Category: Michigan Tech Global Campus

News about Michigan Tech Global Campus: home of MTU’s online programs.

Engineering and Public Policy: Connections and Opportunities

View of Houghton's Agate Street, which is a mess of mud and rubble, after it was destroyed by the Father's Day Flood.

Houghton’s Agate Street after the Devastating 2018 Father’s Day Flood:

Just One of the Tough Repair Projects Tackled by Engineers

Remembering the Father’s Day Flood

On June 17, 2018, Houghton County experienced torrential rain, which some called a 1000-year event. Seven inches of rain fell in under nine hours. Roads were washed out. The Ripley neighborhood was decimated as a landslide tore downhill, wiping out peoples’ homes. The rain damaged over half of the 160 culverts on the Calumet-Hecla recreational trail. It flooded multiple homes and damaged yards. All in all, the Father’s Day Flood created 60 sinkholes and 150 road washouts. It left behind 42-million-dollar bill for road repair alone. Property damage is still being estimated.

Broken bridge floating in Hancock's  trail system, which was destroyed by the Father's Day flood. This image demonstrates the damage caused by raging waters.

Also destroyed was the Swedetown Gorge, the highlight of the Maasto-Hiihto trail system in Hancock, MI. The rain transformed its gentle stream into a raging river that uprooted trees and tossed boulders. Bridges collapsed, their wooden structures and concrete slabs jutting precariously out of the water. The trail on which people hike, ski, and bike suddenly became unnavigable.

But how to repair this trail? Where to get the money? There were public consultations. There was debate. Typically, people seek funding for recreational trail infrastructure projects through Michigan’s DNR grant programs. However, a lot of money was needed for the Swedetown Gorge Recovery Project. So engineers and project managers decided to take a different tactic. They went to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Navigating Policies and Programs

A crucial step for project planners was consulting FEMA’s 217-page Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide. One goal: making the argument that the trail system was a public facility (park) eligible for substantial funding. According to Michael Markham (OHM Advisors), his engineering firm “collected information on all the damaged sites, estimated the cost of repairs, designed, and bid out the project.” The city filed applications and proposed budgets. Because the project took so long to approve, OHM had to collaborate with three separate city managers. Eventually, The Swedetown gorge project got the green flag in late Jan 2021.

As this example demonstrates, engineers waded through several policies at every stage of this project. In other words, public policy knowledge is not solely for those in government and political careers. It is also for engineers.

That is the argument that Dr. Adam Wellstead, director of the Online Certificate in Public Policy, made to the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering (CEGE). On October 4, 2022, Dr. Wellstead presented at the CEGE department meeting. There, he articulated the connections between public policy and environmental engineering.

Although there is a high demand for policy analysts, he noted that there is even a higher demand for engineering graduates with a policy background. For instance, both state and local governments as well as public policy consulting firms require engineers with public policy skills. In fact, whether they’re planning infrastructure, bridges, or water systems, CEG engineers regularly have to consider local, state, and federal policies. They must conduct risk assessments, consult with publics, and understand the policy process. They must frequently examine issues through a public management lens.

Pursuing Public Policy Online

The Department of Social Science‘s online public policy certificate can help fill the demand for engineers with policy experience. Consisting of three 7-week courses (The Policy Process, Public Management, and the Policy Cycle), this certificate equips graduates with the fundamental skills to work as public policy experts in several fields. Students can also complete it in only two semesters. Along with Dr. Wellstead, the program’s teaching team comprises four other experts with diverse public policy perspectives. They are Angie Carter, Associate Professor of Sociology; Mark Rouleau, Associate Professor; Carolin Sjöholm, Visiting Assistant Teaching Professor; and Shan Zhou, Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy.

Regardless of their background, students can add value to their graduate or undergraduate degrees with this certificate. They can tap into the strong demand for policy-related careers. In particular, this program especially appeals to Michigan Tech’s BS and MS students considering employment in government agencies.

Proposing Engineering and Public Policy Programs

With this online public policy certificate, MTU currently joins other respected schools who have similar programs, such as Arizona, Auburn, and Michigan State.

Other prestigious universities also offer engineering and public policy programs (Carnegie Mellon, Northeastern, Delaware). Using these as examples, Wellstead proposed developing a similar program at Michigan Tech. One possibile joint program with CEGE is the Accelerated Environment and Energy Policy MS degree plus Public Policy Certificate option. He also suggested existing programs that would complement public policy, such as the online certificates in water resources modeling, geospatial data science and technology, and structural engineering (hazard analysis). These stackable certificates would allow CEGE students to combine their specific expertise with public policy skills.

