Future of Westlawn 2.0

Discussion in 'Education' started by asmith1111, Jul 8, 2015.

  1. asmith1111
    Joined: Jul 2015
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    asmith1111 New Member

    Hi,
    I am new to this forum because I am looking for a career change from my computer industry job, to something more hands on. I have been actively motoring or sailing my whole life, and build furniture as a hobby (designed in CAD) so yacht design has always had my interest. I can not take time off to go to a school, but can study evenings, etc. so Westlawn looks interesting.

    I read the Future of Westlawn post with interest, but wanted to start a new thread because it seemed to loose its original direction and degraded into an academic discussion on who and who cannot be called a 'professor'. I don't care about that, I only want an education from industry leaders, where I can create a portfolio of designs that will show potential employers or clients that I know what I am doing.

    I had looked at Westlawn last year, and almost signed up. But with the recent changes I now have some doubts and am wondering if there are current students out there who can tell me how things are going at the 'school'.
    1. Dave Gerr has left the School. Searching Mr. Gerr and the the other instructors, it looks to me like Mr. Gerr was by far the most experienced person there. The others seem to have been seriously involved in the industry, but lack the wide practical experience and published proof there of, that Mr. Gerr had. Is this going to be a problem
    2. Tuition: looking at my past research and mails on this topic, I see now the tuition has gone up by about 15% and next to that there is now an additional monthly charge which makes it course significantly more expensive than before. Maybe this is part of the strategy to keep the school alive, but it bothers me that I would have to pay so much more this year than last, when the best instructor left, and I have no proof that all the suggested improvements will actually happen.
    3. Specifically, the Westlawn forum states that completing the course should cost $22,400 (that is a lot for only a non university diploma!) as it should take 4 years to complete the course. Is 4 years realistic? I have another job, a family, and need vacations! Also, what if I need to stop for a year (I am considering transferring to another country for a year, and am sure I will not have time to do both that and Westlawn together)? Do I still have to keep paying the $100 a month, or can I stop, and start up later again?
    4. (new edit) I just read the Westlawn 2.0 article in ProBoat Mag. Have any of the interesting improvements described been implemented yet? How are they going?

    Any advice on this would be appreciated. Feel free to contact me at Asmith111126@hotmail.com if that is better for some.

    Adam
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2015
  2. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    Well, that's a darn good question? I am an alumnus, but that was back in the 80's. My name is still on their list of distinguished Alumni. Distinguished? I'm not sure about that. LOL

    I spoke to John Adey (Pres of ABYC) back in January and he assured me it was going to be a great thing for Westlawn. So far I haven't seen any changes other than Dave leaving.

    1. I don't know why Dave left. I haven't asked him. So is it going to be a problem? i don't think so. I know or know about most of the rest of the faculty and they are very knowledgeable.

    2. Yeah tuition went way up. It was bound to happen. Westlawn was bleeding money. Whether it is worth it or not is solely up to you.

    3. Is 4 years realistic. Yes. very. Some people have done it faster but not many. I was in the Coast Guard and my job was literally 24/7 at times and I often simply did not have the time. I stopped and started again several times. They didn't seem to care. They just told me "continue on".

    However I had to pay on schedule. Whether that is the case now, I don't know. Send them an e-mail or a letter.

    4. Have any of the improvements been made? No if you go by their web site. There is almost no change whatsoever on their web site other than taking Dave's name off and changing the faculty names and changing the fees.

    There hasn't been a new newsletter either. The last one was in Dec 2014 before the sale.

    Frankly I am very dissapointed that ABYC sold it. As a member of ABYC I wish they had consulted their members who were ABYC alumni first. But I also understand the problem. ABYC was supporting Westlawn, and ABYC is a non-profit that depends on donations and sale of it's standards to survive. They can't afford to have an affiliate that is draining their meager resources. But their must have been other ways than dumping it outright.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2015
  3. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Dave did up the newsletter, from my understanding. It's also my understanding there was a power play among interested associates, for a management change, to "clear the air" after the support change. I'm pretty sure is was a fundamental thing, in regard to the direction the programs would go, with the current crop of administrative staff opposing what Dave wanted to do.

    Peter, you are a distinguished alumni.
     
  4. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    Thanks PAR.
     
  5. land based
    Joined: Feb 2009
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    land based Junior Member

    Another School

    Have you considered the MacNaughton Yacht Design school ? It is primarily a correspondence school. While I feel that he is taking advantage of the turmoil and rate hikes at Westlawn, they are still more reasonably priced. You can go to their website, macnaughtongroup.com for their details. Hope that helps you.
     
