# Tag: online learning

## Linear Algebra Bridge Course Returns for Fall 2024

On Monday, September 16, 2024, Teresa Woods is once again teaching her ten-week, noncredit, asynchronous, online course: Linear Algebra: A Bridge Course for Prospective Applied Statistics Students.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term bridge course, it is a short, intensive, preparatory course. Bridge courses help learners acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to enter advanced study, which might mean an undergraduate program, graduate degree, or graduate certificate. Often, these courses are meant for students who have been provisionally accepted into a program.

Woods’ course is an effective, low-cost option for prospective students who need the linear algebra requirement to enroll in MTU’s Online Master of Science in Applied Statistics program. However, those interested in brushing up on their linear algebra, so that they can later apply to the MSAS program could also take it.

The course’s very practical curriculum covers the fundamentals of linear algebra as they are used in applied statistics. Some of the topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

• systems of equations
• vectors
• matrices
• orthogonality
• subspaces
• the eigenvalue problem

Students will benefit from an interactive learning experience that will make the concepts stick. That is, the course involves helpful instructor-led videos, extensive auto-graded exercises in Pearson’s MyLab Math, periodic review assignments, and regular instructor feedback.

## What is Linear Algebra?

Algebra is a broad field encompassing the study of mathematical symbols and the rules for manipulating them. It includes various sub fields, such as elementary algebra, abstract algebra, and number theory.

Linear algebra, a specialized branch of algebra, focuses on the study of vectors, vector spaces (or linear spaces), matrices, eigenvalues and eigenvectors, linear transformations, and systems of linear equations. This foundational area of mathematics has applications in several fields, such as physics, computer science, engineering, economics, and applied statistics.

• In physics, experts use linear algebra to describe physical systems, including quantum mechanics, classical mechanics, and relativity.
• In engineering, those working in control theory, signal processing, and structural analysis recruit linear algebra tools.
• Computer scientists use this branch of algebra in computer graphic creation, machine learning, data mining, and optimization problems.
• Also, those in the field of economics apply linear algebra when modeling economic systems, analyzing input-output models, and optimizing resource allocation.

## What is the Relationship Between Linear Algebra and Applied Statistics?

And, of course, linear algebra plays a key role in applied statistics.

Applied statistics is the implementation of statistical methods, techniques, and theories to real-world problems and situations in science, engineering, business, medicine, social sciences, and more.

It involves collecting, summarizing, analyzing, interpreting, and presenting data to make informed decisions, analyze scenarios, solve problems, and answer questions.

Applied statisticians also use advanced techniques, such as machine learning algorithms, to extract insights and patterns from large datasets. They work in a wide range of places: research institutions, the government, business and finance, universities, healthcare systems, and more.

These experts regularly apply linear algebra, primarily because of its ability to handle large datasets and complex calculations efficiently.

## What Are Some Real-World Examples of Linear Algebra and Applied Statistics?

Here are a few scenarios in which linear algebra and applied statistics work together:

• A statistician working for Netflix might collect and then simplify data on user ratings for various movies. Next, they would represent that data as a matrix and train the model. By uncovering patterns in the ratings, they could then use the model to generate an effective recommendation system. This approach is also widely used in e-commerce sites and music streaming services.
• Furthermore, a real estate agent might use linear regression, a common method for determining outcomes, to predict how housing prices will increase or decrease in the next year. This information would help them price houses in their portfolio, estimate their commission, and so on.
• In the healthcare sector, professionals use linear algebra and applied statistics. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) helps reduce the complexity of a large dataset by identifying key patterns and relationships between variables. Through this approach, health officials can then predict and intervene on disease outbreaks more effectively.
• And, of course, linear algebra and applied statistics work together in several processes involving elections. These include voter segmentation and targeting, predictive modeling, analyzing voting patterns, polling analysis, and redistricting and gerrymandering.

## About Your Instructor

Teresa Woods, associate teaching professor in Mathematical Sciences, is helming this course. Woods also advises students and serves as assistant to the department chair.

Woods’ received her Master’s of Science in Mathematical Sciences from Michigan Tech in 2017. Her master’s report “ANALYSIS OF ALEKS MATHEMATICS PLACEMENT TEST DATA” combined her two areas of expertise (and passions): mathematics and educational assessment. That is, she holds both an MS in Mathematical Sciences and an MS in Education (with a focus on adult learning.)

If you take this course, you’ll benefit from an instructor who has considerable experience in teaching, a wealth of enthusiasm for elementary linear algebra, and a rich history in designing and delivering online courses.

## Reach Out if You’d Like to Learn More.

Need advice on whether this course is right for you? If so, please contact Teresa Woods at tmthomps@mtu.edu. Or if you have questions about our online MSAS program, contact Amanda at globalcampus@mtu.edu.

## Three Ways Statistics Impact Elections

125: that is the number of days until US Election Day, 2024. On November 5, the 47th president of the United States will be decided. So while campaigns are in full swing, and pollsters are making predictions, this blog focuses on the role of statistics in the election process.

At their most basic, elections allow citizens to exercise representative democracy by selecting individuals to occupy public office. Those selected then make critical decisions that impact citizens. And these ballots that officials tally are then transformed into statistical data, ultimately determining the election’s result.

However, statistics play a part in the election process long before voters cast their ballots. That is, officials use statistics to forecast election results, inform campaign strategy, and micro-target individuals.

An understanding of how statistics are used in elections, then, can enhance transparency for voters, as well as encourage all citizens to advocate for data privacy and security. Additionally, those interested in mathematics, statistical applications, and political science might be interested in learning about how statistics impact elections.

## Statistics in Politics

Throughout history, statistics have played an important role in politics. Government bodies used statistics in the election process to support the formal decision-making processes that determine who will fill offices in the legislature. However, technological advancements, the accumulation of data, and the maturation of statistical models have made elections increasingly complex.

For example, in the past, politicians and their supporters would cast a wider net when campaigning for votes. But today, data analytics and digital resources allow parties to collect information about the public and then hyper-personalize campaign targeting. As a result, modern elections require statistical experts who can manage and leverage data while maintaining ethical standards related to trust, security, and privacy.

Below are the most obvious three ways that statistics impact elections.

## Election Forecasts

Those creating election forecasts use legally available data and statistics to inform the public about the probable outcome of an upcoming election. Political statisticians recruit this data, along with reporting, historical patterns, and academic research to create a detailed account of the Senate and House forecasts.

In the United States, this process includes disclosing the favored party, estimating the number of seats in each House, and predicting whether the outcome will result in a majority government. In short, statisticians use a forecasting model to transform large data sets into meaningful predictions for future outcomes

### How to Build an Election Forecast Model

• Create a national database.
• Clean and layer the data.
• Plug the data points into a predictive model for forecasting.

### Forecasting in Action

The popular website FiveThirtyEight, created by American statistician Nate Silver, is a staple of ABC News. The website’s primary objectives are advancing public knowledge and promoting transparency around voting outcomes.

To achieve these aims, it uses polling, economic, and demographic data to explore likely election outcomes. It also employs statisticians to build empirical statistical models for accurate election forecasts.

After the data is collected, experts then input it into Nate Silver’s forecast model. This model, which combines polling, economic, and demographic data, aims to provide an informed prediction rather than an unskilled guess.

And the website regularly updates its predictions too. For instance, on June 26, 2024, the site, after running 100 simulations, predicted that President Joe Biden and Donald Trump each had a 50% chance of winning the election. However, on July 2, 538 changed the prediction to 50% for Trump and 49% for Biden. And as the election nears, and uncertainty decreases, 538 claims its predictions will grow more accurate. This site exemplifies just one popular election forecast tool.

## Election Campaign Strategy

The use of statistics in election campaigning has also changed dramatically. That is, historically, the only data that politicians and their supporters used to garner insights was that derived from the polls. In recent years, however, data and statistics have revolutionized election campaigns.

Today’s data-driven world offers campaign strategists a surplus of data points about past elections, voter preferences, and geopolitical influences. In addition, new communication platforms, such as social media, allow campaigns to profile their voters’ identities and needs. Statisticians can also harness publicly available data to inform campaign messaging, political priorities, and outreach.

Campaign research allows parties to investigate target audiences’ behaviors, attitudes, values, and beliefs to test campaign messaging, creativity, and delivery. According to The Commons Social Change Library, statisticians use the following quantitative and qualitative research methods to inform campaign strategy.

### Quantitative Campaign Strategy Research

• Benchmark Polls
• Issue Polls
• Longitudinal Surveys
• Member Surveys
• CATI (computer-assisted telephone interview) polls
• Dial-testing

### Qualitative Campaign Strategy Research

• Deep dive interviews
• Face-to-face focus groups
• Online focus groups
• Online communities

Once the previous research is complete, campaigners then test various messages. Alternatively, they might test the gap between their voters’ current stances and the desirable action. This job is a laborious one. Campaigners must strive for creating winning messages that make impactful arguments, define important issues, expose the opposition’s weak points, and tell compelling narratives.

Statisticians with a marketing background may excel in this area of research and persuasion. Why? They already have the foundational skills needed to create data-driven campaign strategies, from initial research to distribution.

## Microtargeting in Elections

Before advanced data and statistics, campaigns often involved grass-roots approaches. These included direct mail, home visits, radio, television, and out-of-home marketing campaigns (ex., billboards, posters, etc.). Today, campaigns can leverage social media, digital marketing, and advanced data analytics to reach voters on their devices and tailor personalized messaging. This latter strategy is otherwise known as microtargeting.

In microtargeting, the audience is segmented into specific groups, with each group receiving a message that speaks to their likes and needs. This profiling, though, is not new.

Consumers are already accustomed to online stores such as Amazon, as well as social media (TikTok, Facebook) understanding their preferences.

For instance, you purchase one book and Amazon recommends a similar one. You buy running shoes (a lot) and you’re now in a fitness/running channel.

Similarly, political parties and election campaigns use microtargeting to communicate with voters about their initiatives. The goal is influencing voting outcomes in their favor.

### How Microtargeting Works

Micro-targeting uses statistics in a similar manner to that of election forecasting. First, statisticians collect and clean data points from a national database. Then, they layer on publicly available information, including email addresses, phone numbers, employment, education, purchasing patterns, IP addresses, etc.

Next, statisticians use predictive models to indicate for whom a voter is likely to vote and how likely a voter is to change their voting preference. These models also predict how lifestyle choices, such as being single or married, might affect voting behaviors. Statisticians also investigate how voters’ values align with topical issues like gun control, the climate crisis, abortion, immigration, and so on.

After the analysis comes the categorization. Each group is sorted into different channels. Each audience (channel) then receives personalized campaign messaging based on their beliefs and inclinations. The purpose is delivering the right campaign message, to the right voter, at the right time. (At its roots, microtargeting is a very deliberate form of kairos. In rhetoric, kairos is the identification of the critical moment to deliver a finely tuned persuasive message or to take an action.)

### The Risks of Microtargeting

Advanced microtargeting, of course, has its downsides. Take the most famous example, which began in 2014. Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, obtained the private Facebook data of tens of millions of users. It then unethically sold psychological profiles of American voters to political campaigns.

How did this microtargeting scam work? 270,000 Facebook users played with the supposedly innocuous personality profile app called “This Is Your Digital Life.” This app, created by scientist and psychologist Alexsandr Kogan, allegedly collected 5,000 data points from each participant.

What’s worse: participants didn’t read between the lines. When users gave this third-party app permission to acquire their data, they also gave the app access to their friends’ networks. The more friends = the more data exposed.

Kogan then sold this data to Cambridge Analytica. As a result, the company illegally compiled the data of about 87 million users who had not explicitly given Cambridge Analytica permission. The firm then used up to 50 million profiles for their predictive modeling. At the very least, the app developer breached Facebook’s terms of service by giving the data to Cambridge Analytica. After investigations began, the incident started a heated, nationwide conversation about the ethical principles of data, political targeting, and power. And about Facebook, data security, and cybersecurity.

## Study Applied Statistics at Michigan Tech.

Election campaigning and increased microtargeting are very much still with us. Therefore, firms that generate value from personal data must consider the ways they acquire it, share it, protect it, and profit from it. Statisticians who work for these firms must also stay in line with ongoing legislative efforts that respect users’ privacy and security.

Curious about how statistics make a difference in elections? Are you fascinated by the data-driven side of political science? Do you want to ensure statistics are collected ethically? Alternatively, maybe you’re interested in developing the skills for collecting data and using applied statistics in business, government, finance, insurance companies, and more.

If you answered yes to these questions, Michigan Technological University’s Online MS in Applied Statistics offers students foundational knowledge in statistical science and methods while utilizing the latest industry-standard statistical and data analysis software. After graduation, you can set yourself apart in the competitive workforce with not only specialized skills, but also the accountability to act with integrity, honesty, and diligence.

And statistics jobs pay well, too. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, as of 2023, the median annual wage for a statistician was \$104,860. Furthermore, the projected average growth rate through 2032 for jobs in these fields is 30%. That’s four times higher than the projection for all occupations in the same timeframe.

Upskill for the future with Michigan Tech’s Online MS in Applied Statistics.

## Discover the Online Tech MBA® and MEM Programs.

The College of Business and Michigan Tech Global Campus are teaming up to hold another virtual interest session on two of MTU’s most popular online programs: The Tech MBA® and the Master of Engineering Management (MEM).

