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Introduction

Welcome to Penn Engineering Online! As an online graduate student at Penn, you are part of a dynamic community of peers, scholars, and practitioners who will help support and challenge you during your academic career. In this Handbook, we have laid out the policies and guidelines for the programs that will ultimately contribute to your success. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these policies and reach out to the program staff with any additional questions.

You can find information about the University of Pennsylvania’s accreditation on the Provost’s website as follows: https://provost.upenn.edu/accreditation.

Policies and procedures are subject to change throughout the year at the discretion of the University of Pennsylvania and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Academic Calendar

Engineering Online students will follow all important dates on the Penn Engineering Online Academic Calendar. Note: Some dates are different from the University and School-level calendars.

Degree Conferral Statement

The online Master of Computer and Information Technology and online Master of Science in Engineering in Data Science programs are offered by the University of Pennsylvania, an institution of higher education authorized to confer degrees and certificates conferring academic credit under applicable laws of the United States. Students who are interested in participating in these programs from countries other than the United States are advised that each jurisdiction may have its own laws and regulations governing online educational programs, and some jurisdictions may not recognize course credit or an online degree awarded by the University as satisfying local requirements for professional licensure, employment qualification, or other purposes. Before enrolling in these programs, prospective students should investigate their jurisdiction’s treatment of foreign online programs to ensure that participation in this program will meet their objectives.

Enrollment Requirements

Engineering Online students should review the degree requirements of the program to which they are admitted before they enroll in courses.

All students are required to be continuously enrolled in at least one course unit during the fall and spring semesters, except under the following circumstances:

  1. A student takes a leave of absence (LOA) from their degree program
  2. Student withdraws from the University and is no longer a student

Students who do not register by the course selection deadline, and do not request a LOA, will be withdrawn from Engineering and the University for zero enrollment after the course selection deadline for that term. Please note that the summer term is optional.

Course Unit Registration Requirement

Maximum enrollment for a master’s program is 4 course units per semester. A petition and satisfactory GPA (3.70 minimum) is required in order to take more than 4 course units in one semester. Tuition is charged each semester per course unit.

Full- and Part-time Study

Engineering Online students may take 1-4 courses each semester. The number of courses a student takes defines whether they are part-time or full-time for that semester. Full-time status is 3.0 course units or higher and part-time status is 2.99 course units and below.

Note: In order to be considered for federal financial aid, a student must be enrolled at least “half-time” which is two or more course units per semester for Engineering Online students.

Technical Requirements

  • Internet – It is your responsibility to have and maintain internet access that permits you to receive and transmit information freely for the duration of the program. Penn is not responsible for any inability to access the program due to disruptions in your internet service, whether caused by technical problems, governmental or other third party actions.
  • Proctored Exams – A few times each semester, students will take proctored exams. Please see the system requirements for Honorlock which is the proctoring service used by the program.
  • We do not recommend using a computer provided by your work. Work computers may not provide students access to install important software, and corporate firewalls may prevent activities required by the program.
  • If you are looking to purchase a laptop or notebook: Laptop and Notebook Purchasing Guides

Academic Standing Requirements

Graduate students are required to maintain a minimum GPA throughout the graduate program and make satisfactory progress toward their declared program to remain in good academic standing.Master’s students are required to maintain a minimum (cumulative) GPA of 2.7 throughout the program, and must be completing the appropriate courses in accordance with their degree program. Students must complete the academic requirements of the degree program within seven (7) years of matriculation.

Graduate students not making satisfactory academic progress will receive an academic progress warning or be placed on academic probation. Those placed on probation will be contacted by an academic advisor and jointly create an academic plan to improve their GPA. In the absence of improvement in the subsequent semesters, students on warning or probation may be dropped from their program and the University of Pennsylvania.

Grading

The course instructor has full discretion with regards to assignment and course grading policies. Please see the individual course syllabi for details.

No course may be retaken to improve a grade of “C” unless the content is different. No grade lower than a “C-” will be counted in “core” courses and those courses must be retaken. Graduation may not be postponed for grade improvement if all other graduation criteria are met.

