For students attending Paul McCright’s engineering classes, it’s a combination of lights, camera and action, with classmates in places such as Brazil learning the regular class material virtually alongside them.
These are part of the excitement and challenges involved in teaching and being a student in a class offered by APEX (Academic and Professional Engineering Excellence).
“I think the main challenge (with APEX) is how to involve the students at a distance at the same degree as those who are on campus,” said McCright, an APEX professor. “I work on that challenge a lot by encouraging students to contact me by e-mail or phone with questions. I use the Blackboard system discussion board so the students in class and the students at a distance can interact.”
Attending class and interacting with distance learning students through group projects makes APEX a “good program (that) seems (to be) more used in engineering,” said Erin Tumolo, a graduate student working on a master’s in engineering management.
Tumolo said her group, a combination of distance students and local students, hasn’t interacted much yet.
“We’ll have to (interact soon) because we’ll have stuff coming up that’s due,” she said.Until recently, APEX used to be known as FEEDS (Florida Engineering Education Delivery System). The name change came because the focus of the program was becoming more global in terms of the students served by it.
“It seemed like an appropriate time to make the change,” said Sally Davis, coordinator for APEX.
“We have a focus globally. FEEDS infers a limitation to Florida (students). We are growing globally, and in the non-credit side as well Ã¢€” the professional departments.”
Many APEX services have been geared toward the recertification of Florida’s engineers, and much of that business has been generated by the Florida Board of Professional Engineers Web site, Davis said.
“We were approved in 2004 as providers by the state of Florida as a continuing education provider (for professional engineers),” Davis continued. “We’ve started the noncredit side of the department. Engineers are required to renew their professional engineer license with eight professional development hours every two years.”