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Action At Distance: A Ms Degree Offered Through Distance Learning As A Vector To Student Enrichment And Industrial Interaction

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Assessing the Efficacy of Non-traditional Programs

Tagged Division

Continuing Professional Development

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.142.1 - 13.142.9

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Paper Authors


Lanny Griffin

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Lanny Griffin received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Davis in Materials Science and Engineering. He also has a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Currently, he is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. He is also on the Mechanical Engineering faculty of the US Military Academy at West Point as an Army Reserve Officer. Dr. Griffin’s research interests are in bone mechanics and biomaterials and has been the Principal Investigator of several projects from the Army, DOD, and NIH.

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Daniel Walsh California Polytechnic State University

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Daniel Walsh is currently Associate Dean at the College of Engineering at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He received his B.S. (Biomedical Engineering) , M.S. (Biomedical Engineering) and Ph.D. (Materials Engineering) degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Prior to joining Cal Poly, Dr. Walsh was employed by General Dynamics Corporation, as a principal engineer and group leader in the Materials Division.

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Robert Crockett California Polytechnic State University

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Robert Crockett received his Ph.D. from University of Arizona in Materials Science and Engineering. He holds an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from University of California, Berkeley. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Dr. Crockett is a specialist in technology development and commercialization of advanced materials and manufacturing processes. Prior to joining Cal Poly, he was founder and President of Xeragen, Inc., a San Luis Obispo-based biotechnology startup company. He has also served as an Assistant Professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering and was employed by McDonnell Douglas Space Systems Company, where he was a lead engineer and Principal Investigator on projects to develop technology evolution plans for the Space Station.

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Robert Szlavik California Polytechnic State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Action at Distance: A MS Degree Offered Through Distance Learning as a Vector to Student Enrichment and Industrial Interaction


This paper describes the development and implementation of a flourishing MS program offered through distance learning (DL). The program serves the mission of the university – polytechnic education. It provides an intense life-long-learning opportunity for some of the 300,000 degreed engineers working in California industry who can benefit from graduate education. The DL Masters Degree Program in Engineering with a Biomedical Specialization was designed and developed with verisimilitude to the on-campus program in mind. The distance students attend the same classes as students on campus. The DL program has the same learning objectives and student outcomes as those expected for the on-site students. Furthermore, the program for distance students has the same standards and curricular flexibilities as available to students on campus, the program accommodates the challenging schedules of full-time industry employees.

The paper describes the motivations for the development of the program at the university and in industry. It treats the challenges faced in implementing the program during its early stages, and fault tolerance schemes developed by participants. It discusses the evolution of the program from single to multi-site. It describes the growth of the program from a specialization offered under an Engineering MS degree to a stand-alone MS Degree offered by the Biomedical Engineering Department over the eight year history of the program. The paper catalogs the benefits of the program to on-campus students as well as to off-campus participants. The paper discusses the evolution of the program from a synchronous mode to a hybrid mix of synchronous and asynchronous delivery modes to accommodate student needs. It also discusses the development of a resource model which allows the program to be implemented within a typical academic administrative structure.

This paper thus describes an innovative DL program which serves the aspirations of students, pedagogical goals of the department, and aspirations of faculty in BMED. The MS program in BMED is the largest MS granting program at the University, and about 10% of the degrees granted by BMED annually are DL degrees.


The Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering at Cal Poly is the only MS in Biomedical Engineering in the California State University System (CSU) and is a logical evolution of the existing MS in Engineering with a Specialization in Biomedical Engineering (MSE-BME). Within the CSU, there are some Master’s Level specializations, such as the Biomedical Engineering Master’s in Mechanical Engineering at San Diego State University. The current MSE-BME program is by far the most popular option for both formal Master’s and blended (4+1) degrees within the college of engineering. There is currently a vibrant distance learning program at St. Jude Medical at two sites, Sylmar and Santa Clara. Additionally, there are other

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