Fully online option not available for some engineering students

Students+were+informed+they+may+not+be+on+track+to+graduate+if+they+took+online+courses.+

Photo by Zach Bukowski

Students were informed they may not be on track to graduate if they took online courses.

Despite the university’s Aug. 5 announcement that it would be offering in-person, hybrid and fully online classes, the following day engineering students were informed that in many cases, a fully online option would not be available.

“We understand that each student’s experience is individual, and you will need to decide what is best for you,” an email from Kristina Ropella and Mark Federle, the dean and associate dean of the College of Engineering, said. “Recognize that each decision has consequences and no option is free of risk. Below are a few clarifications and resources that may help.”

The email cited several reasons.

“Because our engineering programs provide significant hands-on learning experiences, the vast majority of our students will not be able to enroll fully in on-line courses,” the email said.

In the email, the deans encouraged students to utilize Class Search to look for classes with alternate modalities, such as 100% distance learning, 100% synchronous or hybrid.

“We worked diligently and with great intention to ensure that a large majority of our engineering classes were either offered completely face-to-face or in a hybrid mode to accommodate social distancing guidelines,” the email said. “The Opus College of Engineering feels strongly that a transformational educational experience requires an in-person presence.”

The email explained that if students were to change their schedule from that of the four-year plan listed in the undergraduate bulletin, students could find themselves “off track,” as it related to prerequisites and the ability to graduate on time.

Ropella said the engineering applications offer an opportunity for real-world problem solving that cannot be learned through theory and simulation alone.

“Our goal is to maximize learning outcomes AND provide a safe learning environment,” Ropella said in an email. “We believe our engineering students, if given the opportunity, will meet our expectation for creating a safe learning environment this fall.”

Patrick Sanders, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, said the announcement didn’t affect him at all. However, he understood why the email was sent, because of the amount of labs and hands-on experiences engineering classes involve.

“I think it’s possible to structure things like that to be less hands-on, but there wasn’t a lot of prep … and I don’t think it would be beneficial or if it would be the same level of learning,” Sanders said.

Bob Dirmish, a junior in the College of Engineering, echoed Sanders’ sentiments.

“It’s really impossible to get the education you need for these engineering courses online,” Dirmish said. “I think they are accommodating as much as they can without literally handing out degrees for not doing the work that’s required of it.”

Dirmish said he feels Ropella is handling the situation well.

“It’s not fair for students in-person who are going through the rigor of the course to be graded the same as kids who are at home not participating in these in-person labs that are the majority of the course,” Dirmish said.

It’s the use of equipment, materials, machines and gaining real-world industry experience that make in-person engineering classes so important, Dirmish said.

Sanders also felt like the email said that it would be difficult to stay on track but suggested that it wasn’t impossible. Still, he said that everyone has a right to be concerned about the health of themselves and their families.

“I understand peoples’ worry, but I think Marquette is taking the precautions that are necessary,” Dirmish said. “But I’m not someone who is immunodeficient or at risk.”

Sanders is also not immunocompromised.

Sanders said in the end, the deans’ decision made sense,

“I get though that for engineers where COVID really is a big problem for either them or their family, that it’s a hard thing to read,” he said.

This story was written by Alexa Jurado. She can be reached at alexa.jurado@marquette.edu.