They will be holding another 45-minute virtual interest session on Wednesday, July 17, at 11:30 AM (ET).

Mari Buche, associate Dean of the College of Business and program director; and David Lawrence, vice president for Global Campus and continuing education will lead the presentation. They will highlight and compare these programs, explaining which one is best for you. The team will also provide examples of curriculum pathways and discuss career opportunities.

The Michigan Tech’s Global Campus small but mighty team of admissions representatives (Amanda Irwin and Jacque Smith) will also be present to discuss the application process and accelerated options.

## Get an Accredited, Respected Degree.

The Tech MBA® and MEM are not new, though. For several years, the in-person versions of these programs have long been respected at MTU. The Tech MBA in its current form (30 credits) began in 2017 whereas the online format was rolled out in 2022. Next came the in-person and online versions of the MEM (2020, 2023).

Both programs are also accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB), an honor bestowed on only 5% of the nations’s business schools.

And like their in-person equivalents, the online MBA and MEM programs meet a strict set of standards, ensuring quality in curriculum, rigor, and research.

The Online Tech MBA® is a highly structured program consisting of eight required courses and two electives. In contrast, the MEM degree is more flexible. Students get to build their own programs, combining 4-6 business courses with 4-6 engineering courses.

Both programs provide learning experiences that fuse technological expertise and business administration. Students get to leverage their previous engineering experience, regardless of their field, and/or their former engineering management expertise. They also gain the cross-disciplinary advantage of studying at a school known for not only for its technology and business programs, but also for its Faculty who have leadership and industry experience in tech-centric fields.

Graduates of both programs will leave equipped with critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, project management, and leadership skills. As a result, they are more than prepared to tackle marketing, management, technical sales, leadership, strategy, and entrepreneurship positions.

## Prepare Yourself for Career Opportunities.

Incomes differ, but an investopedia article notes that MBA graduates who specialize in consulting, finances, and technology management earn the most. And according to one Fortune article, the median salaries for those with MBA degrees are substantially higher than those without them. One report ascribes 1.2 million dollars in extra income over a 20-year period.

Also, many organizations seek out and respect MBA holders. In fact, the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) found that 89% of employers planned to hire MBA graduates in 2021.

And MBA holders apply their skills and expertise in several fields. For instance, in Finance and Accounting, they might work as accounting managers, finance managers, financial analysts, budget analysts, and investment bankers. Whereas in heathcare, they might take on the roles of healthcare administrators and medical health service managers. Still others move to manufacturing where they act as managers for operations, supply chain, quality control, and more.

Typically, MBA programs are one of the most expensive master’s programs, with an average tuition cost of about 56k. This number does not include fees, books, and so on. Michigan Tech’s accredited program, which costs less, is definitely a value.

## Learn More!

Prefer to do your own research? We’ve compiled other reasons for earning an advanced degree and pursuing an MBA.

Want to dive deeper? Ask more questions? Please join us at our virtual interest session on the Tech MBA®and MEM programs on Wednesday, July 15, 11:30 AM at ET. Bring your curiosity and your questions.

## GIScience for Natural Resources: New Online Grad Cert. From CFRES

Dr. Parth Bhatt at work.

Coming in Fall 2024, the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science (CFRES) will be offering a new online graduate certificate: Foundations in Geographic Information Science (GIScience) for Natural Resources. Taught by Dr. Parth Bhatt, Associate Teaching Professor / Researcher at CFRES, this certificate consists of three foundational courses. They are GIS for Natural Resource Management (4 credits), Map Design With GIS (3 credits), and GPS Field Techniques (2 credits).

This certificate is the first of three that will form CFRES’s new online master’s degree in GIScience (currently under development). The others will be Advanced Geographic Information Science for Natural Resources and Remote Sensing for Natural Resources. These two will comprise rigorous courses in Python, Applied Spatial Statistics, GIS Project Management, Advanced Terrestrial Remote Sensing, Photogrammetry, and more. In other words, this online MS degree will equip graduates with a rich, varied skill set in GIScience. They will also acquire a holistic, deep understanding of the spatial dimensions of the world.

For a decade, CFRES has offered a respected, in-person MGIS. Like its predecessor, this interdisciplinary online master’s degree will emphasize practical skills in spatial visualization and analysis. Students will use real-world datasets and state-of-the-art GIS software and techniques to take on challenges in forestry, natural resources, and other disciplines.

The reputation of CFRES, the program’s emphasis on natural resources, and its robust curriculum promise to make this program a highly esteemed online GIS master’s degree. Global Campus is thrilled to be involved with it!

## Applying GIScience in Forestry and Natural Resources

If you’re not familiar with Geographic Information Science, it is an exciting, growing, multidisciplinary field. It focuses on the study of geographic information, spatial data, as well as their applications. Combining principles from geography, computer science, mathematics, and other disciplines, GIScience has the ambitious goal of understanding, analyzing, and modelling the spatial aspects of the world.

GIS, or Geographical Information Systems, focuses on the what: the hardware and software that capture geographic information. In contrast, GIScience, focuses on the why: finding practical ways to improve GIS data, software, and professional practice.

This certificate and upcoming MGIS will provide fundamental GIScience expertise to foresters and natural resource experts. In Natural Resource Management, for example, professionals use GIScience for several purposes:

• resource inventory and mapping
• environmental impact assessment
• habitat modeling and conservation planning
• natural disaster management
• sustainable land use planning

Take resource inventory and mapping. Natural resource managers turn to GIScience to create detailed inventories and maps of natural resources. This data then allows them to analyze the distribution and abundance of resources within an area: forest stands, wetlands, mineral deposits, endangered species habitats, and other important ecological features.

Alternatively, in habitat modeling and conservation planning, experts use GIScience tools to analyze the suitability of habitats for different species. This suitability is based on environmental variables such as temperature, precipitation, elevation, and vegetation cover. GIScience, in short, is crucial to conservation planning. It can help identify critical habitats, corridors for wildlife movement, and areas for habitat restoration or protection.

## Solving Multiple Problems With GIScience

First and foremost, GIScience offers practical skills and tools for professionals in several natural resource fields. These include GIS Analysts/Technicians, foresters, civil and environmental engineers, spatial/transportation planners, wildlife ecologists, forest analysts, surveyors, geospatial specialists, water resources analysts, environmental scientists, geologists, community forest specialists, and urban forestry technicians.

Several, in fact, turn to this toolkit regularly. One previous alum from the in-person MGIS now works as a Senior GIS Analyst. In this role for Pine Gate Renewables, he uses GIS and Remote Sensing daily. These tools help him to identify risks for setting up solar farms, creating hydrology models, and locating wetlands.

Another alum with broad responsibilities also confirmed the daily use of GIScience. He oversees the creation of maps, spatial data analysis, surveying projects, data checks on road segments, and storm water analysis “to create pervious and impervious classification.” This person also admits to “diligently maintaining maps detailing water infrastructure” and managing and reviewing “various city assets, ensuring their accuracy and reliability through spatial data analysis.”

In other words, these alumni regularly manage several responsibilities with GIScience and Remote Sensing.

## Contending With Climate Change

Regardless of their discipline, GIScience can also equip professionals with the tools and the strategies to predict and combat the effects of climate change.

This skillset is especially relevant now: 2023 was the warmest year on record. (The temperature was 1.18°C [2.12°F] above the 20th-century average of 13.9°C [57.0°F]. In fact, the last ten warmest years in the 174-year record have all occurred between 2014 and 2023. And with a heating planet come more impactful environmental events: floods, extreme weather, drought, and forest fires.

According to NOAA, 2023 also set another record–for natural disasters. During this year, there were 28 devastating weather and climate disasters. The price tag for these events was almost 93 billon dollars.

For contending with climate change’s effects, then, GIScience can aid with hazard mapping, risk assessment, and emergency response planning. For instance, by analyzing spatial data related to factors such as terrain, vegetation, hydrology, and population density, professionals can identify areas prone to natural hazards. Whether these are floods, wildfires, and landslides, experts can develop strategies to mitigate risks and respond effectively during emergencies.

### The Pakistan Flood Events

Dr. Parth Bhatt, himself, used GI Science to document the effects of Pakistan’s historic floods, which lasted from June 15 to October 2022.

In these devastating flood events, waters inundated more than one million homes. The flood hit all four of the country’s provinces, resulting in at least two million houses destroyed.

In total, 33 million people were directly affected with 20.6 million requiring urgent humanitarian assistance. (Unfortunately, nine months later, the monsoons brought more flooding, further exacerbating the crisis.)

## Looking Ahead to the Future of GIScience

GIScience, in short, can help professionals in many fields manage the world’s resources, plan infrastructure, mitigate and plan for natural hazards, and combat (or prepare for) the effects of climate change, and more.

However, its tools are also becoming increasingly integral in fields beyond traditional domains like urban planning and environmental science.

As GIScience “continues to evolve and adapt to new demands, its impact on industries and disciplines worldwide is set to expand. As such, it will drive “transformative change and unlocking new possibilities for spatial analysis and decision-making” (GIS Analyst II). For instance, some of the newer industries hiring GIS experts are construction, engineering, insurance, real estate, and oil and gas.

One Senior GIS Specialist (Pine Gate Renewables) further confirmed that in the solar industry, there are more people being hired with a GIScience background than there were before. More professionals use “GIS and remote sensing to help identify issues, notice change over time, help drive decisions, and keep projects moving forward.”

Another expert stated that proficiencies in ArcGIS, QGIS, Python, R, and Javscript are becoming increasingly essential in GIS specialist roles.

From agriculture to healthcare, smart cities to disaster management, GIS and Remote Sensing are revolutionizing how we analyze spatial data, make informed decisions, and address complex challenges. Integration with emerging technologies like AI, along with a focus on environmental monitoring, public health, and conservation, underscores their pivotal role in shaping a more sustainable and interconnected world.

## Learning From a Passionate Teacher

And it’s not just what you will learn in these programs but who you will learn it from. That is, Foundations in GI Science for Natural Resources (and the online MGIS) are both helmed and taught by Dr. Parth Bhatt, whose passion for the subject was covered in a previous blog.

Bhatt’s portfolio of GIScience skills is also diverse: he has expertise in Geographical Information Systems, remote sensing, digital image processing (Multispectral, LiDAR, UAV, Hyperspectral), land use/cover mapping, invasive species mapping, forest health and natural resource management, spatial data analysis, and Web GIS/ArcGIS Online.

Most recently, he has received a grant to put these skills to work: acting as a PI on research projects for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan.

Bhatt has also been instructing the very popular, noncredit, professional development course, Python for Modern GIS and Remote Sensing. This course, which runs several times a year, has had rave reviews.

## Taking the Next Steps

If you’d like to learn more about GIScience or you require more information about the Online GIS Certificate from CFRES, please contact Program Director Parth Bhatt (ppbhatt@mtu.edu).

Alternatively, reach out to Program Assistant Marjorie Banovetz (marjorie@mtu.edu).

There is still plenty of time to get started for Fall 2024 and develop your versatile GIS toolkit! And accelerated options are also available.

## Jacque Smith: Graduate School Champion and MTU Ambassador

1978. That was the year that a young Jacque Smith, a junior at Marist High School, stopped at a bulletin board. Why? His eye caught a flier for one of Michigan Tech’s Summer Youth Programs.

Growing up in the busy city of Chicago, and fascinated by science, this flier spoke to him.

It offered the winning combination of an experience at a STEM school, a taste of the great outdoors, and, of course, a chance for many adventures.

So he just had to go.

That early taste of Tech, which also introduced Jacque to the UP, stuck with him.  So when it was time to apply to colleges, Michigan Tech was not at the top of his list; it was the only school on that list. Off he went, eventually graduating with a BS in Mechanical Engineering in 1985.

But his relationship with Michigan Tech did not end there. That is, as a valuable staff member, Jacque has been involved with and dedicated to MTU for over 18 years. During this time, he has graciously shared his substantial and varied talents with our Husky community. After beginning under Dave Reed, the Vice President for Research, he moved over to the Graduate School. While there, he has had multiple roles involving admissions and graduate education. He even, for seven years, leant his service to the Alumni Board.

Readers have already learned about the busy schedule and ambitious initiatives of Vice President for Global Campus and continuing education, David Lawrence. They’ve learned about Brian Hannon’s hockey history, MTU origins, and KRC involvement. They’ve also caught a glimpse of Amanda Irwin’s commitment to students and online education. So it was time to introduce Jacque Smith, a crucial part-time team member of Global Campus.

I felt grateful, nay privileged, to catch up with this busy man (and very personable guy).

## Thank you for agreeing to this interview. First, please state your title and your position at the Graduate School. What do you do in this role? And how is it connected to your role at Global Campus?

In the Graduate School, I am Director of Graduate School Operations and Enrollment Services where I’m involved with pretty much all the Graduate School processes and policies. Although I don’t have an official title in Global Campus, I feel directly connected to it because we have common goals. That is, I’m a liaison who’s trying to optimize processes and outcomes for Global Campus. Doing so then optimizes those same things for the Graduate School. We’re all trying to improve the admissions experience and get students into programs.

## Jacque, give me a breakdown of what you do on a regular day.

I’m a morning person, so I am usually on campus before 7am. And I start my day reading my emails, looking at things that are going on, and then I have my first meeting every day at 8:15 AM with the rest of my admission colleagues and Amanda Irwin from Global Campus. This meeting is where we interact every day to solve problems and to help people. Then, there are various meetings, which could be with Faculty, Global Campus, corporate partners.

