Current Status of Online Science and Engineering Education
Online education has grown considerably over the past two decades thanks to the tremendous progress in communication technologies, particularly the Internet, and their affordability. Many online colleges and universities as well as online programs have been created at an increasing rate. Online education offers many attractive advantages including the potential for making college education more flexible, affordable and accessible across the world. Even many of the established traditional onsite colleges and universities have been steadily introducing an increasing number of online courses. The sciences and engineering disciplines, especially at the undergraduate level, are however conspicuously lagging. Many experts think that this is mostly due to the difficulty of providing hands-on laboratory experiments online. In addition, currently available online tools in science are very limited in number and scope. Educators at the forefront of online education have tried various methods to remedy to this problem with some success. Even though considerable progress has been made in this area, a lot remains to be done. On the other hand, the need to develop online science and engineering programs is both pressing and crucial. In this paper, existing methods of teaching laboratory experiments online are reviewed. Using an overall cross-curricular systems analysis, the current difficulties and the conditions required for effective and viable science and engineering online programs are discussed.