Considering Next Steps

At the end of his presentation, Dr. Wellstead answered questions, considered comments, and planned the next steps. Several faculty members brought up additional connections between public policy and CEGE. Others suggested courses for the online public policy certificate, such as program evaluation.

To further analyze program viability and gauge interest, Dr. Wellstead will continue researching comparable programs, meeting with students, and exploring the linkages between public policy and engineering. In doing so, Dr. Wellstead is helping to achieve three of goals of the Michigan Tech Global Campus: promoting online learning; offering in-demand knowledge and skills; and opening up new educational pathways to diverse learners.

Graduate School: Is it for You?

View of six doors, ranging in color from blue to green. The fifth half-open door symbolizes the possibilities of grad school.

A Graduate Degree Could Open Up Doors For You

Graduate School: Some Quick Stats

More people than ever are enrolling in graduate degrees. That is true. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, a nonprofit and nongovernmental organization, enrollment in graduate programs increased by 3.6% in Fall of 2020. During the Spring 2021 semester, enrollment continued to rise to 4.4%. In fact, this growth far outpaced that predicted by the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES).

Several sources attribute much of this growth to online graduate enrollment, which amped up during the pandemic. In fact, Education and Beyond (EAB) reports that “from 2019 to 2020, enrollment in online graduate programs grew by 63%.” There was also a median increase in the number of students in online programs. Rather than the big online giants getting these gains, smaller universities with respected, accredited online programs created much of this growth. One of the online programs experiencing the most growth was the MBA. And, for the first time ever, in 2020-2021, online MBA students surpassed in-person MBA students.

So more people than ever are enrolling in graduate programs. It is also clear that online master’s degrees are gaining in credibility. We at Global Campus believe in the quality of Michigan Tech’s online graduate programs. But we also recognize that people pursue advanced education for various reasons.

Therefore, we collated a few resources to help you determine if graduate school is right for you.

General Benefits of Graduate Programs

Considering the Pros and Cons: These two articles from US News and the Harvard Business Review (HBR) discuss some of the strongest and weakest reasons for attending graduate school. Although they differ on the drawbacks, both articles agree that an advanced education can diversify your career options and increase your marketability. Career-consulting firm BetterUp also lists six crucial questions you should ask yourself before considering graduate school.

Exploring the Top Reasons:The Top Ten Reasons to Go to Grad School” summarizes common motivations for pursuing master’s degrees. These include investing in your future, getting noticed in the job market, and exploring your passions. This article also stresses how graduate programs help students gain important professional development skills. In fact, several of Michigan Tech’s graduate programs, such as the TechMBA and the Online Manufacturing Certificate, incorporate professional development and leadership skills in their curriculum.

Other Benefits of Advanced Degrees

Motivations differ, but below are a few of the other reasons people pursue advanced degrees.

Acquiring Increased Earnings and Greater Job Stability

Master’s programs obviously differ. Still, the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) has repeatedly shown how graduate degrees may increase your earnings and lower your chances of unemployment. When it comes to engineering, there are other advantages to pursuing advanced degrees in certain fields. For instance, the median annual income for aerospace engineers with a bachelor’s degree is $118,600. This salary rises to $134 to $143k for those with master’s degrees. And this is just one example.

Accessing In-Demand Careers

A graduate degree may allow you to take advantage of career trends. For instance, in its future jobs forecast, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that the need for statisticians will grow by 33% by 2026. (For perspective, the average job growth is about 7%.) Michigan Tech’s Online MS in Applied Statistics is an innovative degree meeting the need for professional, trained statisticians. Similarly, managing and securing the flood of data produced by the healthcare industry has created new employment opportunities. Tech’s MS in Health Informatics can prepare you for a career managing and securing health data and much, much more.

Meeting Employer Needs

Master’s degrees are also becoming necessary for certain in-demand jobs. As early as 2016, Fast Company reported on how employers were pumping up their education requirements for new hires. This trend has continued. According to some estimates, as much as 27% of employers prefer master’s degrees for certain positions.

Gaining Certifications

And then there is the relationship between advanced degrees and certification. The American Society of Civil Engineers offers board certifications (in certain fields). It offers certifications to those who have achieved at least a master’s degree, a P.E. license (or foreign equivalent), and 8 years of post-licensure progressive engineering experience. Michigan Tech’s own College of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering can help you take one of these first steps. That is, the CEGE offers an Online MS with a specialization in Water Resources Engineering. This field is available for board certification.