A big part of my day is admission matters, in which I’m helping students get to a completed application so they can, ultimately, get a decision. I also make admission decisions for multiple masters’ programs here on campus. So I’m reviewing students’ completed files and making decisions on which students we think will have the best chance of success for our programs.

## Why get involved with graduate education? That is, why do YOU think that graduate education matters? What’s your personal motivation to help students get advanced degrees whether online or in-person?

I often tell students that it’s not a question of if you’re going to go on to an advanced degree; it’s a question of when you’re going to do it. In reality, I think advanced degrees are required for our students to get to where they want to go, to get into the types of positions they want, whether it’s management and so on.

Many of our students are striving for more and want different paths. So they need that extra degree. And some people who have their bachelor’s are moving along, they’re doing great things, but they decided they don’t want to do that job forever. I want to help people pivot in their lives, to move in different directions and hopefully be more satisfied.

## Jacque, you’re also one of the most enthusiastic advocates, or maybe ambassadors, for Global Campus, Michigan Tech, and the Graduate School. Where have you traveled to recruit students?

I not only have been around the State and the country recruiting students for Michigan Tech, but also have traveled to Thailand, India, and Japan in search of students who are the right fit for this university. Tomorrow, on March 20, I’m traveling down to Chicago to take part in the national MANRRS conference. The mission of MANRRS is to “promote academic and professional advancement by empowering minorities in agriculture, natural resources, and related sciences.” While there, I will be representing Michigan Tech and trying to recruit students.

## What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is helping students get through the admissions process and into programs that, I believe many times, are life-changing events. Students come in and when they come out the other side, they often have amazing careers and do amazing things. So helping people get started is probably one of the most rewarding things for me.

Then there is working in the Graduate School itself. I’m dealing with people all around the world: over 50 different nations. So it’s fascinating to sit at my desk and interact with people from all kinds of different countries, helping them out. Another thing I really like about being in the Graduate School is that it encompasses the whole campus. I’m not just dealing with one individual academic program; I’m dealing with all the different academic programs and all their nuances. So, on a daily basis, my job gets me more involved in MTU.

## What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is choosing the best opportunities for Tech. That is, there are so many wonderful things we can be doing to improve the exposure of Michigan Tech, increase our enrollment, and make connections. The tough part is balancing the resources we have while deciding what will bring the best result for the university.

## As part of MTU’s mission to support industry in the state of Michigan, Michigan Tech and Global Campus are involved with several corporate partners, which you occasionally get to meet during formal events. Jacque, can you speak of some of your experiences at these events?

Often when we visit these companies, we get to see their facilities. These companies are proud of what they do, just as Michigan Tech is, so they want to show it off. It’s always a privilege to get an inside peek at many of these corporations. We get to tour their facilities, their plants, and meet with their employees and leaders. And we see behind the scenes. It’s also impressive to see the Michigan Tech alumni who are working at these places, helping to build these technologies.

## Why Michigan Tech? That is, what is it about this university and this area that make them a natural fit for you?

As I’ve said before, I’m both a graduate of the summer youth program and Michigan Tech, so I have a long history!

About Michigan Tech. I believe it’s the size and the resources and its focus on STEM, which were and are still appealing to me. I’ve always been interested in technical fields. But then I’ve always had an outdoor side to me too. And this university is like a natural extension of these interests. Along with the academics and the programs, there is the location. This area allows me the ability–and I know other people use this term, too–to have micro adventures. I don’t need two weeks to go do something. I can go out on an afternoon and have an amazing experience just because everything is so close in the Upper Peninsula.

## When you’re not working for the Graduate School or Global Campus, what do you like to do in your free time? Where can we find you, for example, on the weekend?

I’ve always been an adventurer: a hiker, a climber, and a camper. I’ve done many different activities and I still do a lot of them. Right now, you can often find me on jeeping adventures where I go off-roading to access out-of-the-way areas to camp and stay—to just kind of get out of town and find visually beautiful places. And I often meet great people on these adventures. There’s a certain camaraderie about these experiences. Luckily, I have a wonderful girlfriend who supports me and my jeep journeys!

## Is there anything else you’d like to add?

One thing has always struck me. Wherever I’ve traveled, it always seems that I find a link to Michigan Tech. Or I meet MTU alumni. It’s a very small world. That is, it seems like no matter where I go, I’m delighted to discover yet another Michigan Tech connection!

I’d like to end by saying that, again, I really enjoy having conversations with current and potential students, determining what their needs are and how Michigan Tech can help fulfill those needs. And I think that graduate school, whether online or in-person, allows students to achieve their goals and get them to where they need to be.

## Michigan Tech Global Campus: A Great Fit for Amanda Irwin

Amanda doing what she does best: being an advocate and team player for Global Campus

## Guiding Students With Expertise and Representing Global Campus With Passion

Michigan Tech Global Campus, which is responsible for housing MTU’s online graduate programs, continuing education, and more, is staffed by a small but mighty team. You previously learned about Vice President David Lawrence, such as his rigorous schedule and his passion for developing partnerships. Then, Brian Hannon, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Alliances, and former MTU hockey star (or should we say celebrity!), skated across the digital pages of this blog.

But there are a few people left to write about, two team members and student champions you need to meet. And one of them is Amanda Irwin, Graduate Admissions Manager for Global Campus. She was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to let me interview her.

### Before we get into the details of what you do at Michigan Tech Global Campus, tell us a little more about you.

In 2009, I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Business Administration (BBA), majoring in Accounting, from Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU). While completing my degree, I also worked full time in workforce development and case management.

That is when and where I found my passion for higher education. In my job, I worked closely with dislocated workers, helping them take advantage of grant money for retraining. And I loved it.

That experience is what launched me onto the path of helping students with their educational journeys. I am also a mom of four super cool kids!

### What, exactly, do you do on your job?

In my role, I help prospective students through all stages of the inquiry and enrollment process. In doing so, I answer questions about our programs and application process. But probably the most impactful of my duties is walking students through the admissions process step by step, detailing the timeline, and letting them know what to expect next. I think students appreciate the insight. They feel more at ease knowing what the process will look like from start to finish.

### What was your previous role before coming to Michigan Tech Global Campus and how did that experience prepare you for this one?

Well, I have worked in admissions since 2012, at a local university and at a community college. The decision-making process is very different for a high school student coming to their freshman year of college vs. that of an adult student returning later in life (or starting for the first time). These experiences with students have provided me with perspective. They’ve also opened my eyes to so many different life paths that people will walk through. Lastly, my previous roles have helped me develop a deeper understanding of diverse student experiences. And patience and empathy, of course!

