Turning online education personal

Jeremy Simpson stands in the Nguyen Engineering Building.

Jeremy Simpson, a new student to the data analytics engineering online master's program, visited Mason's Fairfax Campus for National Engineers Week 2020.

Online learners in Mason's data analytics engineering master’s program can take their classes anywhere, but one student decided to put a face to the names on his computer screen and visit the Fairfax Campus for National Engineers Week.

Jeremy Simpson, a new student to the program, is a software developer living in Minnesota, where he moved 10 years ago from Ghana. He got his undergraduate degree in computer science at Minnesota State University, and he decided to pursue a data analytics master’s program to expand his knowledge.

“Software is my niche, and I’m trying to get more skills in different areas and learn new things I can apply to my current job,” says Simpson.

Online learning allows students to attend any school, but Simpson chose Mason because it offered more than other online programs. “When I was getting closer to deciding, I was looking at which online programs will be robust. I wanted to find a program where I could apply my skills even though it’s online, and Mason allowed me to do that,” says Simpson.

James Baldo, director of the MS Data Analytics Engineering program, says the online program, which is only in its fourth cohort, was built on trying to make it like the in-person program. “We wanted it to be as similar as possible, and we are working on turning even more of the in-person classes into online versions,” says Baldo.

Simpson also cited the degree program’s areas of concentration as a big draw. Students can choose concentrations such as financial engineering, predictive analytics, and cyber analytics.

He was drawn to the health data analytics track because he currently works for Wex Health in South Fargo, North Dakota, which is about five minutes from the Minnesota border. However, he is also interested in learning about the other concentrations so that he can expand his knowledge.

“I’ve only been in the program for about two months, but so far it’s going well. I’m learning a lot and already seeing the value of the program for the money I’m spending,” says Simpson. “It is very practical and hands-on.”

Baldo is hoping that the program continues to grow for the same reasons that attracted Simpson. “We wanted the content to be equivalent—the experience to be just as rich as the in-person program,” says Baldo. “The online program allows people all over the country to gain access to the expanding field of data analytics engineering.”