IT Sligo has scooped top prize for innovation in engineering education at the prestigious Engineers Ireland Excellence Awards.
It took the Engineering Education ‘Best in Class 2013’ accolade at the organisation’s annual award ceremony in Dublin for a pioneering initiative that introduces an innovative practical dimension to online courses.
The ‘Online Labs’ project beat off competition from short-listed entries from three other third level colleges.
Developed by staff in the School of Engineering & Design, ‘Online Labs’ enables distance learners to conduct PC-based practical elements of courses by remotely controlling a computer suite at the Institute from home.
IT President, Professor Terri Scott, said: “I extend my warmest congratulations and thanks to all the staff involved for investing so much knowledge and personal commitment to the project’s success.”
The Institute received national recognition last year when its Online Delivery Service won the Taoiseach’s Award for Excellence.
IT Sligo delivers more than 40 online part-time programmes to around 1,100 students worldwide. There has been a 15% rise in the annual online intake of students at IT Sligo, which reflects the growing popularity nationally and internationally of distance and online learning.
“There has been a surge in uptake in our construction management and project management programmes this year,” commented Trevor McSharry, Head of the Department of Civil Engineering and Construction at IT Sligo.
He added: “This increase comes at a time when the national construction sector has returned to growth and sentiment is high. People are looking to up-skill in a convenient way at home or in their office, with no time wasted in unnecessary commuting, to prepare them for this upturn. We offer a broad range of online part time programmes from Certificate to Master’s level, targeting people in the construction and project management sectors, both nationally and internationally.”
Gavin Clinch, Programme Manager of the Centre for Online Learning, and previously Course Coordinator of the online Construction Management programme, says:
“Last year we had 25 students from ten different countries studying the course. We have students in Barrow Island, which is a remote island off Western Australia, as well as in Papua New Guinea and Fort McMurray, Canada, who are working on big industrial, construction projects.
“We’ve had students who have completed their degrees and have never come to Ireland, not even for their exams, which they took off-site.”
He added: “It’s interesting that we have Irish people who have had to go abroad to get jobs and are working in construction, like those in Barrow Island, and yet they feel like they are studying at home.
“They are on the other side of the world but they still come to us. They see the opportunity to get a degree and maybe come back to Ireland to work.”
Most online courses area two-year part-time, with students learning and communicating using web-based resources. A number combine web-based studies with hands-on experience gained in learning sessions at the Institute. Enrolment is currently under way for some degree programmes in the construction area that begin in January 2014
Some online students taking Special Purpose Awards want a course as a stepping stone into full-time employment. Other students are sponsored by their companies or pay their own fees. This provides a significant personal and academic opportunity for the individual while also adding to organisations’ professional profile as they compete for major contracts.
Online students take courses that will qualify them to progress professionally and others study courses just because they have a special interest in the subject.
IT Sligo recently got approval from the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland (SCSI) to provide a unique online and professionally accredited two year add-on BSc (Hons) in Quantity Surveying for people who have a degree in a construction related area and want to specialise further. Another programme getting considerable interest is the MSc in Energy Management. As energy prices increase and carbon emission legislation is enforced, this area will become key in managing the transition to more efficient energy technologies.
For more information on the part time on-line programmes delivered by IT Sligo, please go to http://itsligo.ie/open-distance-learning/