Jan Huissoon wants engineers to learn about green energy online without ever having to leave the office. But he also believes that people learn best when they interact with professors.
“Being able to interact with the instructor and the class sets this program apart,” says Huissoon, chair of the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering and the force behind the new Green Energy Graduate Diploma to be launched this fall. Some of the courses will include:
- Fuel cells
- Pollution management
- Solar energy
- Wind energy
- Sustainable buildings
How do you create an interactive experience online?
The program will employ a Cisco technology called Live-Link that enables students to log in with their web cams. From the instructor’s view, a large video screen appears divided into a grid showing all students. When a student wants to ask a question, the instructor simply minimizes his or her own image and enlarges the participant’s image.
Interactive teaching assistants and IT staff help with technical issues, and class sizes are limited to about 20 people — the number of students who can reasonably fit on the screen.
Busy professionals can engage in lectures while at the office
Since participation is central, courses will be held at scheduled times, but because the classroom is virtual, students can connect from work rather than commuting to the University.
This is just one example of how Waterloo enables learning for students from around the world. Long considered a leader in online learning, Waterloo has more than 400 online course offerings, eight fully online undergraduate programs and 10 masters degree programs, with several more in development.
"While some courses can be offered at scheduled times, others are designed to allow students and professionals in any time zone or location the ability to learn on their own schedule," says Cathy Newell Kelly, director of Waterloo's Centre for Extended Learning.
Although the Green Energy program’s flexibility is designed to appeal to graduates working in industries such as green energy, construction, and design, full-time engineering students interested in a concentration in green energy are also expected to enroll. Part-time students will take one course each term for a total of four terms to earn the certificate. Since the courses are offered in real time, Huissoon expects a mostly domestic rather than international attendance given the constraint posed by time zones.
Anyone interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org to register for a one-hour promotional session scheduled for 3 p.m. on June 19, 2014. “If people are unsure about the online environment, they will be able to participate. We’ll have instructors live online so people can see what it is like,” he says.