### What is the favorite part of being the Graduate Admissions Manager for Michigan Tech Global Campus?

Talking to cool people is my favorite part of the job. I enjoy being in a relationship and making a connection with students, chatting about kids or the weather or sports….finding that common ground with them. A close second is hearing from students semesters later and learning that they are doing well and planning their graduations. In other words, it is that feeling of accomplishment in knowing that you helped them get started.

### Why have you chosen to work in online learning? That is, what about online learning resonates with you?

I think online learning is the wave of the future, especially for our adult learners. Online learning offers the flexibility students need to be able to say, “Yes, I can move toward that next goal while working at my current job or caring for my family, and so on.” Online learning allows nontraditional students to fulfill their personal and professional goals and to finish what they started. Or get a brand new start altogether.

### Along with guiding students through the application process, you’ve often done outreach for Michigan Tech Global Campus. Can you say a little more about this work?

Well, I regularly travel to and participate in our corporate partner events to represent Michigan Technological University and Global Campus. For instance, in Fall 2023, I attended corporate fellowship signing ceremonies for both ITC (September) and MAHLE (November).

I’m also very active in my local chamber of commerce where I go to various events and spread the word about Michigan Tech and Global Campus. One of the most memorable events was the Midland Business Association’s (MBS) Women in STEM panel discussion, in which female researchers and leaders talked about some of their challenges in STEM roles. This event was partially sponsored by Global Campus. Global Campus was also a program sponsor for one of our WakeUp Midland networking breakfast events. These events offer a great opportunity to make business contacts, enjoy breakfast, and create networks.

And when Michigan Technological University sponsored Dr. Ruth Archer at the Lean Summit, I set up a Global Campus table there.

The goal in all of these events is getting exposure for Global Campus, building on the respect and reputation of our little school in the north, and letting people know that we can bring Michigan Tech to them.

### When you are not working, what do you like to do?

I love helping with my kids’ sports teams, especially basketball. Watching them play any sport is where you will find me most weekends.

When we aren’t playing sports, I enjoy adventuring with my husband and kids. We fish, explore parks, go rock hunting, go on waterfall adventures. The whole family loves going for a drive and searching for eagles and other cool birds.

I also enjoy some recreation league sports that I play in a few times a year, hanging with family and friends, and doing puzzles.

### Anything else you’d like to add?

If you have questions about any of Michigan Tech’s online programs or the application process, please reach out to me at globalcampus@mtu.edu. You’ll get friendly service from someone who knows our programs and the application process inside and out.

## Parth Bhatt Powers Through With Python

Above: A high-resolution, drone-captured image of seagulls gathering on the beach in St. Ignace, Michigan.

Dr. Parth Bhatt is definitely making his mark at Michigan Tech’s College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. Arriving in only 2016, he quickly earned both his master’s degree and then his doctorate from the CFRES. And on important projects, too. That is, during his PhD, he worked with the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service to map the Hiawatha National Forest according to its natural habitat communities. To do so, he used both sensing and machine learning techniques.

But this was not his first use of machine learning to depict and analyze complex natural phenomenon. Before coming to Tech, Parth Bhatt worked with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

Currently, Parth (which he prefers to be called) is a Teaching Assistant Professor / Researcher in the CFRES, who has a passion for Python, remote sensing, and more.

Recently, I’ve collaborated with him to help promote his courses and to grow with Global Campus.

## Discovering Python’s Capabilities

But let’s take a step back for a second. Despite his current expertise in and enthusiasm for Python , it was at Michigan Tech that Parth first developed his passion for this programming tool.

As an MS student, he took the class Python Programming for ArcGIS. Here, he learned more about Python and applying some of its techniques to automate repetitive tasks. Impressed with this tool, Parth then attended a GIS conference in which he saw people using Python in almost every field. At this event, he thought to himself, “I need to get better at this.” So he buckled down on his studying, taking in several NASA sponsored online webinars.

And get better he did. And quickly!

He ended up teaching several courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. He was enthusiastically in the classroom for Introduction to GIS, Introduction to GIS for Natural Resources Management, GIS Project Management, and Seminar in GIS.

It is obvious that Parth is a very busy and motivated professional. That is, he is currently instructing a non-credit, 7-week course (Python for Modern GIS and Remote Sensing). And while doing so, he is also developing a for-credit graduate certificate for Spring 2024.

Because this programming language is his passion, I asked him to explain it to me.

### Q. Summarize Python for a layperson.

A. Python is a popular programming language for making a person’s day to day work/research life easier and efficient. It has gained widespread popularity in the past decade. Overall, it is extremely useful in the field of GIS and Remote Sensing (or any field for that matter) due to its dynamic nature, ease of use, and versatile, large open community support.

### Q. What distinguishes Python from other programming languages when it comes to being used in GIS environments?

A. Well, as I said before, Python is easy to use and implement. It is also very efficient and powerful for data visualization and processing.

Due to Python’s open-source nature, it can be combined with all the major GIS softwares like ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, QGIS etc. Therefore, it offers a great amount of working flexibility. And from a developer’s perspective, all the major advances are occurring within Python, as compared to other languages such as R. Over the last decade, Python has emerged as a winner in terms of the most liked and used programming languages by the GIS community.

### Q: What excites you about applying Python in GIS environments? What is this tool best used for? How have you used it?

A. The possibilities are endless. Python can be used in anything from opening a simple excel sheet filled with various GIS data to visualizing, manipulating, and handling big data. It also has hundreds of useful libraries that are applicable for various geospatial analysis. To me, any modern GIS and Remote Sensing curriculum is incomplete without this language and tool.

In my work, I have used Python to automate various GIS tasks: updating a dataset attribute table with hundreds of rows and columns (basically data cleaning); classifying complex forest ecosystems using machine learning; as well as analyzing data, making charts, conducting accuracy assessments, and performing various geospatial analysis tasks. Furthermore, I have assessed change in terms of urbanization, detected algal blooms, and calculated fire burn ratios.

### Q. You’re teaching a non-credit course “Python for Modern GIS and Remote Sensing.” Please briefly explain what this course is about and who should take it.

A: I’m excited about this course, which is new to Michigan Tech. No one has taught Python for GIS in either an online or non-credit format before.

In a nutshell, this course teaches beginning and intermediate-level Python skills as they are applied in the GIS environment. It is suitable for anyone who deals with (or is planning to deal with) GIS and Remote Sensing on a daily basis. Of course, anyone who wants to add to their skill set and make their work more efficient should take it.

As you know, Coding/Programming is an essential skill set to have in our current times, especially for fields such as GIS, Forestry, Ecology, Geology, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Data Science.

For example, right now in my course, I have students from diverse backgrounds, as well as professionals working in the GIS Industry. They are enjoying the asynchronous class format and the assignments. I am looking forward to incorporating their feedback in the next edition of the course, which will be in Spring 2024.

