An Internet Education

January 30, 2006
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BIG RAPIDS, Mich. - Some HVACR professionals and students, eager to advance their HVACR education but not able to physically attend a college campus, can now have the campus brought to them thanks to the Internet and the Ferris State University (FSU) HVACR Technology Program.

FSU is offering a Bachelor of Science degree in HVACR Technology in an online program.

The online program was launched during the Winter 2003 semester. Thirty-two students are enrolled each fall and 90 students have enrolled to date. The first group (called "cohort") will graduate in 2006.

The program includes "virtual classrooms" with state-of-the-art instruction from the new Granger Center for Construction and HVACR on the FSU campus. The online courses are geared toward a working professional who has already achieved an associate's degree or students who want to continue training beyond their associate's degrees. There are nine upper division courses in this B.S. program. Two of these courses require attendance on the FSU campus in the summer of 2007 (for students enrolling in the fall 2006 program) for laboratory learning experiences and are scheduled together to make learning a five-day experience in Big Rapids.

"There are a number of people working in the HVACR industry with associates degrees in HVACR," said Mike Feutz, chairman of the FSU HVACR Department. "Many of them would like to continue their education, but find few schools that are willing to apply the credits they have already earned toward a bachelor's degree. Ferris State is one university that does allow students to build on their associate degree.

"We transfer credits already earned and count them as freshman and sophomore years. Transfer students can then earn the Bachelor of Science degree in HVACR Engineering Technology by completing the junior and senior year. Until recently, students were required to complete their work as resident students on campus. For most, this was a deal-breaker. They simply could not afford to put their careers on hold and move their families to campus for two years."

COURSE SPECIFICS

A visit to the campus, as brief as it is, however, will enhance the learning experience. The laboratory courses offered during the on-campus training include:

  • HVAC 333-Secondary Equipment Selection and Design, and

  • HVAC 314-HVAC Control Theory and Applications.

    The online courses, offered over the two-year period include:

  • HVAC 332 Secondary Equipment Selection and Design

  • HVAC 313 HVAC Control Theory and Applications

  • HVAC 342 Load Calculations and Energy Code

  • HVAC 415 HVAC Digital Control Systems

  • HVAC 462 Primary HVAC Selection

  • HVAC 451 Energy Analysis and Audit

  • HVAC 499 Systems and Energy Analysis

    Doug Zentz, Eric Quilitzsch, Joe Pacella, and Mike Korcal, members of the HVACR faculty, administer the online program. Zentz is a full-time instructor with over 24 years of industry and teaching experience, which have included many aspects of the commercial HVACR industry.

    "Students are telling us that this is a very positive and extremely valuable learning experience," he said.

    "For example, during last semester's primary equipment selection course, students were given a project to design a four-pipe chilled water/hot water system to serve a 75,000-square-foot medical facility. This included using cooling towers, chillers, boilers, air handlers, and pumps.

    "They said they learned more from that course than anything else they've been taught. It brought the whole system together from the standpoint of the components used."

    Zentz said that more and more students are sticking with the program now, and he has had people from all over the country enrolled in the program, including a facility maintenance manager and engineers at military bases.

    Robert Nash Jr., senior engineer for Design Services Network, a Division of Emerson Climate Technologies, and member of the FSU HVACR Advisory Panel, is in the middle of the online degree program and sees real value in it.

    "The online program is a good blend of technical and practical training," he said.

    "It utilizes not only text book examples but real-life systems. The program outlines the latest up-to-date systems and technology and builds off of some older systems and technology that we may see in the field.

    "I really like the approach of looking at systems from an engineering angle and from a technician's, applying design and then service or setup. This coming summer I am looking forward to being on campus for our hands-on lab, which compliments our written online labs. The online labs simulated a real hands-on lab experience.

    "I have been in the HVACR industry nearly 30 years and went through the FSU HVACR on-campus program," said Nash. "I can honestly say that the online program is as top notch as their regular program."

    Industry experience and good academic records will help with the discipline of taking online courses, but students must also realize that learning in cyberspace is not a "cakewalk."

    "Learning online doesn't mean the coursework is easy," added Feutz. "In fact, online students can expect to be challenged with the same comprehensive coursework that has led to successful and rewarding careers for our on-campus bachelor-degree graduates for 20 years."

    For 2006 enrollment applications, visit www.ferris.edu/ucel/programs/hvacr.htm.

    Publication date: 01/30/2006

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