Electronics Technician distance education program

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The Electronics Technician (ET) Distance Education program provides flexible, skills-based training in electronics. It has been developed for adult learners pursuing electronics technician-level training through independent study, specifically students who cannot attend college full-time because of work or family commitments. The program was developed and launched in 1997 by Dr. Colin Simpson, a best-selling author and electronics professor at George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Since then, the award-winning [1] program has grown to become the largest of its kind in the world.

With over 10,000 students studying electronics at a distance, the ET distance education program has effectively broken down the barriers that prevent students from accessing technical course material on-line. Of note is that the program has broken the gender barrier in the study of electronics. Typically, less than 2% of students who study electronics in Colleges and Universities are female. In the ET distance education program almost 20% of the student’s are female, which has been attributed to the accessibility of the learning material and the integrative multimedia courseware which is designed to scaffold student learning and accommodate learning style differences.[2]

History[edit]

In 1995, Simpson approached Joe Koenig, President of Electronics Workbench (EWB), with the concept of integrating course material from Simpson’s Principles of Electronics textbook with laboratory simulation software developed by EWB.[3] The Learning Management System was developed by Logic Design Inc which integrated the course material, multimedia and simulation software, and included real-time testing and assessment. At the time, there was considerable opposition among the electronics education community regarding the use of simulation software for the delivery of electronics curriculum. Many educators felt that a “hands on” methodology was the only valid method of learning electronics, and that simulation was a less-effective substitute.[4]

Simpson and Koenig embarked on a series of lectures, conference presentations and meetings with accrediting organizations throughout 1996, where they demonstrated that electronics simulation software could achieve identical results to laboratory experiments performed with real equipment.[5] In January, 1997 the program received approval and accreditation from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and was launched in April, 1997. In its first year, the program enrolled over 500 students from 17 countries, with over 30 companies sponsoring employees.[6]

In 1998, the program received the Program Excellence Award, from the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, a consortium of 155 Colleges. It was the first time a distance education program had earned this award and was noted by ACCC President, Gerald Brown, as a “landmark achievement in the field of distance education”.[1] In 2003, the program received a $1 million grant from the Government of Ontario for the development of a “virtual campus” to support students who were enrolled in 85 cities and towns throughout the province. The award was presented by TVOntario President, Isabel Bassett.[7] In 2007, the program underwent a significant revision when the laboratory software simulation was changed to CircuitLogix, which included both 2D and 3D simulation. The simulation capability of the new simulation software allowed for further integration of course theory and lab and greatly enhanced the program’s virtual learning environment [8] In recent years, the program has expanded through partnerships between Colleges across North America, enabling the program to be supported in local areas. In addition to the accreditation offered by Colleges delivering the program, graduates are also eligible for certification by external accrediting organizations such as the Electronics Technicians Association and the International Society of Certified Engineering Technicians. Colleges who are part of this consortium include: Allegany College of Maryland, Allen County Community College, Anne Arundel Community College, Brooklyn College, Edison College[disambiguation needed], Hocking College, Horry-Georgetown Technical College, MiraCosta College, Mount Wachusett Community College, and Valencia Community College,.

Pedagogy[edit]

The ET distance education program covers an introductory curriculum in electronics equivalent to a two-year college associate degree. Contents of the program includes Current, Voltage, Resistance, Ohm's Law, Parallel and Series Circuits, Magnetism, AC/DC Circuits, Capacitance, Inductance, Transformers, Resonance, Filters, control relays, relay logic, Transistors, Semiconductors, Amplifiers, Integrated Circuits and Digital electronics.[9] The interactive multimedia program presents twenty-three modules of interactive curriculum using text, video, 2D and 3D animations, photos, audio clips and interactive electronic circuit simulation using CircuitLogix. The simulation software provides more than 400 laboratory projects as part of the curriculum, allowing students to design circuitry, perform tests and work with electronic equipment as though in a real electronics workshop.[10]

The program is delivered in an asynchronous, self-paced format and allows the student to determine the time required to complete the program. Due to the empirical nature of electronics curriculum, and the high level of integration of lab simulation software, students are able to successfully complete the course material with a minimum amount of interaction with faculty and staff at the College. When support is required, it is provided through the “virtual campus”.[11]

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