New advanced manufacturing program to launch Dec. 1

Samantha Wright

A new competency-based advanced manufacturing program will be launching today, making a degree in advanced manufacturing a little easier. 

Students wishing to join this program, which is offered through WKU On Demand, need to have an associate degree in science from the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. 

The program is also offered through a partnership between the Division of Extended Learning and Outreach and the department of architectural and manufacturing sciences. Students also need to have completed four required courses: college algebra, trigonometry, statistics and persuasive speaking. 

Tanya Vincent, coordinator for WKU On Demand, said this program is important to students because it allows flexibility.

“Students should care about this program because it offers them the flexibility and convenience of completing coursework at their own pace and takes their existing knowledge into consideration,” she said. “It allows them to progress through coursework at their own pace — which all WKU On Demand courses do — and to skip over information they already know.”

Vincent added that students are tested on their knowledge and do not have to relearn material they are already familiar with.

“They do this by taking competency assessments which prove they have mastered information,” she said. “This means that students who already have knowledge regarding certain aspects of the course can move on to the next course without having to relearn what they already know.”

Greg Arbuckle, department chairman of architectural and manufacturing sciences, said classes are divided into modules, all of which have a final competency measure.

“So what we did was we took our curriculum [and] we broke each three-credit-hour course down into three different modules,” he said. “Each module has a final competency examination. Sometimes it is an examination; sometimes it can be a laboratory. It can be a paper; it can be a report, but each course has one final competency measure.”

He added that the homework and quizzes available are for the students’ benefit.

“While there are homework quizzes along the way, those are self-checks for the students only. Students can go backwards if they’re not comfortable with the material,” he said. “It’s for them only. The only grade that matters is what they score on that final competency.”

Arbuckle said the minimum level of competency is 86 percent, and the mastery level is 94 percent.

“We set the minimum competency level at 86 percent, so if they do not attain a minimum of 86 percent, then they must go backwards and start picking up those skill sets that they need to move forward,” he said. “There are two levels, 86 and 94, and that is competence and mastery.”  

Mark Doggett, associate professor of architectural and manufacturing sciences, said in an email interview that the number of advanced manufacturing jobs is rapidly increasing. 

“In Kentucky, there are projected to be over 4,000 skilled jobs in manufacturing in thenext two years,” he said. “This need will grow to over 9,000 jobs in the next three years.”

He added this program increases the number of job opportunities for its graduates.

“This degree program significantly increases advanced manufacturing opportunities for graduates to obtain entry level manufacturing engineering and manufacturing management jobs that pay [$50,000 to $65,000] and up,” he said.

Doggett said WKU is one of only a few institutions that offer this type of program.

“WKU is on of a select group of universities across the nation that has been approved by the [department] of education to offer competency-based education,” he said. “This means that students can apply for and receive financial aid like any other traditional college program.”

He added that WKU is currently the only university in the nation to have a competency-based advanced manufacturing program. 

“In addition, the advanced manufacturing program is the only one in the nation to offer this degree using a competency-based education approach at this time,” Doggett said. “We are truly one of a kind in this regard.”