Thursday, September 28, 2023

Changing at breakneck speed

ECPI’s Curriculum Bridges the Gap Between Academics and the Real World

Compact discs had a nice, long run. For that matter, steam engines did, too. Technologies of the past served the needs of people for decades before more efficient upgrades replaced them. But lately, innovation and progress are hyper-accelerating – think drone technology or smart speakers – and changing the world at breakneck speed.

That poses a challenge for educational institutions charged with preparing students to enter professions that rely on evolving technologies. There is a local university, however, that has found a creative solution to keep pace with such exponential advancement, and the benefits can extend far beyond the graduates who find themselves well prepared for this new professional landscape.

ECPI University sponsors Program Advisory Boards for each of its degree offerings at all of its campuses. These panels, which help develop the scope of the university’s curricula, are comprised of 7 to 15 members who meet twice a year. Rather than being staffed by academics who offer theories about their respective fields of expertise, the boards are instead made up of authorities who examine course content and make suggestions to ensure that it is aligned with the needs of the changing work environment.

Some of the communities’ biggest and most respected employers, such as STIHL, Texas Instruments and Newport News Shipbuilding, are represented on these boards. Joe Fuller is Chief Information Officer of the Norfolk-based media and information firm Dominion Enterprises, which employs some 6,600 people. Fuller served twice on a Program Advisory Board at ECPI and brought to the table the type of skills, such as computer programming languages, that companies like Dominion Enterprises, were looking for in prospective employees, he said.

Corporations’ officials are eager to help shape well-trained graduates because a skills gap exists between available jobs and competent applicants, making it difficult to fill certain positions. The very same firms represented on the Program Advisory Boards almost always attend ECPI career fairs. What’s more, businesses sometimes subsidize education at ECPI for employees already on staff, so staff members want to ensure that company funds are being used in the wisest possible manner.

Presenting a scholarship from the Criminal Justice Advisory Board.

But Fuller said that an equally important reason that ECPI’s Program Advisory Boards are a critical tool is the rapid pace of change in the business world. “In technology, by the time you create a curriculum it is obsolete,” he said. “So the challenge is to teach concepts that stay relevant while also trying to use current tools.”

Wael Ibrahim is Dean of Electronics Engineering Technology and understands the value of having current practitioners of technological professions helping steer the direction of the curriculum. “We get feedback on current trends, new technology, and where we can improve,” he said.

Ibrahim points to the push by automakers to build successful autonomous vehicles as one of many technological advancements that is moving faster than the curriculum can keep up.

Fuller said that every university should make a similar effort to bridge the gap between academia and the real world. However, that’s not always the case.

Fotunately there is an institution where studentscan receive an education that is more closely aligned with the real world. “ECPI moves faster than other universities when it comes to modifying their curricula,” Fuller said.

This article was sponsored by ECPI University, offering Degree Programs at every level, as well as Continuing Education Certifications. For more information on ECPI University click here.

To speak directly with an Admissions Representative at ECPI University Newport News, please contact Jonathan Holt, Director of Admissions, to discuss degree and continuing education programs.

Jonathan can be reached at 757-849-0548 or

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