Electrical engineering student Travis Winter is well on his way to a degree thanks to online classes
Just because you’re a student studying at a distance doesn’t mean you have to be a “distant student.”
Just ask Travis Winter, from Muskegon, Mich., who has mastered the keys of success to online classes to the point that, for him, it feels much like a traditional classroom. Winter is majoring in electrical engineering through the University of North Dakota’s Distance Engineering Degree Program (DEDP) and has been named the school’s “Nontraditional Student of the Year.”
Nominations for the award were solicited from the campus community. A selection committee which included a faculty member, professional staff member, and a current student chose the recipient from a wide pool of applicants. The nominations were judged based on the student’s successful efforts of academic commitment, leadership and personal challenges he or she has accomplished in pursuit of his or her academic goals.
Winter’s professors and colleagues say he does an excellent job explaining concepts and working with the other students, despite the fact that he and his peers are spread throughout the globe. Winter also was recognized because he shows great dedication to his education, his work and his family.
His ability to manage all of his roles and still find time to help other students is both admired and appreciated by everyone around him, according to Jessica Rosencrans, UND veteran & nontraditional student services coordinator.
“He has been a role model and has gone above and beyond in his classes,” Rosencrans said. “We could use more students like him.”
Engineering majors have the reputation of being challenging for students. Winter admits that he was concerned about taking on such a challenging major online, especially since his first attempt at another university went poorly. Yet he has maintain a 4.0 GPA for the past two semesters at UND. He chose to major in electrical engineering because he enjoys electronics and because the discipline has a very high employability rate.
“The DEDP program at UND is put together pretty well and has made for an enjoyable experience,” said Winter.
Winter has sampled both the traditional and online styles of higher education, as he attended Muskegon Community College for two years and spent a year at Western Michigan University, majoring in mechanical engineering, before deciding to join the Air Force.
“When I joined the military in 2007, UND was the only school in the country with a full online engineering program.” Winter continued, “The base education office knew all about the program, and I am glad they did, otherwise I may never have found it.”
Winter was active in the Air Force until September 2014, and is now in the inactive Air Force Reserves.
He says that it can be a struggle, juggling being a family man, with wife, Lisa, and three children, and working full time and being a full time student.
“I have found that the single biggest help is to maintain momentum.” Winter said, “Even if I am caught up with my school work, just doing something related to my course work in the evening helps to keep me on track. I have found that if I don’t do anything for school for a few days, it’s really hard to get back into the habit, especially with all of life’s distractions.”
Winter uses the “Spaces” feature on the UND BlackBoard system to create forums in which he can interact and participate with other UND online students.
“Simply talking to classmates about the material before or after class, or even just casually when socializing, is a huge help,” he said. “I typically create one for each course I am in, and invite all of the students in the class.
“We then have an area to post questions about homework, our feelings about how we did on a recent exam, talk about course material, or even things unrelated to school; all things traditional students do daily.”
For Winter, one of the big benefits of online classes is the ability to watch the lectures when his time allows. He especially appreciates being able to fast-forward/rewind, or play them at a faster or slower speed. It makes things easier by allowing each person to work at their own pace, he said, especially if it is a new topic being discussed.
While most of the classes Winter takes are from his home in Michigan, he still gets to come to the UND campus for periodic lab sessions during the summer. It’s at this time that he is able to connect with some of his fellow classmates with whom he has become close through online interactions.
“It’s neat to interact for a couple of semesters and then all meet in person when we are at UND for summer labs.” Winter said. “A bunch of us are looking forward to getting together there at the end of May.”
Winter will graduate in the spring of 2016, and he hopes to be self-employed, doing engineering prototyping for corporations designing new electronics.
About the DEDP:
The college of engineering and mines currently offers five engineering degree programs (chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical and petroleum) through a distance delivery mode called the DEDP.
UND’s DEDP delivery mode offers nontraditional engineering students an opportunity to complete most of their undergraduate degree coursework in the accredited undergraduate engineering programs through the Internet. Students are required to complete their laboratory requirements through accelerated summer courses at UND. DEDP students experience the same lectures and coursework requirements as on-campus students, and follow the same semester schedule established by the University.
University & Public Affairs student writer
Photo courtesy of Travis Winter.