Upon completion of the course, please note that grades posted in the online course gradebook are not the final grades for the course. Final grade will be published in Penn InTouch* (*Path@Penn starting in Summer 2022).

GPA Scale

The GPA scale for Penn Engineering is as follows:
A+AA-B+BB-C+CC-D+DF
4.04.03.73.33.02.72.32.01.71.31.00

Course Incompletes, Retakes, NR, GR, and Failures

  • The mark of “I” is used to designate an Incomplete, “NR” for No Report (no grade submitted), and “GR” (student was not present in class though enrolled). Students cannot graduate with an “I,” “NR,” or “GR” on their transcript.
  • A grade of “F” cannot count towards the course requirements.
  • In rare cases and under special circumstances, towards the end of the semester an instructor may award an Incomplete “I” grade in which the student completes the course after the semester has ended. As with all grading decisions, Incomplete grades are at the discretion of the instructor. The following rules apply:
    • The incomplete course must be completed in the next semester that the course is offered. If the course is not completed within this timeframe, the grade will be changed to F. The summer semester can be skipped since it is an optional term.
    • Students must confirm with the program staff that they intend to participate in an Incomplete course up to one week before the first day of the semester. If the staff has not received written confirmation by this date, the student will not be eligible to participate that semester.
    • If the student chooses to opt out of finishing an Incomplete during the term, they must do so by notifying program staff before the drop period deadline listed on the Penn Engineering Online Academic Calendar. Students can opt out by notifying the program staff in writing.
  • If a grade of “D” or “F” is received in a core or required course, which prevents graduation, the student has two options:
    1. At the discretion of the instructor, the student can retake the course by attending the course again (in a subsequent term) without registering or paying additional tuition, and will receive a grade change if earned. Please note attending again or sitting in on the course does not count towards full-time status.
    2. The student can register and pay tuition for the course again. Upon successful completion of the course with the same instructor, the original registration will be changed to “Withdraw.”  (The original course will not be counted toward graduation or GPA. Engineering will not allow the course to be counted twice toward the degree.)

Course Selection, Withdrawal, Auditing and Refund Policy

Adding/Dropping a Course

Engineering Online students should refer to the Penn Engineering Online Academic Calendar for all important dates (note: these dates may differ from University and School-level calendars). The Course Selection deadline is the last day a student can add a course to their schedule in a given semester. The Drop Period deadline is the last day that a student can drop a course and receive a refund of tuition in a given semester. Courses dropped after the Drop Period deadline are considered a Course Withdrawal (see below) and will not be reimbursed. Students must be continuously enrolled during the fall and spring semesters. If they are not registered for any courses in those terms, they must request a Leave of Absence to remain enrolled in the program.

Withdrawing from a Course

After the Drop Deadline has passed in a term, a student may request to withdraw from a course by contacting the program staff for a Course Withdrawal request. The deadline to submit a Course Withdrawal request is listed on the Penn Engineering Online Academic Calendar. If permission is granted, a “W” will appear on the student’s transcript for the course and no tuition refund will be issued.

Auditing a Course

Graduate students who wish to enroll in a course without a letter grade must register as an auditor. Auditors pay the regular tuition charges, but receive no credit for the course. Assignments and exams are not required if properly registered and the instructor is notified. Audited courses cannot count towards the degree.  Once the course is completed, a grade of “AUD” will appear on the transcript. Penn Engineering Online students are only permitted to audit Penn Engineering Online courses. Note that students may not take audited courses again later for a letter grade.

Leaves and Program Withdrawals

Leave of Absence (LOA)

Students may request a Leave of Absence for up to two years or four academic semesters, after which time, students must reapply for admission.  Time spent in the military service and time spent on medical leave do not count under the time limit. Reinstatement is dependent upon departmental and Penn Engineering approval. 

When students are ready to return after a leave of absence, they must contact the program staff in writing. The request must be submitted no later than thirty (30) days prior to the start of the semester the student wishes to return.

If a student is requesting a medical leave, they must inform program staff in writing. Medical documentation will be required when a student wishes to return to active status.

