November 27, 2021

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Systems science graduate degrees now can be earned entirely online

More Watson College programs could be approved soon

Profesor Hiroki Sayama of Watson College's Department of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering Profesor Hiroki Sayama of Watson College's Department of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering
Profesor Hiroki Sayama of Watson College's Department of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

Although online classes have become a key part of the education landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic, Binghamton University’s Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science has been offering distance learning for decades.

In fact, Watson’s EngiNet program has been around long enough that it actually used to mail out lectures on VHS tapes, and students would send back any homework or exams for evaluation.

Recently, though, the New York State Education Department approved master’s and PhD degrees in systems science as the first Watson College graduate programs that can be completed entirely online. More applications for fully remote graduate degrees in the Department of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering (SSIE) and Watson College are in the NYSED pipeline.

“Our department is very excited that we finally have SUNY and NYSED approval to offer our systems science degrees online,” said Professor and SSIE Department Chair Mohammad T. Khasawneh.

“Our highly interdisciplinary systems science program continues to grow in breadth, depth and application, building on the solid foundation established by the late Distinguished Professor George Klir, the father of the systems science discipline. We are delighted that, starting this fall, we will be able to offer this unique program that’s known nationally and internationally to a much wider audience around the globe.”

The broad spectrum of research topics within systems science includes computer simulation, machine learning, optimization, statistical modeling, health systems, sustainability, complex networks, game theory and more.

In additon to academic and entrepreneurial pursuits, companies hire systems science graduates as quality engineers, data scientists, data engineers, software developers, software engineers, managers and analysts.

Professor Hiroki Sayama, the SSIE Department’s graduate director, said that the online program is designed primarily for distance-learning students with full-time jobs. Those students watch classes in the evenings or weekends through asynchronous education.

“We have the recording facilities in the EngiNet classroom, but now I can also record on my own computer,” Sayama said. “We upload those lectures and all other current materials to students. But since last year, many distance-learning students can participate in real time through Zoom.”

Different off-campus graduate students have different lifestyles and learning styles, Sayama said. Some students like to interact with instructors, while others prefer to watch lectures and skip back a bit to anything they missed. Students can meet with faculty members at office hours specifically set up for remote students.

“It’s really important to make sure they have actual engagement,” he said. “Especially for PhD students, their primary goal is to conduct research, not just taking courses. For PhD students, the research supervision is the same as any other student. There are regular meetings between student and advisor, and the student will conduct research based on very rigorous discussions.”

As a PhD advisor, Sayama currently has 12 students with full-time jobs, and he hopes this NYSED certification will encourage more to seek master’s and PhD degrees in systems science.

“It’s a great opportunity to students as well as to the University,” he said.