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SPIE Professional July 2009

SPIE Online Courses Offer Flexibility

By Beth Kelley

SPIE will launch a series of online courses on photonics topics, offering flexibility and more opportunities for ongoing, professional education.

SPIE worked with Alfred Ducharme, assistant dean of Distance and Distributed Learning at University of Central Florida (UCF), to develop and film the courses that are being offered on the Web, on demand.

"Students are typically juggling work and family schedules while trying to benefit themselves and their organizations with higher education. Distance learning courses offer this to students," Ducharme says.

SPIE courses are developed primarily for working engineers and scientists who need to fulfill requirements for ongoing professional education, who are interested in learning about emerging approaches and tools, or who want a refresher on fundamental optics topics.

"Nowadays, we often have to wear many hats to be successful," says Jiang Hsieh, an SPIE online instructor from GE Healthcare.

Ducharme sees distance learning on UCF's campus as well as in corporate settings as a cost-effective way to uniformly train employees at all levels. One example is a laser safety video shown to employees before handling lasers.

SPIE determined that offering its conference-based short courses online would be useful to constituents who could not travel to SPIE meetings because of time or fiscal restrictions.

"It is not always viable to wait until a course is presented at a meeting that might be a year away," says former SPIE President Kevin Harding, senior researcher at GE Global Research and an SPIE instructor. "Engineers today rely much more on the Internet for fast, timely information. Online courses help fill that role."

Working with Ducharme as adviser, SPIE Education Services developed the first SPIE online courses, to be launched this summer. The online courses contain the same material as those offered at SPIE meetings and are taught by the same instructors.

The first courses SPIE is offering online are:

Basic Optics for Engineers - Al Ducharme, University of Central Florida

Basic Optics for Non-Optics Personnel - Kevin Harding, GE Global Research

Fundamentals of Medical Imaging Processing and Analysis - Thomas Deserno, RWTH Aachen

Principles and Advancements in X-Ray Computed Tomography - Jiang Hsieh, GE Healthcare

Convenience for the students is one of the many benefits of the online format. While short courses at conferences can sometimes last all day, the online courses are broken up into 30-minute segments that can be viewed over multiple days when the student can fit it in. There is also a quiz after each section, set by the instructor, to emphasize key learning objectives and to allow students to view each topic at their leisure or review one subject at a time.

The SPIE courses are presented in full-screen video with PowerPoint slides, and students can earn continuing education credits and certificates just as in the courses offered at SPIE meetings.

Course instructors, often the authors of definitive texts in their areas of expertise, have found the online courses to be useful to them as well. "I modified the [SPIE] classroom course with respect to the online course," says Deserno, an SPIE member and professor of medical informatics at Aachen University of Technology (RWTH) in Germany. "After finishing the online course, I took advantage of the improved structure and used it for the classroom course, too."

Ducharme sees distance learning becoming ubiquitous in ongoing education. "I predict that as instructors become familiar with asynchronous delivery and online collaboration, most of the industry will move in this direction."

"Online students will come to SPIE to learn because SPIE will be the filter for optics-related knowledge and will produce relevant high quality online courses," says Ducharme.

For more information on the multiple formats that SPIE offers continuing education in optics, visit spie.org/courses.

Features of SPIE Online Courses
  • Video of the instructor synchronized with PowerPoint slides, indexed for easy reference
  • Instructor biographies and links, including contact information to follow up with more questions
  • Access to courses on demand, for one year after purchase
  • CEUs and the same certificate of completion as if taking the course at an SPIE meeting


SPIE is authorized by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training to provide continuing education units (CEUs). One unit is awarded for every 10 hours of participation in qualified continuing education.

Have a question or comment about this article? Write to us at spieprofessional@spie.org.

DOI: 10.1117/2.4200907.15

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