Withdrawal From the Program

Withdrawal from the University may be granted by first contacting the program staff.  Reinstatement is dependent upon departmental and Penn Engineering approval.

Should a student withdraw from the program with any outstanding Incomplete grades, those grades will be converted to an “F.”

Students who withdraw from the program will lose access to previously completed courses, access to student services, and access to student-only programs and websites.

Course Waivers and Transfer Credits

Students are allowed to waive up to two courses and/or transfer up to two courses.

A small number of students choose to waive out of a core course by taking and passing a waiver exam. Students who waive courses must still take 10 Penn courses total. Students who do not pass a waiver exam are not permitted to retake it.

Students may also transfer up to two courses (with faculty approval) which will fulfill one or two of the program requirements. Only courses with grades of B are higher will be reviewed. The course credit will be transferred in, not the course grade; credit transfers do not impact GPA. Per University policy, courses counted towards an undergraduate degree will not be considered for graduate credit unless in an approved and awarded submatriculation program. Transfer credit must be completed prior to matriculation at Penn. Transfer courses are held to a time limit of five (5) years from the date the course was taken.

Note: MCIT Online students must take a minimum of four out of the six core courses at Penn.

For inquiries about waiving or transferring credit, contact the program staff.

Tuition & Billing

Tuition

Tuition and fees for Penn Engineering Online are based on course units. Degree students will pay each semester based on the number of registered courses. Students may also be required to purchase textbooks or supplies for a few of the courses in the program. Tuition and fees are posted as a guide and will be adjusted on a yearly basis. Current tuition amounts can be found here

Tuition will automatically be refunded for graduate students for a dropped course only if the course is dropped prior to the end of ‘Course Selection Period.’ Students that need to withdraw from a course after the Course Selection Period date are 100% financially responsible for that tuition; no refunds are given.

Enrollment Deposit: The $300 deposit paid upon submission of your enrollment form is non-refundable. The $300 credit will be applied to the tuition bill for the next semester that you register for courses (e.g., if you are matriculating in the fall semester, the credit will be applied to the bill for your following spring semester).

Online students who are enrolled at least half-time will be eligible to apply for federal student loans. International students’ eligibility may vary depending upon their international status. “Half-time” is defined as taking at least two courses in a term.

Billing

Billing always occurs after course registration. Be sure to review the billing schedule for when bills are generated, as well as check the Student Financial Services payment system for bill due dates. Electronic bills or e-bills are sent from the University’s Student Registration and Financial Services (SRFS) Office to a student’s official email address on file and can be accessed through Penn.Pay. Please note that you will receive a notification when a bill has been generated but you will not receive a reminder when the bill is due.

Changes in registration after the second week of classes necessitate manual tuition adjustments. If you notice a mistake with your bill, please contact the program staff.

Ideally, a student’s bill should reflect all charges and all financial aid credits for the semester in question. Frequently, University and departmental financial aid awards are credited after the date of initial billing. When this happens, the bill reflects a higher debt than the student anticipated. The student’s first step is to check with their department to make sure the financial aid was credited. Students utilizing tuition benefits with questions should contact tuition@hr.upenn.edu. Students supported from outside the University should check directly with their sponsors.

The University will withhold diplomas at graduation when financial questions are unresolved. It is the responsibility of the student to keep track of their outstanding balance and to resolve any problems that might arise.

Payment Options

Students can pay their student bill through four methods of payment:

  • Online through Penn.Pay
  • Through Mail
  • In Person
  • International Banks – By Wire Transfer

Please see the Student Financial Services website for more information on how to pay your bill.

Billing Schedule & Payment Plans

You can always find the current billing schedule on the SRFS website.

Payment plans are available for the fall and spring semesters.

MCIT Online

Curriculum

MCIT Online students must complete six core courses and four electives. It is recommended that students take the core courses in sequential order. That said, students do not need special permission to take courses out of sequence so long as prerequisites and corequisites are followed.  Note that new students must take either CIT 5910 or CIT 5920 in their first semester. If a student chooses to take two courses in their first semester, they must select CIT 5910 and CIT 5920. If a student would like to take 3 courses in their first semester (CIT 5910, 5920, and 5930), we strongly recommend meeting an advisor beforehand to discuss their first semester schedule.
Course descriptions can be found on the MCIT Online Academics page.

