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Andy Wasser, Associate Dean, Carnegie Mellon University

Andrew Wasser, Carnegie Mellon University
Andy Wasser, Associate Dean at Carnegie Mellon University, Graduate Information Systems Management Program joins us today to discuss distance education.

Tell us about the distance learning programs offered at Carnegie Mellon University.

The Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) program at Carnegie Mellon is designed to develop the next generation of IT leaders. The distance delivery of MSIT has been in place for over six years and has a successful track record of replicating the strengths of our top ranked campus degree.

Unlike other 'on-line' programs, Carnegie Mellon films every minute of our campus lectures so that our distance students are guaranteed access to the same world-class faculty and up-to-date content offered at our Pittsburgh campus. We then assign a faculty instructor and teaching assistant to interact directly with the distance students and encourage communications.

What is the typical duration of each of your programs?

MSIT students must be working professionals with a minimum of three years industry experience. Most students graduate in less than three years, depending on whether they take one or two classes a semester. Students taking two courses a semester, including the summer, can graduate in two years.

What would you say makes Carnegie Mellon University programs different and better than other comparable online programs?

Carnegie Mellon is ranked #1 in the nation in Information Technology by US News & World Report. Our world-class faculty has a reputation for its multi-disciplinary and real-world emphasis. Unless you live within driving distance to a top-ranked IT university, you can not receive the caliber of education offered by Carnegie Mellon. But with our distance program, we can bring that high quality education to you.

We provide each student with a DVD of the filmed, on campus classes. Distance students hear every sneeze and see every diagram as if they were on site. We then supplement these media-rich videos with top instructors, robust web content (via Blackboard), and stellar customer service. It is an expensive delivery method but it is a premium product.

There is some debate as to whether or not online degrees are as worthwhile as traditional degrees. What steps does Carnegie Mellon University take to ensure that online students are receiving the same education that they'd receive in a classroom?

We ensure quality by being selective in our admissions process and in making sure the rigor of each class is on par with its on campus delivery. Our faculty consistently tells us that their distance students are as good if not better in their performance as their full time, campus peers.

We recognize that our part-time students are balancing their career, home life, and graduate school. We continue to be impressed at their ability to handle this challenge.

What would you say are some of the benefits of earning a degree online rather than in a traditional classroom?

It is highly unlikely that your city has an IT program of the caliber of Carnegie Mellon. MSIT gives you access to an education that you would not otherwise be able to receive.

Our delivery method is almost entirely asynchronous. Some people can do their class work in the daytime, others on the weekend, and others once their kids are asleep. This flexibility is unique to distance delivery.

If a student enrolled in one of your programs was interested in finding an internship in their field in their area, do you have any means of assisting them in acquiring an internship position?

All of our students are experienced IT professionals and currently employed by companies like General Motors, Lockheed Martin, Intel, Alcoa, IBM, Oracle, etc. They do not need internships.

Does Carnegie Mellon University offer any job placement services to your students and graduates?

We offer our students a full range of corporate placements and networking opportunities in key cities across the U.S. Many students choose to stay on an accelerated path with their current employer.

Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

Yes, we automatically evaluate our students for scholarships as part of the application process. There is no additional paperwork. Part-time students are also eligible to apply for student loans. We are an expensive program but we are confident in our value proposition.

Do you have any advice for students enrolling in online classes for the first time?

Without having the normal social interactions and networking of being on a college campus, you need to take the extra effort to interact with faculty and classmates. We do our best to foster this communication. We have extensive discussion threads among students and faculty and go out of our way to be timely in returning phone calls and e-mails. In lieu of not having the campus lunchroom conversation, you need to embrace these alternative communication vehicles.

For more information on distance learning programs available at Carnegie Mellon University, visit them online.

Thank you Andy, for sharing and participating in this piece

That concludes our interview!

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