South Central College: iMEC
Mechatronics engineers and technicians play a critical role in advanced manufacturing, and there is a growing need for skilled workers in this field regionally and nationally. In response, South Central College (SCC) is creating a distance learning education program (iMEC) that builds on its existing Mechatronics Engineering Technology (MET) face-to-face program. The MET program at SCC is a direct result of strong partnerships with regional industry members, which provide industrial expertise and resources to support this project. To achieve this, the objectives are to 1) develop and implement the online remote access degree program, 2) create a regional system with educational and industry partners and through outreach, and 3) build the institutional capacity of SCC's MET program.
This project utilizes online and simulation tools and remote access methods to adapt its existing MET lectures and laboratories to students across the state of Minnesota. Through the remote access of laboratory systems distance learning students develop troubleshooting skills that are necessary for mechatronics engineering technicians. The iMEC program is leveraging the state-of-the-art mechatronics resources at SCC to provide access to broad groups of students. The iMEC program is integrating best practices for both distance and face-to-face learning from partners at Moultrie Technical College and the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE). The project evaluation includes a comparison of the student success and student perception between the face-to-face and distance learners and an evaluation process to improve the iMEC program.
The iMEC program provides advanced manufacturing distance education as well as educational and career pathways into MET for traditional and non-traditional students and broadens the participation of students from underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, and veterans, and geographically dispersed students. The innovative methods for distance learning used in the iMEC program can be adapted by other engineering and technology programs and addresses the demands of future engineering education. The iMEC program serves as an education model that integrates continuous quality improvement and best practices and adapts curricula and instructional delivery models through innovative methods to bring distance education to students.