On a broader scale, Python is basically used in every application that’s related to the the five earth elements (Air, Water, Land, Fire, and Space). For example, it’s playing a big part in NASA’s first ever Mars drone application

### Q. How can professionals use Python to manage or solve prevailing environmental and sustainability challenges, such as land use, forest fires, and the effects of climate change?

A. Python offers hundreds of unique libraries, which can be implemented to any/all kind of GIS and Remote Sensing datasets. Developers can make useful tools according to their needs and applications. As a result, they can enhance their decision making processes.

For example, professionals at the multidisciplinary Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI) use Python programming to address complex ecological problems, make wildfire prediction models, analyze efficient road networks, asses infrastructure, and map and monitor land use/cover and pristine wetlands.

Overall, this is an exciting time to teach this course. We are living in a world where climate change is happening rapidly and things surrounding us are constantly changing (whether they are environmental, economical, or political).

### Q. I agree that we need all hands on deck when it comes to solving climate change and sustainability issues. But what is a personal example of your use of Python to contend with pressing environmental problems?

In my own work, I have used this tool to document the effects of the historic flood in Pakistan. The flood, which was in mid-June ’22, affected more than 33 million people and destroyed or damaged more than one million houses.

In fact, the floods affected all four of the country’s provinces or about 15% of the country’s population.

Floodwaters inundated tens of thousands of square kilometers of the country, causing at least 1,100 deaths. Because of the 2023 monsoon season, Pakistan is still struggling to recover from this event.

### Q. What motivates you? And what is next on your journey at Michigan Tech?

A. I love teaching, doing research, and solving complex problems. These drives require me stay current with, if not slightly ahead of, my field. Furthermore, I believe that if I am not up to date with my knowledge, I won’t be able to offer anything new and beneficial to students.

As Gandhi so eloquently said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” In other words, I have to keep updating and offering advanced skills, not only for my personal growth, but also for students so they can succeed in their careers.

And for the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences, I’m glad to help grow its online offerings. My non-credit course marks the beginning of our online education program. That is, we are designing other useful and applied courses, such as ArcGIS Online. Also, starting in 2024, we plan to be offering the first ever Master’s of Geographical Information Science online degree certification. Look out for it on Michigan Tech’s Global Campus.

One more thing: I’m holding an information session on Oct. 20 at 10:30 AM for Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The session will introduce the Online GIS programs from the CFRES. However, the Michigan Tech community is also welcome to attend. You will be asked to sign in with your MTU email (or the email associated with your Zoom account) to join the session. If you have any questions about this session or anything else, email me at ppbhatt@mtu.edu.

### Q. Any final thoughts?

As excited as I am about learning new materials and tools, the biggest reward of teaching occurs when you run into or hear from a student and they say, “Thank you for teaching me that GIS thing, it’s helping me big time in my job or research.”

## Global Campus Grows

Whether it’s been covering new education fellowship partnerships, reporting on Michigan Tech’s collaboration with the MEDC, writing about innovative mass timber research initiatives, researching the gifts of adult learners, welcoming new team members, or rushing to keep up with Global Campus Vice President David Lawrence, this blog writer has had a busy year. And while all these initiatives, and more, have been underway, I’ve also had to keep track of Michigan Tech’s new online courses and programs.

## Recent Online Programs at Global Campus

For example, in the last year, the College of Business added the online Tech MBA and the Master of Engineering Management. Both are accredited, 10-course programs that, in various ways, leverage your STEM expertise. Whereas the Tech MBA provides foundational business skills, the MEM allows students to customize degrees that merge engineering and business. To promote these programs, Dr. Mari Buche, David Lawrence, and his Global Campus team graciously led several online virtual interest sessions, which were all well attended.

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.

Furthermore, the College of Engineering met the learning and leadership challenge with its Master of Engineering, a professional terminal degree. This degree allows students to focus on either a HEV (hybrid electric vehicle) track or an engineering track. For the engineering track, learners can combine courses from several disciplines. In fact, the master of engineering is ideal for those collaborating with their employer to develop a program to meet specific on-the-job needs.

More recently, the Department of Applied Computing has also added two new programs to its roster: Public Health Informatics and Foundations in Health Informatics. Both certificates can be stacked to form a master’s degree. Like other HI programs, these prepare students for diverse roles in the data-driven healthcare industry. Guy Hembroff, the Health Informatics director, also ensured that MTU’s CHI students have memberships in HIMSS. HIMSS (Health Information Management Systems Society) is a global society. It enables health information professionals to access resources, enroll in seminars, develop networks, search for jobs, and much more. In other words, it gives MTU’s Health Informatics students an edge.

## Global Campus Bridge Courses

Bridge courses are short, intensive, preparatory online courses that help learners acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to enter advanced study. This study might mean an undergraduate program, graduate degree, or graduate certificate. Often, bridge courses are for students who are provisionally accepted into a program.

For instance, in September of 2022, Teresa Woods, Associate Teaching Professor in Mathematical Sciences and Linear Algebra aficionado, taught our first bridge course: Linear Algebra. Her ten-week, asynchronous online course was aimed at prospective students who needed the LA requirement to enroll in MTU’s Online Master of Science in Applied Statistics program.

Woods’ course covered fundamental linear algebra concepts as used in Applied Statistics. Some of the topics included systems of equations, vectors, matrices, orthogonality, subspaces, and the eigenvalue problem.

To learn more about this course, email Teresa Woods (tmthomps@mtu.edu).

Linear Algebra is once again running for the Fall 2023 semester. And there are still a few seats left. Right now, the proposed start date is Sept. 18, 2023.

## Newer Professional Development Opportunities

### Fundamental Courses and Bootcamps

Global Campus also had the privilege of working with subject matter experts to promote in-demand professional development courses. Also known as continuing education and career training, these courses allow those in the workforce to hone skills, acquire specialized training, develop leadership abilities, and stay up-to-date on current trends.

Currently, Michigan Tech offers both non-credit and for-credit pd courses.

For example, during the summer of 2023, APS Labs rolled out its short, but rigorous course on Diesel Engine Fundamentals. Despite the turn to EV, this course recognized that diesel engines weren’t going anywhere soon. That is, diesel engines are still in light-duty vehicles, medium and heavy-duty trucks; in commercial vehicles (trains, trucks, buses, barges, and boats); in army vehicles; and in generators.

This course was conveniently available in both online and in-person versions. Its goal was educating those pursuing careers in the automotive industry, commercial vehicles, power generation, or related fields.

Also, Kevin Johnson, Assistant Teaching Professor, Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering, lent his significant expertise to summer students. He taught an an intense 20-hour in-person hydraulics bootcamp. In his course, students learned about several topics crucial to hydraulics, such as valves, pumps, motors, circuits, and closed-loop hydrostatic systems.

