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USC Distance Learning Goes International

Viterbi Engineering School's Innovative DEN Partners With Chevron to Offer Unique 'Smart Oil' Classes Worldwide

January 06, 2005 —
ChevronTexaco engineers enrolled in USC Viterbi School Distance Education Network courses will attend virtual classes via the Internet on oil rigs offshore of Aberdeen, Scotland like this one in the Captain oil field, and even, if necessary, take examinations there.

The University of Southern California’s innovative Distance Education Network (DEN) and ChevronTexaco Corp.* announced an agreement today to offer DEN's "smart oilfield technologies” program to ChevronTexaco* engineers around the world. 

ChevronTexaco engineers based in the U.S. already enjoy access to the groundbreaking USC program through a special partnership. ChevronTexaco operates worldwide and this semester DEN will begin enrolling ChevronTexaco engineers working outside the United States, under the terms of the agreement jointly announced Thursday, Jan. 6.
DEN, a leader in digital learning at the graduate level, is part of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. 
"As the difficulty of meeting the technology challenges increases, I am pleased that DEN can now provide ChevronTexaco engineers all over the world with an advanced educational program incorporating the new technologies. DEN will enhance our ability to develop these needed capabilities in our global workforce," said Don Paul, ChevronTexaco vice president and chief technology officer.
The first ChevronTexaco international students will be engineers at the company's Aberdeen, Scotland operation. Engineers working at other of the oil giant's far-flung international sites (the company has 47,000 employees in 180 countries) are expected to enroll in future semesters.
USC Viterbi School Dean C.L. Nikias said that the agreement with ChevronTexaco was in keeping with the vision of USC's latest strategic plan, adopted for the university's impending 125th anniversary, which includes an explicit call to "create a significant global presence that will increase international visibility, reach, and impact of our research, scholarship, art, education, and service."
"This is exactly what this agreement will accomplish," said Nikias. "And the technology we will be teaching is one that will have a major impact on world supplies of a critical raw material.
ChevronTexaco engineers will have the opportunity to enroll in two DEN programs:  the general M.S. in Petroleum Engineering, or a new, unique degree: the M.S. in Petroleum Engineering (Smart Oilfields Technologies), the only degree of its kind offered by a major research university.
The Viterbi School's ChevronTexaco-financed Center for Interactive Smart Oilfield Technologies (CiSoft), directed by Professor Iraj Ershaghi, conducts research in the field, investigating signal transmission, robotics, data mining and methods of using high performance computers to visualize and monitor the structure of underground oilfields and to systematically maximize resource recovery.
Professor Iraj Ershaghi
"At a time when petroleum supplies are under accelerating demand, we are enthusiastic that DEN will be able to provide the working engineers all over the world with an educational program teaching the new technologies under development," said Ershaghi.
These two M.S. programs are among 26 DEN offers to the more than 900 professional engineers currently enrolled from corporations across the United States.
With courses delivered via streaming media, international students can view course lectures both live and archived.  DEN will provide its full scope of student services, including academic advisement, enrollment, homework processing, exam proctoring and technology support to the ChevronTexaco employees.
"We anticipate engineers taking courses while on drilling rigs," said DEN Director of Student and Corporate Affairs Carolyn J. Suckow. "All a student needs is a reliable, high-speed Internet connection and a scanner or fax to submit their homework assignments.  DEN typically utilizes local colleges to proctor exams of its remote students.  If it is not feasible for those on a rig to travel inland ChevronTexaco has agreed that its personnel will assist as proctors." 

DEN Executive Director Kelly Goulis said that her organization "is very excited to go international. We believe the educational interface we've developed working with the Viterbi School's Information Sciences Institute is the best in postgraduate engineering e-learning. We are confident that we can deliver to Scotland as effectively as we now deliver to New Orleans and Bakersfield, California. Our new Scottish students — and those in other nations in the future — will get an experience completely on a par with their fellow students in U.S. DEN classes, and, indeed, with those on campus in Los Angeles.”

Goulis anticipates similar arrangements with other international firms in the near future, and not just oil companies. "We have a proven product. We anticipate that DEN will be as successful abroad as it has been in the U.S."
ChevronTexaco Corp. is one of the world's leading energy companies.   With more than 47,000 employees, ChevronTexaco conducts business in approximately 180 countries around the world, producing and transporting crude oil and natural gas, and marketing and distributing fuels and other energy products. ChevronTexaco is based in San Ramon, Calif.