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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

SCHOOL CONNECTION

Education from a distance


For those interested in training for a promising career in the growing field of electronics, George Brown College offers an exciting distance education opportunity. The fully accredited electronics technician certificate program, designed for students who cannot afford to attend college full time because of work or family committments, has won the prestigious Award for Program Excellence from the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) -- an affirmation of the college's status.

"With our traditional classroom program, we were only attracting a small portion of the market," says Colin Simpson, dean for George Brown's Centre for Continuous Learning and course developer. "Many potential students interested in the program were unable to attend school because of work committments. We wanted to offer the same quality education on a timetable that would fit into any schedule -- to be recognized by our peeers in this way really helps establish George Brown as a leader in distance education."

Introduced in the fall of 1996, the program uses a CD-ROM interactive learning package to cover first-year electronics theory. Telephone access, e-mail access to tutors and technical support are also provided, but the course is definitely student-driven.

"It's an open enrolment format, meaning students complete the program at their own pace," Simpson notes. "While the typical completion date is 34 weeks, it is ultimately up to each student to set their own completion rate."

One of the course's signature tools is the Electronics Workbench software that simulates an electronics laboratory. The software delivers the more than 400 laboratory projects, allowing students to design circuitry, perform tests and work with electronic equipment as though in a real electronics workshop.

"With our software, students have access to a state of the art laboratory," Simpson notes. "They essentially have access to thousands of dollars of equipment at their home computer."

No electronics background is required and there are no academic prerequisites. Many of the more than 4,000 students currently enrolled in the program are non-traditional learners. More than 20% are women, compared with only 5% in classroom electronics programs. People with physical disabilities and hospitalized patients also find it useful -- they don't have to travel to complete their lab work or examinations.

"We have students from all over the world enrolled in the program," Simpson says. "It extends far beyond the traditional borders for the college -- far beyond Toronto."

Also valuable for on-the-job training, the program has been recognized by hundreds of companies including AT&T Canada, TTC, Johnson Equipment and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Customized versions have been developed for corporate clients including General Motors, Molson's Breweries and Dofasco.

George Brown College is now offering Electro-Mechanical Technician and PLC Technician certificate distance education programs using the same delivery method. For more information, contact Angelo Vouloukos, electronics training co-ordinator, at 416-415-4726, toll free at 1-888-553-5333 or by e-mail at avoulouk@gbrown.on.ca.


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