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Universities Unveil Distance-Learning Program in Nuclear Engineering

To help meet a growing demand for nuclear engineers, a group of universities has teamed up to sponsor online courses and swap information about the students taking them. One goal is to eliminate the hassle for students to transfer credits among the participating institutions.

Other universities have used distance learning to teach nuclear engineering, but the new effort is probably the largest such program, said John P. Gutteridge, director of university programs in nuclear energy at the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Big 12 Nuclear Engineering Consortium will start the distance-education effort this spring using an information-sharing system, called ExpanSIS, developed by Kansas State University. The secure, Web-based system allows universities to jointly track information about course schedules, grades, student billing, and textbooks. Students can pay at their home institutions for the nuclear-engineering courses, which were developed by Kansas State, Texas A&M University at College Station, and the Universities of Missouri at Columbia and Texas at Austin.

ExpanSIS is already used by some of the Big 12 universities in a separate effort, the Great Plains Interactive Distance Educational Alliance, which offers graduate courses online in nonengineering fields.

Universities are working to expand education in nuclear engineering in response to a revival of interest in nuclear power as a way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

“It’s encouraging that the online nuclear courses have drawn immediate student interest,” said Mr. Gutteridge, of the Energy Department. “The industry is clamoring for engineers who speak nuclear.” —Jeffrey Brainard

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