In today's exponentially changing technological landscape, the upgrading of skills and knowledge is of critical importance. Like in other professional fields, engineers, working in the oil and gas industry also need to pursue advanced degrees and to keep their skills up to date. For anyone working in the petroleum industry, partly because of the remote location of operations and in part because of frequent travel-associated assignments, the environment for pursuing advanced degrees may seem restrictive and impossible. Also, the nature of the oil and gas industry often requires professionals to work in locations away from major cities; often travel to remote locations and be away from their offices for a substantial period. This can be discouraging and make it impossible for these professionals to enroll in traditional on-campus educational degree programs. More importantly, even if located near a major metropolitan area, there may not be a credible or relevant local university program to provide the necessary education nor is there expectation to teach such graduate courses. Indeed, the desire to enhance professional qualifications and to acquire graduate education can rapidly diminish when there is limited access to the accredited educational providers. Added to that is a fear for getting involved but later facing roadblock in balancing work, family responsibilities and the intended educational program.
In recent years, an effective way to circumvent this obstacle has been relying on modern communication methods that enable access to accredited advanced education via high-quality Internet to the classroom regardless of individual's location. This breakthrough has provided a unique continuous learning opportunity for many engineering or science graduates in oil and gas professions and at various stages of their careers. But experience shows that the course delivery besides video communication needs other components to provide an inviting, effective and appealing virtual learning environment. We share experiences gained at the DEN@Viterbi system that has included many conveniences to the part time students1.