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Accepted to the International Conference on Engineering Education 18-22 August 2002, Manchester, UK Introducing Flexibility in Traditional Engineering Education by Providing Dedicated Online Experimentation and Tutoring Resources Sylvie Ursulet and Denis Gillet Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL) School of Enginerring, ME – Ecublens, CH – 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland Tel: +41 21 693-5168, FAX: +41 21 693-2574 Email: Abstract The clear distinction we had in the past between the open universities and the traditional ones is nowadays vanishing. While the open universities are more and more supplying online the learning material that was previously delivered by postal services, the traditional universities are making some of their course contents available through the Internet. This trend brings both the open and the traditional academic institutions to potentially meet the educational needs of a same segment of the student community. This also leads towards a hybrid learning scheme in which online courses can be combined with on-campus studies in traditional curricula. Such a scheme is an interesting form of what is defined as flexible education. With the MIT decision to provide a free access to 2000 of its courses over the next 10 years and with the well spread European conviction that the knowledge is not a marketable product, the identity and the reputation of the universities will mainly depend in a near future on the accredited courses selection and on the student support offer. The typical online content that includes video-on-demand streams and electronic documents will hence be considered just as today textbooks. In engineering education, the potential added value that can be brought in student support comes from the availability of resources for carrying out hands-on experimentation and of tutors for sustaining the learning process. These requirements that are well recognized in traditional education gain even more importance in distance learning and in flexible education to compensate for the students’ remoteness. The paper describes an ongoing initiative to provide a flexible access to remote experimentation resources for engineering students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne. It shows how the tutoring scheme as been adapted to sustain the transition from traditional teaching to flexible learning. Evaluation results obtained during the first deployment year with pilot students from mechanical engineering are also presented and analyzed.