USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Distance Education Network was ranked first by U.S. News and World Report for the second year in a row. The program provides students the opportunity to continue their education and earn their degree completely online.Tech savvy · A professor teaches a class of students at the Viterbi School of Engineering while workers in a control room behind the classroom videotape the lecture for the Viterbi School’s Distance Education Network, which allows students to complete their degrees remotely. – Photo courtesy of Binh TranShushil Patel, a second-year graduate student majoring in systems architecture and engineering, said he is able to balance his full time job with his academics due to [email protected]’s flexibility.“There are two kinds of flexibility that we all need,” said Gaurav Sukhatme, professor and department chair of computer science at the Viterbi School. “We need flexibility in space and we need flexibility in time.”According to Iraj Ershaghi, professor and director of petroleum engineering, the degree offers both.“The beauty is that it’s almost like a portable degree,” Ershaghi said.A portable degree was exactly what Reza B’Far, a fourth-year distance graduate student in computer science, was seeking.“I had been enrolled in graduate programs before,” B’Far said. “But because I was involved in graduate programs on-site and my job was moving me around, I had to discontinue the programs.”[email protected] allowed B’Far to remain enrolled in a single graduate program even when his job required him to relocate.Currently, [email protected] students can pursue more than 40 master’s degree programs, graduate certificates and non-credit professional courses, all online. According to professors, what makes [email protected] unique from other offerings is the program’s dedication to offering flexibility without compromising academic quality.All DEN classes are “blended,” meaning that on-campus and off-campus students are all engaged in the same classrooms.“We were a hybrid before the word hybrid was invented,” Vice Dean for Academic Programs James Moore said.Classes take place in Viterbi’s 13 state-of-the-art DEN studios. Each studio is equipped to stream high-quality webcasts of each lecture live, as well as record high-definition videos that are posted online and can be reviewed by both off-campus and on-campus students.“The big benefit of being in a DEN class is that any notes that the professor takes are digitally recorded online. If a professor writes on the chalkboard during a normal lecture and I miss it, it’s gone forever,” said Kevin Xu, a first-year graduate student majoring in biomedical engineering.The DEN system holds distance students to the same standards as traditional on-campus students. The admissions and class requirements are the same.“There’s a lot of teamwork in some of these classes, so you still have face-to-face interaction through virtual collaboration software,” Patel said.DEN resources are not just shared among USC students. [email protected] also uses its technological infrastructure to collaborate with other professionals around the world. In addition to Viterbi, USC offers online graduate programs through nine of its other schools.“It has really expanded the way we can share resources among companies and universities,” Ershaghi said.