questions, and more, in this article focusing on specific details about Purdue’s Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering program, ranked #1 in the country, and share insights and perspectives of actual students and faculty who are part of the program.
Will an Online Master’s Program in Mechanical Engineering Offer Access to the Same Courses?
The fact is that an online master’s degree program from a prestigious engineering school like Purdue can offer the best of both worlds of higher learning.
In some ways, the student experience is a lot like being on campus. When you enroll in a mechanical engineering program, you’ll have access to all of the resources and support services that come with being an on-campus student at Purdue University. Admissions and enrollment advisors provide you with personalized attention during the application process and throughout your program experience, if admitted.
Once enrolled, students will have the ability to choose from a full range of Purdue’s mechanical engineering graduate coursework, such as robotics, propulsion, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and more.
Identical to the on-campus program, the curriculum consists of 30 credit hours, roughly the equivalent of 10 three-credit courses. Coursework is a combination of two graduate applied math courses, five mechanical engineering courses, and three technical elective courses. The courses are entirely aligned with Purdue’s on-campus curriculum, but are offered 100% online to students enrolled in the online program.
Who’s Teaching the Courses? How Will I Learn?
At Purdue, each online course is taught by professors who are part of Purdue’s College of Engineering award-winning faculty body. These faculty are experts in their fields with extensive industry experience, which students say is invaluable as they seek advice for their mechanical engineering careers.
“That’s a big selling point and a big benefit,” said Andrew Penning, who is a current graduate student in Purdue’s online mechanical engineering program. “The education that you’re getting is identical to those on campus. It’s the same grading, the same testing, the same lectures.”
Jonathan Ore, a recent graduate of Purdue’s mechanical engineering master’s program says that, in some ways, the online experience is superior to the in-person version.
“The nicest thing about the videos is that you can go back and forth if you need to,” said Ore. “It’s super helpful having that ability, maybe even better than in person.”
Cultivating a Learning Community–Online
Learning is inherently a social activity, so one concern about online education is being able to learn collaboratively with peers and faculty. It’s one thing to be able to review a lecture and the accompanying material, but what if you have questions or need help on a specific subject? What if you’re stuck on a key concept?
Purdue’s mechanical engineering professors ensure that they are broadly available to support their online students throughout the course experience. That could mean anything from scheduled office hours to meeting individually with students one-on-one.
Dr. Marisol Koslowski, a professor of mechanical engineering in Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering, said that office hours can vary in terms based on the course, but the goal is to accommodate all of their online students’ schedules. In an online course that she teaches, for example, there are up to 14 hours per week of office hours for students to join.
Faculty are also engaged and present in the online learning platforms. They are active participants in online discussion boards and they work to cultivate a learning community where all students can share thoughts, exchange ideas, and provide help to one another. This network of peers is invaluable in itself; you’ll be in classes with students with diverse professional backgrounds around the globe, broadening your perspectives and approaches to your own work.
“Engineering school is hard either way and you’ll have trouble if you try to do it all yourself,” said Penning. “Purdue encourages collaboration to help us all succeed.”
Establishing Strong Relationships With Faculty
Even outside of office hours, faculty make themselves available. When Ore was struggling with his power mechanics course, he asked for help from his professor, Dr. Eckhard Groll. Dr. Groll agreed to work with him every week, over Skype, to answer questions and complete assignments. “He helped me get through that class,” Ore said.
That experience was transformative for Ore, who was encouraged by Dr. Groll to pursue a doctorate program in mechanical engineering at Purdue. Dr. Groll extended a research opportunity to Ore to work on the DC Nano-Grid house, a project that explores smart buildings with a goal to retrofit homes from AC power to DC power and improve energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption. “It really has been a dream come true,” Ore said.
In addition to office hours and other class-specific support, students are assigned faculty advisors who serve as mentors throughout their journey in the graduate degree program. Penning credits his advisor, Dr. Justin Weibel, a research associate professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering, for helping him along the way.
Learn More and Start Your Application
Online education will only continue to expand. Not all online programs are created equal so you should be diligent about understanding the key differences and ask the right questions when deciding which program is right for you. If you’re interested in gaining advanced mechanical engineering skills and knowledge through an online master’s program, fill out our form to get in touch and learn more or get started on your application.