ECU's BSIT program receives Bourne Award for online learning excellence

The East Carolina University Department of Technology Systems has received the John R. Bourne award for outstanding online program from the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) for its Bachelor of Science in industrial technology (BSIT) program.

Dr. David Batts, associate professor, accepted the award during the OLC Accelerate Conference in Orlando, Florida. He credited the department’s faculty and staff for the honor.

“It shows our commitment to our students who are not on campus just as much as the ones who are on campus,” Batts said. “The award signifies the hard work of the faculty and the great work by our students who go through the program as well. It re-emphasizes that East Carolina University is the leader in online education in the state, and I would dare say the Southeast, for public education. For the department, it signifies the quality education that we deliver through our online laboratories and our online courses.”

Batts said ECU’s BSIT online program offers working students a chance to advance their careers.

“A majority of our students are full-time working professionals,” he said. “They have a glass ceiling where they can’t get promotions because they don’t have that four-year degree. This gives them the opportunity to improve their work situation and improve their overall way of life when they get those promotions. It breaks down those barriers for those who can’t come to ECU at night or on weekends to attend a class.”

This spring, the online industrial technology program had 745 declared major students taking courses online and 551 students who took at least one course online and received a grade. Those numbers represent a 338% and 224% increase, respectively, in student population since 2005.

“We have students from all across the United States, but our farthest students are our military members that are over in Afghanistan or other places in the Middle East on their deployments,” Batts said. “They’re able to finish their classes during their down time while they’re doing their military work over there. The industrial technology program is ranked No. 1 at ECU for the most students who are either former military, current military or dependents who are receiving financial aid from the military.”

The OLC bases the award on access, learning effectiveness, cost effectiveness, student satisfaction and faculty satisfaction. In a 2017-18 survey of graduates, 82.3% of BSIT students reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their instructors, with 85.4% rating instruction within their major as good or excellent.

The award is the second for ECU’s Department of Technology Systems this year. In September, the department received the Red Hat Academy of the Year for 2019.

Batts said ECU’s program is one of the few undergraduate programs to ever receive the Bourne Award, which also covers international institutions. He accepted the award during the OLC four-day conference that featured training, networking and best practices for online educators.

According to OLC, its awards recognize the advances in digital learning that result from the ideas and initiatives of individuals, colleges and universities around the world. The OLC is a collaborative community of higher education leaders and innovators who are dedicated to advancing quality digital teaching and learning experiences that are designed to reach and engage online students. OLC members include faculty, administrators, trainers, educational institutions, professional societies and corporate enterprises.

ECU’s industrial technology program is accredited by the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering.