"On-Line Degrees" -- High Status or Not?
A comment on the open-book issue - yes, many tests are open book these days (I'm back in school and the last 3 classes I've taken all tests were open book), but I could not solicit the help of anyone else. If I'm sitting at home, I have the world at my fingers! It would have been wonderful to have access to this forum while I was taking some of my tests. You guys could have helped me. Not to mention picking up the phone and calling all sorts of professors and colleagues. Does this help me learn? Does this give me a true understanding of what I'm looking at? Probably not.
Being able to find things is great, but a 10 year old can search on the internet or go to a library and be able to find something. It's the understanding of the fundamental physical properties and laws that engineering students are taught. What you're seeing when a new BSME comes out of school is one that hasn't melded the real world and the theoretical world together in his head. That takes a few years (a lifetime for some...) and it's what we mean when we say an engineer is experienced. If you don't HAVE the theoretical tools, you're not an engineer. Notice I stressed HAVE - yes you can look things up, but it's the understanding that's more important. We've all seen very intelligent folks know where anything is in a book and put systems together that just don't work. If you don't have the theoretical background to understand the workings behind the formulas - again - you're not an engineer.
That said, I believe it's very hard (but not impossible) to absorb these concepts outside of a classroom/lab setting. Being able to fire off questions and have them answered right away is invaluable. Some extremely studious and very disciplined individuals may be able to get there on their own while looking at a computer screen, but I'm not one of them and of the engineers I've dealt with, I know of only one that might have been able to do it.
I'm with mbeychok - the interviewees that come into my office with only an online degree will get scrutinized, grilled and sauteed before I'll accept him/her. I'd have to be confident he/she actually understood some of the schooling. I drill any potential hirees, but I imagine an online degree person would fare far worse than their brick and mortar counterparts overall.