Students can now learn career skills on their own terms
FOR THE STAR JOURNAL
Nicolet College has launched a newly-structured and highly-flexible welding program that allows students to progress through the entire curriculum at their own pace.
“This is a completely new way to earn a technical college diploma,” said Jeff Labs, Nicolet dean of Trade, Industry and Apprenticeships.
“Every student sets their own schedule on their own terms. They advance through the program by demonstrating they’ve mastered specific sets of skills, not by completing a semester-long class and receiving a passing letter grade.”
Instead of traditional classes, the Welding program consists of instructional modules that focus on specific skills in each unit.
“It’s the perfect example of taking a series of small bites to achieve the greater goal of earning a college credential and starting a rewarding welding career,” Labs said of the new competency-based structure, known as Nicolet My Way.
Students can also receive credit for skills they already have.
“If students already have specific skills that they learned on the job or wherever, they can take an assessment, test out, and move on to the next module,” Labs explained. “This alone can significantly speed up the time to graduation.”
The traditional semester structure, where students can start a program only twice a year at the beginning of Fall or Spring semester, is also out the window.
Welding students can now start the program on 10 different dates in 2018, typically the first or second Monday of the month, with the exception of June and December. Upcoming winter start dates include Jan. 8, Feb. 5 and March 5.
“Our goal is to make everything as flexible as possible to fit college around students’ lives so they can complete an entire program or learn only the skills they need on their own terms,” Labs explained.
A portion of the instruction is online, which students complete when it fits into their schedule. The hands-on skills instruction is completed in the open Welding Lab on the Nicolet Campus, with students selecting the lab times that work best for them.
Lab hours will be from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday through Friday; noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday; and evenings from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Expert-level instructors with American Welding Society certification will work with students in the labs to master skills.
Jeff Labs also noted students will learn on a full complement of state-of-the-art equipment including virtual welders, an augmented arc welding simulator, a robotic welder, a programmable high-pressure water jet cutter, and other equipment.
“We’ve found that students learn quickly on this new equipment. It provides instant feedback on how to improve their skills and makes learning happen much faster,” he explained.
Students start the program by first earning the Maintenance and Fabrication technical diploma, which consists of 17 competency modules which count for 17 college credits. They can then apply this credential to earn the more advanced Welding technical diploma, which consists of 14 additional competency modules and 18 credits.
Students can enroll on a part-time or full-time basis, depending on what works best for them. Financial aid is also available.