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Nicolet College Automotive Program Adopts Highly Flexible Learning Format

Students interested in the Automotive Technology program will have significantly more flexibility in how they complete their coursework starting this fall. 

The program will adopt the Nicolet MyWay competency-based education (CBE) format that allows students to complete their work at the times and at the pace that work best for them. 

“Many students juggle jobs and families and they need flexible coursework if they are going to attend college,” said Jeff Labs, dean of Trade and Industry/Apprenticeships.  

“This new Nicolet MyWay CBE format provides exactly that. It combines online classes with flexible open labs where students receive one-on-one and small group instruction. In both cases, instructors are always there to help and support students so they can earn the college credential that will get them ahead in life.” 

Students complete the online portion of the curriculum at any times that are best for them. The hands-on portion will take place in Nicolet’s Automotive Lab. Students will schedule their lab times any time between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. 

Jeff Labs also noted students will be expected to follow the college’s guidelines regarding COVID-19. This includes physical distancing and wearing face masks when indoors.  

“Our goal here is to deliver the training that leads to successful careers and also keep everyone safe at the same time,” he said. 

Students will also be able to start the program at multiple times throughout the year. 

While the CBE format has been around for decades in other parts of the country, Nicolet was one of the first colleges to bring it to Wisconsin when the Welding program adopted the format in January 2018. Since then numerous other academic programs at the college have adopted the model and more and expected to do so in the future. 

With the CBE model, students are not expected to move through the curriculum at the same pace as other students in the course. Instead, the curriculum is broken down into smaller chunks, known as competencies.  

Once students have proven that they’ve mastered one competency, they move on to the next. When they’ve demonstrated proficiency with all of the required competencies, they are awarded college credits and ultimately a college degree. 

“What’s beneficial to students is that they progress through the competencies at their own pace,” Labs explained. “If they have previous experience with a specific skill, they can progress through that competency fairly quickly. If they come across one that is more challenging, they can work one-on-one with the instructor until they grasp the concept and master the given skill.” 

Because the structure is so flexible, students who prefer the more traditional classroom approach can set up their schedules to reflect that as well, Labs added. 

“That’s the beauty of it,” he explained. “Some students like the social aspect of being in a class with others, of getting to know other students and meeting a challenge together. If that’s what works best for them then that’s what we’ll put together.” 

The Automotive program is structured in a way where students first earn a short-term technical diploma and then use that credential as a stepping stone to the two-year technical diploma. 

“Once students earn that short-term diploma, they can use that to get a job in their field of study and continue taking classes towards their two-year technical diploma,” he said. “That way they’re earning money, they’re getting valuable professional work experience, and they’re learning more advanced skills so they can get an even better job when they graduate. It really is the perfect pathway.”