Addressing a pressing industry need for training, injection molding giant Nypro Inc. and partners are adding more online plastics education courses to a recently created virtual university.
Nypro is spending about $2 million during 18 months for course development and computer hardware to bring education to outlying locations, Enio Velazco, director, said in a Feb. 3 telephone interview from company headquarters in Clinton, Mass. Funding began in October.
The program has evolved far beyond the initial concept of educating Nypro's widespread employee base.
Nypro Institute Online offers training to anyone with a high school diploma and access to at least a 486 laptop processor with Microsoft Windows 3.11, a 28.8-kilobyte modem and a Java-enabled browser.
Broad marketing of the joint venture between the company and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell is to begin in March. Soon, the curriculum will comprise 10 courses.
About 20 people participated in electronic testing from October to December. As of early February, 62 students from Nypro sites and elsewhere had enrolled worldwide.
The program could reach 5,000-10,000 students per year, estimates Ross Stacer, a professor in the UMass plastics engineering department.
A rolling-enrollment policy permits flexible start dates. Courses must be completed in six months, Velazco said.
UMass provides academic oversight for original content, monitors the validity of offerings and will accept course credits toward a bachelor of science degree.
UMass receives ``an immense number of calls for [plastics] technician training'' but cannot address those needs, Stacer said.
Joel Smith, process engineer at Nypro's Asheville, N.C., facility, and Robert Nunn, chairman of the UMass plastics engineering department, created the basic injection molding course for Nypro Institute Online. Dan Gorman, Nypro online technical director, and Nicholas Schott, a UMass plastics engineering professor, assembled an introductory course on mold design.
By April, the venture will add courses on blueprint reading and polymeric materials, designs and applications. Six more courses will be introduced in pairs at intervals of two to three months. Those courses include statistical process control; hydraulics and pneumatics; industrial maintenance; principles of supervision; robotics, automation and applications; and process optimization.
UMass will receive 25 percent of the revenue from the first nine courses and 75 percent from the process optimization course, Stacer said. UMass did not commit any capital to the project.
Nypro covers most course costs for its employees. Non-Nypro participants, or their employers, pay tuition of $400 per course if receiving academic credits or $350 without credits. An additional $50 fee pays for Web site administration.
As the program grows, each of four experienced, full-time instructors will carry enrollments not exceeding 30, and 10 part-time instructors or more, as needed, will work with other students.
Ultimately, to prevent fraud, each student must take a supervised test in person, perhaps under the direction of an employer's human resource department, Stacer said. Completion of the 10 accredited courses yields a program certificate and a diploma.
Nypro has operated a plastics training center for 18 years in Clinton, created and offered several in-house seminars for field instruction and forged links with Fitchburg State College in Fitchburg, Mass. UMass Lowell began offering graduate courses at Nypro in 1992. Prospective students can enroll online at www.nyproinstitute.com using a credit card.
Separately, a National Science Foundation grant will help UMass offer 12-week summer sessions in 1998 and 1999 for community college and other instructors pursuing master's degrees in plastics engineering.