Olin College of Engineering Distance Learning

Only chartered since 1997, Needham, Massachusetts’ Olin College of Engineering was created to “redefine engineering as a profession of innovation”, aspiring to deliver their teachings in the “most effective educational approach” and become a “model for others”, though without any current online programs.

It was founded by the F.W. Olin Foundation (with one of the largest grants in the history of US higher education, about $ 460,000) with a program whereby faculty and the first 30 students were brought in to help create the curriculum. These “Olin Partners” experimented that first year, paving the way for 2002 and the first real class under the new college’s roof (around 75 students). It grew each year and, by 2005 they were pulling in a full body of 300 or so students annually (though they are highly selective).

Olin College was created without academic departments, using only 5 buildings on under 400,000 square feet of land to offer accredited undergraduate engineering training resulting in 3 different degrees. They offer a practical, hands on approach to education, taking advantage of the resources in nearby Boston (only 14 miles down the road) and offering and experiential, team based learning environment that allows for focus on getting an engineering degree in Electrical/Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, or just plain Engineering (though there are further permutation allowed with school approval).

Bachelor programs here are unique, with an “Olin Triangle” of education which includes a rigorous span of engineering and science (of course), as well as art/humanities/social sciences, and a third aspect focusing on business/entrepreneurship. This last part is just as important as the first two, with “business and engineering becoming increasingly intertwined in today’s world”, so much so that Olin has a partnership with neighboring Babson College (they already share land, library spaces, dining/recreation, and safety services to name some of the connections). The Olin/Babson partnership allows engineering students to get their degree from Olin then take one more year at Babson (next door) to receive an MS degree in Technological Entrepreneurship with an accelerated option that allows the degree to be complete within a semester.

An immersive environment for engineering students, faculty come one per every nine students, most terminally degreed with contracts that run for five years before needing renewing and come without tenure options (to keep information and approaches fresh). The classes are often project, team based teaching from the start, with innovative and unusual features that come about from student and faculty collaborations essential to the college’s success. “Integrated Course Blocks” for freshman combines study in two different subject areas “with a unifying project”. There’s a Senior Consulting Program for Engineering, allowing a year-long project for an “actual client” and they even allow something called “Passionate Pursuits”, giving students the chance to study a personal interest for credit.

Enrolled students are also given free enrollment at Babson, Wellesley College, and Brandeis University, allowing for numerous educational opportunities outside that of just engineering, but with a school like this, engineers need only apply really.

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