  6. asmith1111
    Joined: Jul 2015
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    asmith1111 New Member

    Thanks everyone for the intesting replies. It sounds like I would have to swallow the tuition increase, but am less comfortable with paying the $100 per month next to that, a) because I don't know what I get for that, and b) knowing I might not be active at times, so its thrown away money.

    Are there any current Students out there who can give me some more current information?

    I would feel more comfortable if I heard that some of the improvements described by the new owners where up and running and working. Here is the article: https://www.proboat.com/welcome-to-westlawn-2-0.html

    I think I will also go and check out the MacNaughton school again. I thought it had gone bankrupt!

    Adam
     
  7. KFW
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    KFW New Member

    I'm currently between modules and am waiting for the dust to settle before throwing more money and time at Westlawn.

    Most of us students are asking the same questions you are. No improvements have been implemented yet. No details concerning the updates to the texts have been released, in fact the administration has specifically said they will not release specifics such as who is working on them until they are finished.

    To answer question 3, you will be disenrolled if you stop paying the $100/month. You can not take time away from studies during a module without continuing to pay.
    It is my understanding that you can still pause between modules without paying the $100/mo fee.
     
  8. captobie
    Joined: Dec 2013
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    captobie New Member

    After reading the Westlawn 2.0 article, it seems to me that it would be wise to wait for the "improvements" to be implemented.

    I was looking at enrolling two years ago, but waited so my wife could finish her schooling. With the tuition increase I'm wishing I hadn't waited. Hopefully Westlawn emerges from all of this in good shape.
     
  9. Grant Nelson
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    Grant Nelson Senior Member

    Hi Adam,

    I am a (very) long time (mostly inactive) student, but have remained active (in fact the most active) on the internal forum (but see the last paragraph below) and am friends with some students outside the fourm

    Over the years Dave vastly improved the content of the course so no issues there (you may find some parts elementary but that is necessary given the wide background of students). Its is too bad the newsletter, which he drove, stopped, as that provided regular new valuable educational material.* Dave's departure is more of an issue for the advanced students I think, as he was indeed the most experienced and knowledgeable of those who remain.

    Indeed the tuition increase was based on a calculation of expenses vs # of (current? active?) students so as to balance the books. In my opinion the $100 a month fee would be OK if it started after 1 year for each module, and you could indeed take a break somehow when needed, and if you know you will get something in return (eg an active forum with regular involvement of the staff and other professionals).

    4 years is possible, but I know many students, some very dedicated, who have taken longer. Life is unpredictable. If I was you, I would check if you can take a break without having to pay or other penalties. The old policy allowed for this, which let me enjoy years of dabling in my dream, and helping along junior students too (I wanted to contribute something, since I was not paying)

    There are no real improvements yet.

    I, and others, asked the same questions you have on the internal forum a few months back, and I was soon expelled from the forum and school without warning or explanation, other than (after I asked) "your money is no longer welcome here". I don't know if others suffered the same embarrassment, but I do know several have said they stopped contributing to the internal forum. You can draw your own conclusions from this.

    In any case, good luck with your dream, and eventual studies!

    Grant
     
  10. captobie
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    captobie New Member

    This is very disturbing...
     
  11. Grant Nelson
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    Grant Nelson Senior Member

    I did ask again, for a reasoning based on school policy, but did not mention that because I did not have a reply. I see I did get one almost immediately, a month ago, but it came in-between my switching systems so it was not on the one I used the last month.

    The reply from Westlawn was:

    "What do you think?"​

    I have not replied.
     
  12. Grant Nelson
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    Grant Nelson Senior Member

    Light at the end of the Tunnel

    Update: I was recently allowed back to the Westlawn forum, with the option of picking up my studies again.
     
  13. u4ea32
    Joined: Nov 2005
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    u4ea32 Senior Member

    Hi Adam,

    Let me answer your questions.

    1) Dave Gerr has left the school. I won't discuss the details, but Dave Gerr is an outstanding person, a great writer, an inspiring instructor. But Westlawn is not limited to Dave Gerr.

    Our primary instructors continue to be the same instructors as before: Eric Holohan and Mark Bowdidge. Both of these men are successful designers. Dave Gerr depended on Mark to do design work for Gerr Marine, and both were specifically brought aboard by Gerr because they are so insightful and because they actually make a good living as designers, with many projects of great diversity built and in build globally.