Core Courses

-CIT 591 Introduction to Software Development
-CIT 592 Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science
-CIT 593 Introduction to Computer Systems
-CIT 594 Data Structures & Software Design
-CIT 595 Computer Systems Programming
-CIT 596 Algorithms & Computation

Important notes regarding core courses:

  • When students have passed and completed 4 of the 6 core courses, they may register for electives so long as they have fulfilled the electives’ prerequisites.
  • If a student receives a W or a grade below C- in a core course, that course needs to be retaken.

Electives

MCIT Online students must also complete four graduate-level electives. A full list of electives can be found on the MCIT Online Academics Page.

Independent Study

Independent studies are not available for MCIT Online students matriculating in Spring 2021 and beyond. Requests from students who matriculated before this date will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

All students are welcome to apply for volunteer or paid research assistant positions at Penn.

MSE-DS Online

MSE-DS Curriculum

MSE-DS Online students must complete four core courses, four technical electives and two open electives. Students can take the classes in their preferred order provided they follow all prerequisites. If a student would like to take 3 courses in their first semester, we strongly recommend meeting an advisor beforehand to discuss their first semester schedule.

Course descriptions can be found on the MSE-DS Online Academics page.

Core Courses (4 CUs)

  • CIS 5450 Big Data Analytics
  • CIS 5500 Databases & Information Systems
  • ESE 5410 Machine Learning for Data Science
  • ESE 5420 Statistics for Data Science
  • CIS 5150 Fundamentals of Linear Algebra & Optimization

Either ESE 5420 or CIS 5150, but not both, must be taken as one of the 4 core classes.
If a student receives a W or a grade below C- in a core course, that course needs to be retaken.

Technical Electives (Choose 4 CUs)

  • CIS 5210 Artificial Intelligence
  • CIS 5220 Deep Learning
  • CIS 5300 Natural Language Processing
  • CIS 5510 Computer & Network Security
  • CIS 5550 Internet & Web Systems
  • CIS 5810 Computer Vision
  • CIT 5820 Blockchains & Cryptography
  • New course: Data Science for Health
  • New course (tentative): Engineering Ethics
  • New course (tentative): Data Visualization
  • Or one of the core courses

Open Electives (Choose 2 CUs)

  • DATO 5990 Practicum
  • Online CIS elective course
    • CIS 5470 Software Analysis
    • CIS 5490 Wireless Communications for Mobile Networks & Internet of Things
    • CIS 5530 Networked Systems
    • Or one of the core courses or technical electives

Note: Students may take CIT 5950 Computer Systems Programming and CIT 5960 Algorithms and Computation as Open Electives.

Course Waivers

MSE-DS Online courses are not eligible for waiving.

Independent Studies

Independent studies are not available for MSE-DS Online students. All students are welcome to apply for volunteer or paid research assistant positions at Penn.

Dual Degree

MCIT | MSE-DS Online

High achieving MCIT Online students with a strong interest in data science can choose to continue on with a dual degree in the online Master of Science in Engineering in Data Science (MSE-DS Online). Those that meet the eligibility criteria will graduate from MCIT Online and matriculate as a MSE-DS Online student, transferring four electives from MCIT Online and taking six additional MSE-DS Online courses resulting in two graduate degrees from Penn Engineering for a total of sixteen credits.

Eligibility

Highly motivated MCIT Online students may apply for the dual degree with MSE-DS Online once they have completed (any) six courses in the MCIT Online curriculum. Eligible students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher and be in good standing with the University at the time of application. MCIT Online alumni may apply as well.

As a reminder, courses to be transferred must meet the Penn Engineering transfer credit criteria:

  • Grade of B or higher
  • Courses must be graduate-level
  • Courses must be taken within five (5) years from the start of the MSE-DS program

Application Process

Students will submit a short personal statement explaining their interest in the MSE-DS Online program. There is no application fee. Application form opening and closing dates can be found here.

