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Distance Learning In The Graduate Level Ocean Engineering Curriculum

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Ocean, Marine, and Coastal Engineering Topics

Tagged Division

Ocean and Marine

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.554.1 - 12.554.15



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Paper Authors

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Alan Brown Virginia Tech


Owen Hughes Virginia Tech

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Dr. Owen Hughes received his B.S. and M.S. in Naval Architecture from M.I.T. and his Ph.D. in Naval Architecture from UNSW in Sydney, Australia. He is a Professor in the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering at Virginia Tech. He is best known for his development of a computer-based "first principles" method for the structural design of ships and other thin-wall structures, which combines finite element analysis, structural failure analysis and optimization. He has held visiting appointments at University College London, M.I.T., the American Bureau of Shipping, and the U.S. Naval Academy as the NavSea Research Professor. His textbook, Ship Structural Design, is used in many countries and has been translated into Russian and Chinese.

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Leigh McCue Virginia Tech

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Leigh McCue is an Assistant Professor in Virginia Tech's Aerospace and Ocean Engineering Department and an affiliate to the VT Department of Engineering Education. Dr. McCue received her BSE degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in 2000 from Princeton University. She earned her graduate degrees from the University of Michigan in Aerospace Engineering (MSE 2001) and Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering (MSE 2002, PhD 2004).

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Wayne Neu Virginia Tech


Betsy Tretola Teaching and Learning,

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Electronic Environments at Virginia Tech’s Institute for Distance and Distributed Learning (IDDL). She coordinates the end-of-course student and instructor perceptions of eLearning online survey processes, collaborates with academic departments to facilitate research in eLearning environments, and provides leadership in assessment. Her Ph.D. in Educational Research Methodology and her Masters in Science Education are from The University of Virginia. She also has a Masters in Business from Columbia University. Dr. Tretola has more than twenty years of experience in science and technical education across higher education, government and corporate sectors. She has managed all aspects of the instructional process including the assessment, design, development, delivery and evaluation of large nationwide curricula.

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

Distance learning in the graduate-level ocean engineering curriculum


Virginia Tech is an established leader in distance learning with 85% of departments offering some form of electronic courses 1 . The graduate level Ocean Engineering curriculum is fully available to off-campus students, thus allowing professionals anywhere in the world to earn an MS degree. The MS in Ocean Engineering was the first program in engineering at VT to be entirely available online. In this paper the authors present their implementation strategies, successes, and weaknesses in delivering the graduate-level curriculum online, with specific discussion of the pros and cons of synchronous and asynchronous lecture formats. The authors also describe different formulations of a single, on-campus, capstone experience required of all distance-learning students with emphasis upon strategies that lead to greatest student success. Quantitative student perceptions of eLearning in the OE curriculum are presented.

1.0 History of the Online Ocean Engineering Program at Virginia Tech

The roots of this distance-learning program go back to a request from officials at Newport News Shipbuilding (now Northrup-Grumman Newport News) for Ocean Engineering courses through the Virginia Consortium of Engineering and Science (VCES) program at Hampton, VA, in late summer of 1997. The first class was offered in the Spring of 1998.

The Ocean Engineering program at Virginia Tech deals largely with the design of ships. There are only five civilian schools in the country that offer ship design programs. Potential students for a ship design graduate program work at locations spread along the country’s coastlines but without a critical mass in any one location to support a local program. Because of this, the potential for a successful distance-learning program in this field existed. In the Fall of 1998, a second site was established at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Carderock Division. At this point, two classes were being offered one night per week using video teleconferencing among three sites; VCES, Carderock, and the Virginia Tech main campus in Blacksburg, VA.

At that time, very few engineering classes – from anywhere – were being offered in a distance- learning mode. The problem was that the resolution of the video teleconferencing medium was too poor to deliver the equation-intensive material in these courses. The instructors would have to write equations in large characters in order to be legible over the TV and were often frustrated by the small amount they could fit on one screen. Students had no way of pointing to or interacting with the mathematical material the professor was presenting. Demonstration of software via video was also very difficult due to the low resolution. With the advent of enabling software, delivery of this type of material via the internet became possible. At first, computers and computer projection equipment at the remote sites were used as a sort of electronic blackboard. Later, delivery was directly to individual desktops.

In the Fall of 1999, a third site was established at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, MS (now, Northrop Grumman Ship Systems’ Ingalls Operations). At this point, the success of the program

Brown, A., & Hughes, O., & McCue, L., & Neu, W., & Tretola, B. (2007, June), Distance Learning In The Graduate Level Ocean Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1487

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