The United Motorcoach Association (UMA), with the help of the College of Southern Maryland, officially launched the Bus and Motorcoach Academy last August. The Academy offers a full lineup of online continuing college education classes aimed at helping operators improve their managerial skills and business knowledge, and to help drivers improve their professional skills.
The Academy’s initial five-class curriculum for owners, executives and managers includes Business and Marketing I and II, Financial Management, Safety and Compliance, and Human Resources. Meanwhile, drivers can study Qualifications, Vehicle Maintenance, Safe Driving, Passenger Issues and Security.
The courses will repeat in September and November. METRO had a chance to speak to the Academy’s Dean, Carmen Daecher, about the program.
How did the Bus and Motorcoach Academy come about?
Well, the UMA, and really Ken Presley, felt it was important that a curriculum be developed for both drivers and owners that was administered through a college so that it had both validity and credence.
How did the College of Southern Maryland come into the picture?
The College of Southern Maryland was chosen because of its proximity to UMA’s offices in Washington, D.C. More importantly, though, is that it’s an accredited college and it has developed a lot of distance-learning programs for their own purposes. One of the things that was important in the concept was to be able to deliver these courses online. But it’s not merely an online course. There’s interactions with instructors, so it takes a certain type of program delivery in order for it to be developed properly.
What is the aim of the courses being offered?
What we want to accomplish is to have a vehicle for drivers and owners to improve their knowledge of their chosen professions. For drivers, the courses are patterned around curriculum that incorporates defensive driving knowledge, knowledge of customer service, personal health issues and regulatory issues. It’s a pretty robust curriculum for a driver, whether they’re just entering the profession or want refresher courses to make sure that they have the knowledge they need to be an excellent motorcoach operator. For the owner, the courses are essentially patterned to be basic business courses, such as marketing, safety regulations and how both fit into operations and finance. It gives them management knowledge in order to be more successful in managing their businesses.
How do you register for the courses and how much are the fees?
It’s an online registration done through the Website (www.busandcoachacademy.com). The registration is per course, but you can also purchase the whole group of courses or you can purchase one course for a group of people. There are varying rates based on whether you are a UMA member or not. The individual courses cost $139 for UMA members and $199 for non-members. Members can also sign up for all five courses at a discounted rate of $599.
How do the courses work?
The courses are offered every six weeks. During the six weeks you are in communication with the instructor, so you can ask questions about any of the content you review. There are also quizzes at the end of modules and a final exam to make sure that you become proficient with the knowledge that is expected. The instructors give assignments and conduct chat room sessions, and generally what tends to happen is that the instructors pace the course. The student, however, can get through the course almost at their own speed, even though they have six weeks to complete it.
How was registration for the first set of courses?
At this point, our registration for the first series was light. We had somewhere around 60 or so people registered for the courses, but for the first time around we really didn’t expect heavy registration. We expect, though, that as people become familiar with this, especially as some people take the courses, that word will spread. Our expectations are that we have really robust registrations going into 2008. Right now we’re happy with what we have as our initial class, but we fully expect registration to grow fairly rapidly.