NEW YORK - A program that allows technicians to obtain a bachelor's degree in labor studies and automotive technology without attending conventional classes is being offered by Empire State College in New York.
Offered through the college's Harry Van Arsdale School of Labor Studies, the program is designed for students who are working and don't have time to attend traditional colleges.
Twenty-seven years ago, Empire State was an early leader in the 'college without walls' concept for higher education.
'The Harry Van Arsdale School of Labor Studies pioneered the concept of mentored one-on-one guided independent studies for workers,' said Harold Wolchok, a professor at the college and driving force behind this new program.
'In the past, it has been successful in the building trades and communications, transport and electrical industries. It was only natural that the industry that employs one out of every five Americans should be offered the opportunity to participate,' Wolchok said.
The program is open to those who have an associate's degree in auto technology, and it is strictly academic. Hands-on knowledge and experience in automotive technology have to be gained from other sources.
The core curriculum includes labor management, automotive facilities management, marketing, economics of the auto industry and labor law. It can take two to three years to obtain the degree, depending on the student's course load.
Under the distance learning concept, a student receives a course guide for each subject taken during the 16-week semester. It includes reading assignments from specific texts and papers that must be submitted at regular intervals. Each student has a mentor to help solve problems and make sure the student understands the work. Communication with the mentor is done via e-mail or telephone.
The mentor grades the student's papers. There are no traditional final exams; grading is based on the papers.
Tim Cacace, owner of Master Mechanics, a repair business in Yonkers, N.Y., has been in the program since it started 18 months ago. He is one of 12 students currently enrolled, and he called it a demanding program.
He explained that with distance learning, the student must read, write and formulate opinions all without lectures.
The mentors, he said, are happy to talk with students; they 'make sure you are on the right track.'