Outreach to Industry and Distance Education

1950s-1970s: First Distance Education Courses

The department offered its first distance education courses in 1954—long before the advent of the Internet. Faculty rode the train to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to deliver lectures to Collins Radio employees. The program initially targeted individuals seeking to obtain their undergraduate degree, but expanded to offer graduate course in the late 1950s.

In 1967, the department created a partnership with Bendix Corporation’s Pioneer Central Division to teach a graduate course in microwaves. Faculty traveled to eastern Iowa to teach this course. Ever since, the department has remained highly involved in distance education.

Thomas C. Baird (MEngEE ’77) says he was the first master’s degree student in Iowa to complete a program entirely via distance education in 1976. He participated in the ECpE department’s early distance education program, which delivered lectures via 9-inch reels and later on VHS tapes.

1980s: Broadcasting Courses

In 1986, Iowa State joined the United States’ National Technological University’s satellite system, allowing electrical and computer engineering courses to be recorded and later broadcast across the United States.

1990s: Live Lectures from a Distance

In 1994, the department and the University of Iowa started a series of shared lectures and graduate courses called Iowa Distinguished Faculty Lectures in Engineering. These lectures were offered “live” via a satellite uplink and closed circuit television.

The department continued its commitment to long-distance learning in 1997 by initiating an undergraduate degree program for students to take all of their engineering classes at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. In 1996, the department joined the Power Systems Engineering Research Center to advance dialogue and work among universities and industry. The department continued offering short courses jointly with Iowa State’s Center for Industrial Research and Service and ISU Engineering Extension, providing advanced training for more than 150 power system professionals each year.

2000s: Online Degree Programs

Finally in 2002, the department began offering distance education courses online via state-of-the-art streaming video, allowing students to view classes in “real time” or on demand, and earn their master’s degree online. In 2010, the department introduced three graduate certificate programs: embedded systems, software systems, and computer networking. Also in 2010, the unit known as Engineering Distance Education was renamed Engineering Online Learning.