The continuing education of engineering professionals has been an important objective of the University of Pittsburgh's Manufacturing Systems Engineering Program (MSEP) since its inception in 1987. Making relevant
The Defense Conversion Manufacturing Systems Engineering Program (DC MSEP) distance education project at the University of Pittsburgh began delivering courses between the University's Pittsburgh campus and one of its four regional campuses in western Pennsylvania using off-the-shelf interactive video teleconferencing (VTC) technology in the fall 1994 term. An objective of the DC MSEP project has been to investigate the feasibility of offering the University's graduate-level Manufacturing Systems Engineering Program (MSEP) to engineering professionals working at remote sites using emerging telecommunication technologies. Several factors led to the development of the distance education program described here. These factors included a demand by industry in the Johnstown area for graduate-level engineering course offerings, the unavailability of these courses at the University's Johnstown campus (this campus only offers undergraduate degrees), and the distance separating the two campuses. While the Johnstown campus is approximately 90 miles from Pittsburgh, difficult winter driving conditions can result in round-trip travel times exceeding three hours, as Johnstown's location and elevation bring it frequent heavy snowfalls.
The remote delivery of graduate-level engineering courses is not a new practice. Since the mid-1960's, various electronic media have been employed by universities to reach students removed from the immediate university community, including closed-circuit microwave broadcasts,'5 video tape,6'7 and satellite broadcasts.8 However, the availability and use of innteractive video teleconferencing systems in higher education is more recent.9 Various studies regarding the efficacy of technology-mediated course delivery have shown that when properly implemented, the remote delivery of graduate level courses can provide learning environments on a par with in-classroom (i.e., face-to-face) settings.571 As noted by Kirkpatrick,'1 the assessment of participant reactions to an educational program should precede the assessment of any learning outcomes. Biner12 points out further that "negative student reactions can both undermine support for the program and detrimentally affect learning." With this in mind, and with the goal of continuous improvement of program quality, student reactions toward various program components were assessed at the end of each term. This paper considers the specific conditions under which DC MSEP courses have been delivered, the development and administration of the evaluation survey, and the analysis of the results of the student reactions assessment for identifying issues which can potentially affect the quality of similar programs delivered using video teleconferencing technology.
A. Instructional Environments
By the end of the spring 1996 academic term, nineteen courses had been offered between the University's Pittsburgh campus and the regional campus at Johnstown. Six of these courses were offered for the second time via the VTC medium in the fall 1995 and spring 1996 terms. The total graduate enrollment for these 19 courses was 287 students between the two sites. The courses examined in this study and their graduate-level enrollments are summarized in table 1. All courses, except MSEP 2101, Integrated Product and Process Development, originated from the Pittsburgh campus, where instructors normally presented their material. The instructor for the one exception, a Vice President and Chief Technical Officer at an industrial organization in the Johnstown area and an Adjunct Professor in the University's School of Engineering, considered the Johnstown campus his "near-end" site.
The courses described here made use of both existing and new PictureTel video teleconferencing equipment in various settings and configurations to provide two-way audio and video communications between the sites involved. …