## Upcoming Professional Development Courses

### Python for Modern GIS

Furthermore, recognizing the need for more Python professionals in the GIS world, Parth Bhatt (Assistant Teaching Professor / Researcher from the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences) is offering a 7-week, asynchronous, online course for Fall 2023.

His Python for Modern GIS and Remote Sensing course will help students learn beginning and immediate-level applications of Python for understanding and writing simple scripts, automating workflows, and solving day-to-day, real-world geoprocessing tasks in the ArcGIS ecosystem and open-source platform.

Dr. Bhatt, a dynamic teaching professor who lives and breathes GIS, is also on deck to develop online for-credit certificates for his department. Stay tuned for more developments.

And, yes, you still have time to register for Bhatt’s course.

### Civil Asset Management

As well, the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering has recently added a 3-credit, synchronous online course in Civil Asset Management. This course is taught by Mark Declercq, who brings three decades of valuable, practical civil asset expertise to the classroom. In fact, as Grand Rapids Engineer, Declercq was one of the first experts with boots on the ground during that city’s massive flood event.

Civil Asset Management (CEE 5390) will help students develop long-term plans, as well as the strategic, critical thinking they need to recognize and maintain the value of our all-important civil assets. Declercq also maintains that to develop resilient and affordable solutions and to tackle upcoming sustainability challenges, engineers definitely need Civil Asset Management skills.

## Keep Up With Global Campus as We Learn and Grow

In the future, Global Campus plans to offer additional non-credit and for-credit courses and programs. Our goals are advancing the personal development, career goals, and leadership opportunities that come with education. We also recognize the importance of challenging all learners to grow, to think creatively and critically, and to prepare for tomorrow.

We’ll keep you posted as we assist in developing and supporting new programs. For updates, read this blog or follow us on social media.

And remember, regardless of where you are in your educational journey, whether you want to take a course for fun or for your future, it is never too late to start learning.

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.

## Online MBAs Grow in Popularity

45,038 is the number of students enrolled in online MBA programs in the 2020-2021 academic year. For the first time ever, the online student population outnumbered the in-person full-time one (43,740). At last count, in fact, there were 1,095 online MBA programs offered by US higher-ed institutions alone. MTU’s TechMBA® ranks well among this crowd.

Why the rapid increase in both online MBA programs and enrollment? Well, one of the main reasons is that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the education game. At first, universities were forced to offer online and hybrid options. But then they kept rolling these out. In other words, the coronavirus crisis made both prospective students and employers more receptive of online programs. A New America poll also found that the belief in the quality of online learning actually increased by 16% during the pandemic.

Furthermore, 83 percent of the hiring executives in a CNN survey affirmed that an accredited online degree is as credible as an on-campus program. When it comes to online MBA degrees, a survey from the Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy Fund had similar findings. That is, 71 percent of employers now view the quality of business degrees earned online as equal to or even better than traditional in-person programs.

## So Why Earn MTU’s TechMBA®?

Back in July 2022, in my first blog, I introduced Michigan Tech’s newest online program: the TechMBA®. This program is still going strong. And there are several reasons for both its popularity and credibility.

### Accreditation

Only 248 percentage of the 1,095 online MBA programs (less than 25%) offered by US institutions are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. MTU’s TechMBA® is one of these select programs. In other words, the TechMBA® is not only accredited but also respected by industry, business, and STEM professionals. In fact, MTU’s online MBA program regularly ranks as one of the top in the state.

### Stem Focus

Michigan Tech’s online MBA is not just business (adminstration) as usual. The TechMBA® is also one of the 24% of US online MBAs that have a STEM focus. That is, MTU’s online MBA degree allows students to leverage their STEM backgrounds and technological competencies. Students develop the fundamental business administration, project management, and communication skills required for STEM-professional roles. These skills qualify graduates for leadership roles in their chosen engineering fields. Those who complete the TechMBA® program are also adept at taking on project management, technical sales, and entrepreneurship positions in STEM-related workplaces.

### Flexibility

The US News reports that when it comes to in-person MBA programs, the average age of students is 27. For online programs, however, that age rises to 33.

And 91% of online MBA students even worked full time while pursuing their degree.

What these numbers mean is that online MBA programs, like the TechMBA®, attract older students seeking flexibility in their education. Online learning, for sure, does involve an adjustment period. But there is no need to relocate, readjust your schedule, or leave your job. (There is also no need to frantically dig out from a snowstorm only to arrive to class a late, sweaty mess.)

### Smaller, Tighter Class Community

Online learning often means increased interactivity. Research has shown that online learning is as good as if not better than face-to-face instruction. When it comes to peer-to-peer interaction and discussions, online classes may even surpass the effectiveness of their in-person versions. And in a smaller program, such as that of the TechMBA®, there are even more opportunities to connect with peers and instructors. More opportunities to develop those communication skills that are central to leadership roles.

### Career Advancement

As early as 2016, Fast Company reported on how several employers began increasing their education requirements. A later CareerBuilder survey revealed that this trend has continued. In other words, an advanced degree may help you not only get that job in the first place but also move up the corporate ladder more easily.

Then there is the matter of salaries. According to a study done by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, those holding advanced degrees may earn over 30% more over the span of their career than employees with only bachelor’s degrees.

### Strong Return on Investment

Investopedia has noted that MBA graduates who specialize in consulting, finances, and technology management earn the most. And according to one Fortune article, the median salaries for those with MBA degrees are substantially higher than those without them.

The Corporate Recruiter Survey survey (Graduate Management Admission Council) also found that the median 2022 starting salary of new MBA hires was \$115,000. And that salary, which is a historically high figure, doesn’t include the median signing bonus of \$10,500.

And you also get that ROI faster with an MBA. A recent Wall Street Journal analysis of federal student loan data found that 98 percent of MBA programs leave students with more manageable debt loads than graduates of other programs.

### Other Benefits of the TechMBA®

The short list of why you might pursue an advanced degree, such as an MBA, includes the following: acquiring the necessary credentials, pursuing your interests, moving into more fulfilling, impactful roles, gaining additional job security,and increasing your compensation.

But there are other, more personal incentives. Whatever your current degree or desired career path, we’ve summarized some of the advantages for pursuing an advanced degree or earning an MBA degree.

## Learn More About the TechMBA®.

If you’d like to learn more about the in-demand MTU’s online MBA degree, come listen to the experts.

That is, Mari Buche (College of Business), David Lawrence (Vice President for Global Campus and Continuing Education), as well as members of the Global Campus team will be holding a virtual interest session on the TechMBA®.

This online event will be on April 11, 2023, at 11:30 AM – 12:15 PM. Please bring your curiosity and your questions.

## Online Learning: Not New, but Definitely Improved

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.

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

## 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.