The Michigan Engineer News Center

Watchful learning: Early TV leads to online instruction

Among the first to use televised engineering instruction, Michigan is still a leader in online teaching.| Short Read

Michigan Engineering’s Department of Integrative Systems and Design (IS+D) wasn’t formally created until 2013 – but its origins trace to at least the 1960s, beginning with Michigan’s strong emphasis on interdisciplinary education and its long tradition of providing access to students well beyond its campus confines.

IS+D replaced Michigan Interdisciplinary and Professional Engineering (InterPro), which in turn was the successor to the Center for Professional Development (CPD), which was comprised of three separately operated units: Engineering Short Courses, the Conferences and Liaison group of the Institute for Science and Technology (IST), and the Michigan Engineering Television Network (METN).

TV as a Learning Tool

METN (formerly Instructional Television), formed in 1969, used a live microwave video transmission and a two-way West Engineering audio connection to offer courses at various industry sites across southeast Michigan.

When METN’s 1970s popularity waned in the early 1980s as other institutions also started to offer distance learning graduate programs, METN broadened its scope by joining the relatively new consortium of peer engineering schools called the National Technological University (NTU), purchasing a satellite uplink, and offering academic credit-granting courses for NTU.

For a decade or more, Michigan was only offering two or three distance learning courses to as few as 15 to 30 students, primarily at General Motors sites. But in 1995, GM provided support for the development of several new courses, and opportunities with Ford also led to its support of what became and continues to be Michigan Engineering’s masters degree in Automotive Engineering.

The Tradition Extended

From television-based Big 3 graduate courses to online instruction (first offered in collaboration with the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure), Michigan has led the way in offering distance learning opportunities in interdisciplinary and professional education; short courses and conferences through the CPD; video lecture capture and online delivery technologies; and specialized manufacturing education and training programs.

More recently ISD has become a pioneer in the development and delivery of “Online by Design” instruction, with courses developed and delivered to optimize digital education for students both on and off campus. Among the six masters programs currently available through ISD, four of them offer “same as on campus”online degrees.

Portrait of Brad Whitehouse


Brad Whitehouse
Editor for Alumni Communications

Michigan Engineering
Communications & Marketing

(734) 647-7089

3214 SI-North

The outside of the Ford Robotics building

U-Michigan, Ford open world-class robotics complex

The facility will accelerate the future of advanced and more equitable robotics and mobility | Medium Read