Graduate School: Let Us Help You Decide

These are just a few reasons and resources that were selected from the internet’s vast sea of information. There might be other factors influencing why you would enroll in graduate certificates or degree programs. And this blog also just skimmed the surface of the versatile online certificates and degrees offered by Michigan Tech.

If you need help choosing an online graduate program, deciding between a graduate certificate or master’s degree, or figuring out the application process, reach out to a representative from the Michigan Tech Graduate School or an expert from Global Campus. We’re here to help you open the door to new interests, educational pathways, and career opportunities.

Online Learning: Not New, but Definitely Improved

The hands of a student working at a computer, working on an online course.

Online Learning Has A Long History

A few weeks ago, this author made a Global Campus Facebook post about one of Michigan Tech’s online programs. Almost immediately, one of my husband’s friends sarcastically piped in: “What is this place? University of P—-ix?” At first, his comment confused me. Surely he knew that Michigan Tech, which began as a brick-and-mortar mining school, is obviously very different from that other for-profit online university. But his words also annoyed me. His tone implied that online learning is new, less credible, and less effective than traditional learning. These claims are all untrue.

Online Learning: From Correspondence Courses to MOOCs

Online learning is definitely not new; it has its roots in early distance education. In fact, you could trace its origins all the way back to 1728 when a struggling teacher, Caleb, offered to teach shorthand to students by exchanging letters. Over 150 years later, in 1892, the University of Chicago offered its first correspondence course. Then came radio-broadcasted, televised, and even phone-based courses. Admittedly, some of these first distance courses were “canned” and quite text-heavy. They involved little creativity, self-pacing, or instructor interaction. These instructor-focused courses had the goal of transmitting as much information as possible.

Both synchronous and asynchronous online learning sped up in the 1990s. Huge players such as Michigan State, CAL-Campus, and the UK’s Open University blazed the way. Michigan Tech also stepped in; its current Online Hybrid Electric Vehicle Engineering Certificate, in fact, is based on a 1990’s distance-learning course initially developed by Tech, General Motors, and AVL. This is just one of the online automotive programs offered by Tech.

Improvements in online learning were enhanced by e-learning and learning management systems, such as Blackboard (1997). WebCT, YouTube, and MOOCS further transformed online education. Theories of online learning and best practices for designing and teaching online courses also improved both teaching and learning experiences. For instance, Michigan Tech’s own William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning offers resources for designing, teaching, and reviewing online courses. Combined, these changes helped to make online education more accessible, interactive, and student-focused.

The Pandemic: Forcing a Shift

The pandemic made universities offer hybrid and online options. Students, teachers, and employers suddenly experienced the benefits of online learning. The result: more visibility and credibility for online courses. According to a recent New America poll, the belief in the quality of online learning actually increased by 16% during the pandemic.

A CNN survey also confirmed that 83 percent of the hiring executives said that an accredited online degree is as credible as one earned through a traditional on-campus program. Michigan Tech, continuously accredited since 1928, and which offers over 40 online certificates and degrees, is obviously a smart choice for your online education. And we’re working hard to develop new online programs, such as the recent TechMBA® and the Public Policy Certificate.

Other Benefits of Online Learning

The reputation of online learning probably suffers from the designs of early distance courses. These mainly consisted of students working through massive mail-ordered materials and contacting their instructors only periodically. Things have definitely changed since then.

That is, research has shown that online learning is as good as and, for some students, better than face-to-face instruction. In a recently published systematic review of thirty-two studies that analyzed both online teaching and learning, the authors found no significant difference in reduced effectiveness for online courses. The study did recognize, though, that for online courses and programs to succeed, courses needed to be well-designed, provide very structured online discussions, and incorporate interactive content and timely instructor feedback.

Others have commended online courses for enhancing learning and retention. The Research Institute of America puts this increase at 25-60% more. Why? For many students, the structure, multimedia content, frequent discussions, and flexibility of online courses maintain their attention. Involved students are then more likely to keep going and not drop their programs. IBM even found that in online courses with multimedia content, students learn five times more material than those in traditional face-to-face classes. There is also the freedom of working at your own pace. That is, for those students who feel bored or rushed in a traditional classroom setting, online courses allow them to move slowly through some challenging materials while skimming easier ones.

Young woman reading a book and taking notes at a desk, in front of a window in an open online setting. This image demonstrates that online learning  can happen anywhere.

We need to bring people to learning rather than learning to people.

Elliot Masie

Rich Classroom Communities, Greener Learning

Online courses also offer the opportunity to learn from students with a plethora of perspectives, interpretations, and solutions. And, from the author’s own research and experience, online courses often have this benefit: richer, more engaging discussions that include more learners, especially those who might not be as vocal in the face-to-face classroom.

And for those concerned about the environment, online learning is also the greener option. According to the Open University, students in online courses “consume 90% less energy and release 85% less CO2” than those in traditional in-person courses.

Time Management is the Key to Success

Despite its various benefits, online learning is not the easier option. Students must work hard, make a plan, and dedicate time to study. They must be self-motivated and organized. They must stay connected with other students and regularly interact with their instructors. Thankfully, Michigan Tech has several resources and even a self-paced course, which can help students tackle the challenges and receive the benefits of online programs.

As someone who has been both a student in and teacher of online courses, I’d advise that earlier guy, as well as others, to give online learning a try. Instead of having something to lose, you have a lot to gain: the flexibility and freedom to work in your own space and at your own pace; and the opportunity to learn what you love while fulfilling personal and professional goals. If you think that online learning is right for you, check out Michigan Tech’s online certificates and degrees.

Michigan Tech and Global Campus: Ready for the Mobility Revolution

Black Michigan Tech truck on the floor at Advanced Power Systems (APS) Labs.

Innovative Automotive Research

Investing in Michigan’s Future

Home to almost 1/5 of all American automobile production facilities. Headquarters to 71 of the major automotive suppliers. The largest population of engineers in any state. These are some of the reasons Michigan is a natural for leading the mobility revolution. And Michigan’s combination of facilities and talent is drawing investment, especially in the funding of innovative technologies related to vehicles.

For instance, General Motors pledged a historic 7-billion dollars to create 5,000 jobs. And then Ford joined in with a $2-billion dollar investment. Ford’s commitment will secure Michigan’s internal combustion engine portfolio, support future electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing growth, and grow 3,200 jobs. Michigan lawmakers also created a 1-billion dollar fund to attract Electric Vehicle (EV) technology.

These developments bode well for the automotive industry of the Great Lakes State. And even more so for higher-education institutions that specialize in engineering and STEM, such as Michigan Tech.

Reskilling for the Evolving Automotive Industry

The mobility revolution will require the reskilling of the current automotive workforce. It will also speed up the training of software developers, engineering technicians, electrical and electronics engineers, systems engineers, and first-line supervisors. From the manufacturing floor to the design room to the manager’s office, those in the automotive industry will need additional education. They will need skills in the fundamentals of electrified vehicles, batteries and electric storage, automotive systems, controls, communication networks, signal processing, and cybersecurity.

Michigan Technological University is once again ready to take up the challenge of reskilling the automotive workforce. We were there in the early days (or some might say, “back in the day”). In the early 1970s, ME-EM started developing its world-class expertise in combustion engines. Then, in the mid-1990s, ME-EM faculty also hosted short courses on noise and vibration, both on MTU’s campus and then on-site at Ford. It was about the same time that ME-EM offered some of our university’s earliest distance courses to General Motors (GM).

Since then, Tech has collaborated with the mobility industry, training both its current and future workforce to meet its ever-evolving needs. One example, developed by Michigan Tech, GM, the Michigan Academy of Green Mobility, and AVL, is our 15-credit certificate in hybrid electric drive engineering.

Automotive Programs at Tech and Through Global Campus

Tech also offers a very specific certificate in automotive systems and controls. This certificate prepares graduates with skills in controls, systems engineering, and systems integration. And these are just a few of the innovative online programs offered through the Michigan Tech Global Campus.

The rapidly expanding College of Computing at Michigan Tech (70% growth since 2014!) is also stepping up to the plate. Its versatile programs in computer science, software engineering, cybersecurity, data science, mechatronics, computer network, and system administration are all relevant to the mobility industry. Computing, as we all know, is everywhere.

And then there is Michigan Tech’s impressive Advanced Power Systems (APS) LABS, which offers customizable on-site and online automotive courses, in 35 system and subsystem areas. For several years, APS has supplied the automotive industry with research, resources, outreach services, training, and talent. It exemplifies innovation on wheels. (Stay tuned for a deeper look into APS!)

Wherever the mobility revolution takes us, rest assured that Michigan Tech, Global Campus, and APS LABS will be along for the ride.