Example Plan of Study

6 CUs: MCIT Online Core
4 CUs: MCIT Online Electives*
6 CUs: MSE-DS remaining requirements
= 16 CUs Total

*At least 2 CUs must be designated as a MSE-DS Core Course or Technical Elective

Time for Degree Completion

Once Dual Degree students matriculate into the MSE-DS Online Program, they must complete the degree within three years. If needed, they may take a leave of absence during that time for a maximum of two Fall/Spring semesters. Note that LOAs and time for degree completion will not carry over from the MCIT Online degree.

Penn Engineering’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Engineers cannot solve the problems of a diverse world without a diverse, inclusive set of people working on them. We at Penn Engineering are working actively to effect change, not only for the good of our campus, but for the discipline itself, to ensure that the engineers we educate are both reflective of and responsive to the world in which they will need to innovate and implement solutions.

Penn Engineering is strongly committed to initiatives that support the University’s efforts to achieve an inclusive educational and employment environment that is diverse in race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, historical tradition, age, religion, parenting status, disability status, veteran status, interests, perspectives and socioeconomic backgrounds.

https://www.seas.upenn.edu/diversity-and-inclusion/our-commitment-to-diversity-and-inclusion/

Community Guidelines

One of the things we value greatly at Penn Engineering Online is our diverse community of students, instructors, and staff. We cultivate a strong, inclusive community that is respectful, safe, and supportive.

Here are some general reminders regarding online culture:

  • Tone – Tone is a very important part of online communication. Before posting online, read your message out loud. Ask yourself if you would say this to a colleague or acquaintance in a face-to-face discussion. Avoid sarcasm, which can be hard to interpret online.
  • Peer support – Make an effort to understand, respect, and support your fellow students. People have different perspectives – but everyone is here to learn and to learn from each other. Assume the best intentions first when engaging with others. 
  • Ask questions – Feel free to pose questions or ask others to share their thoughts or expertise. There are many diverse backgrounds and experiences represented in the program!
  • Confidentiality – Do not share information about others and their experiences without their expressed permission to do so.

University Policies and Codes of Conduct

The Pennbook contains policies that apply to all students at the University of Pennsylvania. You can refer to this resource throughout your time as a Penn student for important information. The two most important policies in the Pennbook are the Code of Student Conduct and the Code of Academic Integrity. These two policies outline the general responsibilities of being a student at Penn. All students are expected to have read and understood both policies. Students can also refer to the Penn Engineering Student Code of Conduct.

 

If you are a victim of, witness, or are otherwise affected by unacceptable behavior:

If you are unsure which office to contact, please contact an instructor or any Penn Engineering Online staff member.

Disability information

Any student who has a disability and wishes to self-identify with the Disability Services at the Weingarten Center at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center, should complete the Self-Identification Form.  Submission of this form is the first step in the Self-Identification Process.  Any student requesting accommodations will also need to submit documentation of the disability to Disability Services. Further questions should be directed to Disability Services.

Grievance Procedures Guidelines

In general, a Graduate student with a grievance should first discuss the matter with the immediate supervisor of the individual involved. In case of conflicts of interest, then the next non-conflicted level should be engaged. For academic matters the normal hierarchy is (as applicable):

  1. a) relevant course stafft;
    b) relevant course faculty instructor;    
    c) Graduate Program Director;    
    d) Graduate Group Chair;    
    e) Department Chair;    
    f) Associate Dean;   
    g) Ombudsman.   

At any point the student may wish to circumvent steps a-f and contact the Ombudsman. 

If a graduate student has a grievance concerning a non-academic matter, the suggested procedural steps should be discussion with (as applicable): 

  1. a) Graduate Program Director;    
    b) Graduate Group Chair;    
    c) Department Chair;    
    d) Associate Dean;   
    e) Ombudsman.    

At any point the student may wish to circumvent steps a-d and contact the Ombudsman. 

Further information about University grievance procedures policy can be found here.