    Westlawn exists to enable our students to be successful. So we always have instructors who are in fact successful doing our instruction. We have a stack of very successful designers who are willing to step in if we need them.

    Rather than depending on employees to write all our material, Westlawn also uses the latest textbooks. The latest editions of the best texts are provided free to our enrolled students, including those by Blount, Larsson, and Fossatti, as well as books by Dave Gerr.

    Our design curriculum is accredited by RINA, the Royal Institute of Naval Architects. RINA really knows Westlawn: all our students are student members, RINA members know Westlawn alumni well. When I call the director of RINA, he is already very well aware of everything we are doing, and have done. Westlawn is important to the industry, so the industry pays attention to Westlawn.

    We enable our students to make industry wide connections, so they can succeed in this industry. We do not depend upon any one person for anything.

    2) Tuition has been somewhat restructured in order to ensure Westlawn is sustainable forever. The total amount of tuition, fees, books, software, software training, and membership in both SNAME and RINA, is about $23000. This is one of the best deals in all of education: the average early career salary for yacht designers in the USA and Europe is three to four times this amount. And Westlawn is probably the most widely known and respected diploma in yacht design in the industry.

    Westlawn is a non-profit school. The board of directors, executives, IT and marketing staff all work Pro Bono (no salary). All money is for the education of our students. Period.

    Before setting this new tuition level, we cut costs and increased efficiency wherever we could. We then set the tuition to be in line with our costs. Nothing more to it than that.

    Westlawn is often taken in place of a graduate degree. During 2015 alone, we have new students enrolled who already have bachelor's and master's degrees from the world's leading naval architecture programs. These students tell me they want the Westlawn education because they want to design boats and yachts, instead of breakwaters and oil platforms.

    There is a reason Westlawn is so well known: its an effective education.

    4) Our students take an average of 3146 hours to complete the 4 module course. Averages are:
    417+817+839+1073=3146 hours for modules 1,2,3 and 4. Module 4 is mostly the two ready-to-build designs, and people take an average of 875 hours on these last two designs.

    However, some people fly through much faster, given their backgrounds. Eric Holohan made it through the entire course in 18 months, but he already had a Naval Architecture degree from SUNY. Mark Bowdidge also made it through quickly, especially his final projects, because he was working full time at Fexas as he worked through Westlawn (seven(?) years, but way under the average in hours). Our instructors know first hand how to get through quickly: if you can, we will help you do so.

    Its a comprehensive course, not a survey. We don't just have you read something, we help you DO something. You learn, and then apply what you learned, over and over. 9 boat designs. The last two are your final, and include ready-to-build designs for power and sail, in plastic and wood or metal, your choice. You end up with a design portfolio that is of professional quality, something that you will use to gain clients and employment.

    Designing yachts is a sophisticated endeavor. Stability, propulsion, structure, systems, styling, interior layouts, etc. In addition, you need to have the skills to work in the industry: Long ago, this was drafting excellence. Now you need to be able to use the software tools that the industry uses. It takes time to learn these tools and skills. It takes time to actually design (but its a lot of fun of course!).

    You can do this work at any time. Some students do design work as they make ocean passages. Others while they travel for work. Others at home, nights and weekends. And many are working professional designers before they finish the course. Some of the boats designed by our students, prior to graduation, include several winners of the Barn Door for first to finish in Transpac, and Eos, the 320 foot schooner for Barry Diller and Diane Von Furstenberg.

    Westlawn makes you a yacht designer, not just a graduate.
     
  14. u4ea32
    Joined: Nov 2005
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    u4ea32 Senior Member

    Oh: on the new web based platform. We spent a lot of time exploring possibilities. We did not want to just do something different, we wanted to be sure we were really making things better.

    We have the complete new system up and running in our development environments. Its pretty sweet. We are loading up all the documents and the student forum now. I don't know exactly how much longer it will take, but I am very happy with the rate of progress.
     

  15. TANSL
    Joined: Sep 2011
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    TANSL Senior Member

    I can only comment on what happens in Europe and, in my opinion, this figure is unreal, totally incorrect in several respects.
    In that part of the world I know, Westlawn is not the most known and respected. It may be known but I would not dare to say it is "the most". What about schools in Italy, France, UK, Spain, among many others?
    I think it's laudable your intention of revitalizing Westlawn but, imo, you should use terms closer to reality.
    In any case, my best wishes to you and Westlawn.
     
    oataru likes this.
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