Online education is experiencing an explosive growth over the past decade. According to the latest report from the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, the number and proportion of college and university students taking classes online grew solidly by 5.7% in 2017, even as overall post-secondary enrollments fell by 0.5%. Despite the tremendous growth, online education still faces significant challenges. Among them, the lack of frequent and meaningful interaction between students and faculty members has often been emphasized as the main obstacle for increasing the quality of online educational experience and improving student outcomes and satisfaction.
The flexibility and personalized learning opportunities offered by online modality are especially appealing to military students. The Education Department, using latest available statistics, found that 18% of military undergraduates took all of their courses online, compared with 12% of their nonmilitary peers. Among military graduate students, 41% attended fully online compared to 19% of nonmilitary graduate students. As the No. 1 online undergraduate university in the country, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University serves a vast student population in active duty service members and veterans. In the engineering and engineering technology programs of Worldwide campus, active military and veterans account for 50% and 20% of enrollment,respectively. In addition to the difficulties faced by traditional and other non-traditional students, military students have to endure confusions and overcome barriers in the online environment that are unique to their professional and private lives. Helping this demographic earn college degrees and establish career paths not only has significant educational ramifications, but also serves a noble social cause for the country.
It is in this background that the College of Aeronautics in Embry Riddle Aeronautical University developed and launched a mentorship program aimed at helping online engineering and engineering technology students, in particular military and veterans succeed not only within, but also beyond the academic programs. The word ”Mentor” comes from a character in Homer’s Odyssey also named Mentor (in Greek MENTΩP), and now refers to a trusted advisor who teaches or gives advice to a less experienced and often younger person. Mentors are a vital part of the corporate and industry structure, as evidenced by various apprenticeship and internship programs that provide the trainees the needed guidance on the path to take and motivation for maintaining course. The COA mentorship program is designed to provide professional insights,pitfall avoidance, educational navigation suggestions, and a vision for what students can accomplish beyond the educational journey.
In this paper, we will demonstrate the necessity of the mentorship program and its impact on students, especially military students. We will present the systems engineering approach for developing the program from defining stakeholders, establishing their relationship to the program success, soliciting requirements, integrating functional components, to verifying design solution.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper? Visit the ASEE document repository at peer.asee.org for more tools and easy citations.