Course Improvement

The EERC provides instruction, maintenance and support for Distance-Enabled courses and programs for Professional Master's Programs in the Swanson School of Engineering. We provide one-on-one mentoring of faculty, as well as group sessions. In addition, we offer support in course design, navigation, and in pedagogical approaches to distance learning.


  • Ensure excellence in all distance-enabled courses and programs.
  • Maintain a nurturing and supportive environment for faculty interested in optimizing their effectiveness in a distance-enabled environment.
  • Aid faculty members in marketing programs and recruiting students for programs featuring distance-enabled courses.
  • Expand relationships with and deliver value to corporate partners.
  • Aid in the identification and procurement of research funding by identifying and pursuing multi-site distance-enabled educational opportunities.
  • Simplify course and program delivery while maintaining a feature-rich environment for the integration of state-of-the-art learning technology tools.

Distance education is an umbrella term referring to any instructional approach in which the instruction takes place in one location, and the learning takes place in another. Online learning , a narrower term, refers to instruction that takes place over the Internet. Blended learning usually refers to some combination of classroom-based learning and Internet-based learning, and may even be a hybridization of several different teaching/learning strategies.

At the Swanson School of Engineering (SSoE), we prefer the term Distance-Enabled Learning to describe our distinctive approach to engineering education at the master's level, because we combine the best of classroom-based and online instruction. More than blended learning , our approach features an interactive, video-based approach to teaching and learning.

Students have three options when attending distance-enabled classes:

Option 1: Attend class in person (preferred).

Option 2: In situations in which the professional master's student cannot make it to campus in time for class (e.g., late meeting, poor driving conditions, etc.), he or she may attend class via computer in "real time." With this option, students may view and fully participate in the class as it is being taught. Students may ask/answer questions during lecture as well as participate in discussions. Students have access to all posted documents via Blackboard ® , as well as join the class to see lectures/examples written on the board via Adobe ® Connect™.

Option 3: In the event that a student cannot make it to a particular class session at all (e.g., traveling to a different time zone or internationally, emergencies, etc.), he/she may view a recording of the lecture and access relevant documents at a later time.

To meet the needs of our professional student population and to ensure that everyone has "classroom-identical" experiences, the SSoE and EERC have invested in state-of-the-art video-equipped learning labs, which are visually, ergonomically, and acoustically state of the art, featuring PolyCom ® Systems and Adobe Connect technology.

The distance-enabled classroom or learning lab (DELL) looks much like any modern classroom. On closer look, though, technology has been built into every square inch of the classroom: walls, floors, desks and instructor's console.

First, the classroom has at least four large television monitors; these can be individually controlled to show the instructor, PowerPoint slides, white board, document camera, students in the classroom, or remote students.

Second, the ceiling contains speakers strategically placed around the room, as well as at each student's work area, such that students may activate or deactivate their individual desk speakers as they choose. Third, the instructor's console may be raised or lowered to adjust to an individual instructor's height (even seated). Finally, mats in the floor communicate to the cameras to automatically follow the instructor as he/she walks around the room.

An important requirement of the distance-enabled approach is a well-trained technical assistant, always present during class to ensure smooth operation. The technician is focused on keeping all elements (e.g., speakers, monitors, lights, etc.) running smoothly, as well as communications with remote students to ensure their full participation so that the instructor can focus on learning activities.

This question invariably arises in any discussion of distance education. In general, all students will take exams in class. If this is not feasible in individual cases, we have established protocols for remote proctoring. Additional information about remote proctoring is coming soon.

Classrooms G35, G36, and G37 in Benedum Hall are all distance-enabled classrooms. Room 312 is a distance-enabled learning laboratory (DELL), used for courses that are part of professional master's degree programs in the evening.

The Director of Distance Learning for the Swanson School of Engineering resides in the EERC. Dr. Jan Littrell has extensive experience working with faculty to develop and optimize their distance-enabled classes. Her office is currently located at 1120 Benedum Hall, and she can be reached at (412) 623-7027, at 814-969-5342, or via e-mail . She is here to help faculty develop and/or optimize courses, and to allow full utilization of the distance-enabled classrooms and labs in Benedum Hall.

Periodically the EERC will host Workshops and Seminars related to distance learning.

In addition, the Center for Instructional Development and Distance Learning (CIDDE) provides campus-wide instructional development, educational technology and support services to faculty. The CIDDE main office phone number is (412) 624-3335, and the website is found at .


To support faculty who wish to develop and/or improve distance-enabled classes, the following projects are under development:

  • Seminars and Workshops
  • Distance-Enabled Learning Faculty Handbook, both printable and Web-based
  • Interactive Distance-Enabled Faculty Training
  • Student Guide to Distance-Enabled Learning, both printable and Web-based
  • Corporate Partner Guide to Distance-Enabled Learning

Please contact Jan Littrell at 3-7027 or via email if you have any questions or suggestions for distance-enabled teaching and learning.