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Distance Education, Undergraduate Programs, And Accreditation

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.235.1 - 5.235.5



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Edwin Jones

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

Session 2222

Distance Education, Undergraduate Programs, and Accreditation1 Edwin C. Jones, Jr. Iowa State University


Distance Education in engineering, long a fixture at the graduate level, is now becoming feasible at the undergraduate level. The challenges are great, but challenges lead to opportunities, and this opportunity is that of contributing to an important national need.

ABET is considering the ramifications of distance education, and has studied the question, especially as accreditation questions are considered. ABET, as this is written, has not taken any official action on the questions that arise.

In this paper, the opinion will be expressed that outcomes assessment, as being implemented in the new criteria known as EC2000, will make it possible for institutions to show that their distance education programs are achieving the desired outcomes, provided of course that they are. The reasons for this opinion, which is solely that of the author, will be given.


In engineering education, distance education programs have existed for many years. After World War II, engineering faculty rode trains to teach graduate classes to engineers in industry. Later, they drove, flew in university planes—whatever was necessary to meet the demand for postgraduate education. The use of television in a variety of forms commenced in the 1960s, and is now a fixture in graduate education in many colleges of engineering around the country, both in urban and rather remote areas. These programs supplement evening programs in some places, but frequently replace them, because they are academically and economically effective.

Industry has also wanted baccalaureate degree programs for their working technical professionals. A baccalaureate degree program presents many challenges that a postgraduate degree program does not have. It is longer, perhaps 120-128 semester hours compared with 30, has a more heterogeneous student body, and has a greater need for laboratories. In urban areas, evening programs have met the need. In some cases, programs on branch campuses have met the need. Often the faculty presenting the evening or branch program is virtually separate or distinct from the regular “day” program faculty. The Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (EAC/ABET) has been evaluating such programs for many years, and accrediting them. In some cases, at institutional option, the programs are evaluated separately and receive separate accreditation actions. In others, the program is offered as a single program, evaluated and accredited accordingly.


Jones, E. (2000, June), Distance Education, Undergraduate Programs, And Accreditation Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8314

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