Graduation process

Filing for Graduation

Once an Engineering Online graduate student has enrolled in the final course unit for their degree, they have reached their final semester and must graduate. Students cannot enroll in additional courses after that semester. To start the graduation process, the student will need to:

  1. Review their graduation information in Path@Penn to ensure their graduation date is accurate. If the date is not correct, they must contact the program staff to have it updated.
  2. Apply for Graduation. The graduation application will open based on the below schedule.

If students do not apply for graduation by the deadline, they will be put on ‘Leave Pending Graduation’ and will need to graduate the following semester. They will not be allowed to register for any courses while they are on Leave.

Generally, the  graduation application opens based on the below schedule:

  • May Graduation – Application opens in December
  • August Graduation – Application opens in May
  • December Graduation – Application opens in August

Commencement is held once a year in May.  The University and the School of Engineering invite students who graduate in May to attend commencement the year they graduate. Students who graduate in August or December may attend the May ceremony directly following or preceding their graduation.  Attendance is optional.

More information about the graduation process will be provided in the Graduation and Life After Penn course. Engineering Online students are automatically enrolled in this course after they have completed six course units.

Diplomas

Diplomas will be mailed approximately eight to ten weeks following the official degree conferral date by the Office of the Secretary.  Diplomas are issued three times a year: May, August, and December and are mailed in July (May graduates), October (August graduates) and February (December graduates).

The University will withhold diplomas at graduation when financial questions are unresolved. It is the responsibility of the student to keep track of their outstanding balance and to resolve any problems that might arise.

Information on what happens to email accounts post graduation is found here.

Alumni Relations

As a graduate of the Penn Engineering Online community, you have access to a wealth of resources provided at the school and program level. Explore the resources at your disposal, as well as important information about ways to stay connected to the University of Pennsylvania community.

Glossary

Useful Terms & Words

CohortA cohort is a group of students who work through a curriculum together to achieve the same academic degree together.

Course Staff- The people who support individual courses including the TAs, TLPs and Course Managers.

Course UnitA course unit (CU) is a general measure of academic work over a period of time, typically a term (semester or summer). A CU (or a fraction of a CU) represents different types of academic work across different types of academic programs and is the basic unit of progress toward a degree. One CU is usually converted to a four-semester-hour course.

Instructor/ ProfessorYou Instructor is a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania who is an expert in their field. They will be the primary leader of your course. 

PennCard- A University ID card showing your name and Penn ID number. There are two types of PennCards: a Non-Photo PennCard and a traditional PennCard which includes your photo and gives access to certain Penn buildings. All Engineering Online students will receive a Non-Photo PennCard. A PennCard can be obtained by visiting the PennCard Center on Penn’s campus.

PennKey- An individual’s username and the associated password in the PennKey Authentication System. You must register your PennKey before you can access any services that use PennKey authentication.

Penn ID number- A unique eight-digit number issued to Penn and UPHS affiliates. University offices frequently require a Penn ID for identification in situations where they formerly required an individual’s Social Security Number. PennCard users will find their Penn ID printed on their PennCard — it is the 8-digit sequence of numbers  on the card. See also PennKey.

SemesterA half-year term in a school or college, typically lasting fifteen to eighteen weeks. At the University of Pennsylvania, we have the traditional Fall and Spring semesters and an optional Summer semester.

Teaching Assistant “TA”– Teaching Assistants are fellow students who have been hired to assist your professor. They will be available for office hours, grading assignments and giving student feedback.

TLP – A fellow student participating in the CIS 8950 Teaching and Learning Practicum (TLP) who supports the course with office hours, grading assignments, and giving student feedback.

You can find additional terms here.

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Policies and procedures are subject to change throughout the year at the discretion of the University of Pennsylvania and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The policies and procedures in this handbook are intended to provide guidelines for academic planning and to help students make informed decisions throughout their graduate degree(s) at Penn. Faculty advisors, academic advisors, program staff, and the graduate advisors in the Research and Academic Services (RAS) Office in Engineering are available to provide clarity and further information if needed.