From the Dean: September 2018 (B)

Dear Purdue Engineering Community,

Over summer, we continued to receive many thoughtful suggestions about online education. Few would disagree that online and residential learning have important, complementary roles, and many believe that opportunities of learning offered by a university do not have to stop when a student graduates. Assuming we can disambiguate the meaning of key phrases in our conversations, what stands out at the core of many discussions is the efficacy and innovation in online education. Teaching does not imply learning, and scalability of the input does not guarantee quality of the output. We have much work to do to ensure quality.

Associate Dean Dimitri Peroulis and Purdue Engineering Online Director Rita Burrell worked with their team last month to capture some of these ongoing conversations:

(1) Clarifying the terminology, and providing a taxonomy of different corners of the space: (a) online bachelors, (b) online post-bachelor credentials, the current focus of our College, (c) Massive Open Online Courses, and (d) on-campus supplements;

(2) Articulating the reasons why we have a responsibility and an opportunity to make post-bachelor online learning more effective, with a focus on quality and excellence;

(3) Describing the challenges we must overcome and issues yet to be addressed;

(4) Summarizing our current innovation in operations (co-development with industry, stackable micro-credentials, university-to-university arrangements) and in pedagogy-technology (data-driven personalization, virtual labs).

Professor Peroulis will circulate this document this week, and we need your input as we continue to carefully experiment in this space.


As Associate Dean Melba Crawford mentioned to the faculty, we have had four themes of Engineering Faculty Conversations (EFC) last semester, and have three to come this semester and two more early next spring. Some have suggested capturing the output of such conversations into sustainable efforts, across disciplinary boundaries, for
(1) teaching, e.g., new courses/certificates/online badges,
(2) research projects and publications, and, in some cases,
(3) commercialization through a systematic patent strategy and startup creations.

Such initiatives should also have plans across multiple functions in the College, including
(4) multi-year faculty hiring,
(5) communication strategy,
(6) alumni development plan, and, in some cases,
(7) facility support.

An example of how all these elements are working together is the initiative on Data and Engineering Applications, as part of university’s ongoing efforts in data science and its many applications.

Some of other upcoming cross-cutting initiatives include Autonomy/Robotics/IoT, Maker/Design/Innovation, Manufacturing, Sports Engineering, and more.

As we have recently observed in NSF CISTAR (for energy innovation), SRC-DARPA C-BRIC (for artificial intelligence), and USAID PULSE (for international development), when we enable the “1+1=3” effect, Purdue’s College of Engineering can achieve the pinnacle of excellence at scale and with scale, even when over 100 applicant teams lead to only a single winner in national competitions.


Many of these opportunities are discussed when you bring ideas to us. This semester my office hours are Sept. 4 (3-4pm), Oct. 10 (10-11am), Oct 31 (3:30-4:30pm), and Dec 4(10-11am), and the College fall semester town-hall will be Nov. 7 at 2pm in Forney B124. Of course corridor conversations during my “random walks” in engineering buildings will work too!


Mung Chiang
John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering
Purdue University