Virginia Tech’s online master of information technology degree program was ranked No. 2 among the nation’s best distance-learning courses in U.S. News & World Report’s third annual Top Online Education rankings, released in January.
The program — offered through a joint venture of Pamplin and the College of Engineering — moves up from third place in 2013 and ties with Boston University, behind the University of Southern California at No. 1.
The program features courses from five departments: accounting and information systems, business information technology, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, and management.
“The success of our master of information technology degree program reflects our commitment to high-quality innovative teaching and our expertise in business intelligence and analytics,” said Pamplin dean Robert Sumichrast.
“The program enrolls students from government agencies and IT consultants and contractors across the country and all over the globe,” said Parviz Ghandforoush, the program’s executive director and a professor of business information technology. “We have been recognized since 1999 for educating and training outstanding professionals in the field of information technology,” he added.
“We are encouraged to see that our continued investment to improve the instructional quality and technical content of the program’s coursework is being well recognized,” said Luke F. Lester, head of the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “The faculty involved in this effort are some of our most collaborative and are dedicated to delivering a quality product to its students.”
The program features four foundation courses that prepare incoming students for any three of seven modules in business information systems, decision support systems, healthcare information technology, information security, software development, networking, and telecommunications.
Classes meet Monday through Thursday evenings, using “a relatively new technology called WebEx,” said program director Tom Sheehan. “The WebEx servers permit students to log in from anywhere in the world and provide a live interactive platform that closely parallels the traditional classroom experience.”
Describing the typical online classroom experience, Sheehan said the instructor’s PowerPoint presentation is broadcast to all participants, while a voice over Internet protocol allows the instructor to lecture on the content of those slides.
“The instructor can modify the slides on the fly with WebEx’s extensive drawing and animation tools. If a student hits the control key on his or her keyboard, a hand goes beside the student’s name on the instructor’s screen. The instructor can then turn both the microphone and drawing tools over to the student who can modify the slide to elaborate on his or her remarks,” Sheehan said.
“In essence, the computer screens of the participants became a common blackboard, while the ability to move the microphone through the class facilitates lively discussion.”