Asee peer logo

Success Factors in Distance Education: A Case of Master of Construction Management at East Carolina University

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Construction Session 4: Outside of the Construction Curriculum

Tagged Division


Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Syed Mahmood Ahmed P.E. East Carolina University

visit author page

Dr. Syed M. Ahmed is Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Construction Management at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina USA. Prior to that, he was an Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director in the Department of Construction Management, College of Engineering & Computing, Florida International University (FIU) and an affiliated faculty of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at FIU. Dr. Ahmed received his Ph.D. in 1993 and his MSCE in 1989 from Georgia Institute of Technology majoring in Construction Engineering & Management, with a minor in Industrial Engineering and Management Science. He also holds an undergraduate degree of BSCE from University of Engineering & Technology in Pakistan (1984).
Dr. Ahmed has over 25 years of international experience in teaching, research and consulting in Pakistan, Hong Kong, USA, Mexico, and Jamaica. His areas of interest/expertise are construction scheduling, quality and risk management, project controls, construction safety, construction procurement, and construction education and information technology. He has generated substantial iexternal support and revenue from various funding agencies including United States Agency for International Development, US Department of Defense, and Florida Department of Education and through his international conferences. He is the author of four books and has also published extensively (over 150 publications) in international journals and conferences in his areas of expertise. Dr. Ahmed is currently on the editorial board of more than 6 international journals and serves as the Associate Editor of ASCE Journal of Construction Engineering & Management and the Associate Editor of the Built Environment Project & Asset Management (BEPAM) Journal.

visit author page

author page

Kiersten Marie Mahaffy East Carolina University


Lincoln Harding Forbes Harding Associates Inc., Miami

visit author page

Lincoln Forbes, Ph.D., P.E., FIIE, LEED® AP

Dr. Lincoln Forbes is a subject matter expert in lean project delivery and lean management systems. A Registered Professional Engineer and LEED® Accredited Profesional, he has over 30 years’ experience in various aspects of facilities design, construction support, and quality/performance improvement. He also serves as an adjunct professor with the Department of Construction Management at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. His other adjunct assignments have been with Drexel University’s Construction Management Program as well as with Florida International University’s Construction Management and Engineering Management programs. His courses at these institutions have included Lean Construction, Total Quality Management, Quality Control Systems, and Construction Productivity Improvement.

As a Principal Consultant with Harding Associates Inc., of Miami, Dr. Forbes provides lean and quality improvement solutions for the construction, service, and manufacturing industries. His book “Modern Construction: Lean Project Delivery and Integrated Practices” (Forbes and Ahmed, 2010, CRC Press), is an internationally recognized reference. He has published and presented many papers internationally on the application of lean techniques and quality initiatives in the construction environment.

In previous positions Dr. Forbes served as administrative head of several facilities-related departments and functions in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the 4th largest school district in the USA. These positions included in-house construction, design services, construction quality control, post occupancy evaluation, project warranty services, and quality management. He also provided research and technical support on sustainability practices, commissioning, construction systems, and methods and materials to improve the quality and performance of the built environment.

Dr. Forbes is a Fellow of the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE), and is the founder and past president of IIE’s Construction Division. His other professional memberships include The Lean Construction Institute, The American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) and The American Society For Quality (ASQ). He has served as a columnist with the ASCE publication “Leadership and Management in Engineering”, writing on Continuous Improvement in the Construction Industry, as well as a reviewer for other ASCE publications
Dr. Forbes received his Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering/ Management at the University of Miami, specializing in quality and performance improvement in the built environment. Previously, he obtained both an M.S. in Industrial Engineering and an MBA at the University of Miami. He earned a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering at the UWI, West Indies.

visit author page

author page

Rachel M. Robinson-Watts East Carolina University

author page

Ashley Lauren Gregory East Carolina University

Download Paper |


Distance education has become the most significant change to the process of teaching and learning in recent decades21. A survey conducted by the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics identified more than 21 million students enrolled in distance education, while almost 3 million were enrolled in graduate courses during the fall of 2012. This research addresses the key success factors for online classes and provides recommendations on actions that institutions can take to improve the quality of online instruction programs. It includes a SWOT analysis to identify challenges and generalize strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities, in managing online graduate construction management courses based on the responses of a sample population. The research is based on the case study of the Master of Construction Management (MCM) program that has been offered online for the past 10 years at East Carolina University. The survey population included construction management educational professionals, current and graduated students, and new industry professionals. Data was collected from 10 survey respondents. Telephone surveys were conducted with two participants. While the relatively small sample size was dictated by cost limitations, the detailed responses provided valuable program information. Students praised online courses for its convenience and portability, while providing a broader world view and technical depth of the construction industry. Educators cited the benefit of additional course enrollment without the obstacles that are faced with enrolling traditional face to face classes. Educators felt the need for strategies to correct negative perceptions about online programs as being of lesser quality than face-to-face classes. The cost of tuition was also cited as being an area for improvement in light of the high cost of student debt. At the same time the cost of course development and delivery was cited as a constraint for some institutions. Commitment by both the institution and the faculty were identified as key success factors in having online programs approach the quality of face-to-face programs.

Keywords SWOT analysis, distance education, online programs, information technology

Ahmed, S. M., & Mahaffy, K. M., & Forbes, L. H., & Robinson-Watts, R. M., & Gregory, A. L. (2016, June), Success Factors in Distance Education: A Case of Master of Construction Management at East Carolina University Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25951

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015