I. PLAN - We intend to establish an endowment fund in MECC's Foundation in order to perpetuate the Water/Wastewater Program. We will proceed in the following manner:
Mountain Empire Community College (MECC) is requesting funds to continue development of its on-line Water Degree Program. Past funding from the Virginia Department of Health has enabled the college to establish the on-line program but a number of needs have emerged which require additional funds. These needs will be itemized below under "Specific Funding Requests". The remainder of this introduction will sketch out the background of this program and highlight some of its more salient features.
MECC has implemented a distance education program in Water/Wastewater. This is the only two-year degree program in Water/Wastewater in Virginia. This site recently won a first place in Technology in Education (TIE) award at the New Horizons Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia and also received runner up (second place) Governor's Award for Innovation in Education at the Environmental Virginia Conference. It has also won a Gold Award for Higher Education from the Governor's Technology Awards (September 2002) as well as the International Teaching and Learning Award in April 2002. If students have access to a computer with an internet connection, they can complete all of the courses to earn an Associate in Applied Science Degree in the Water/Wastewater field. If they are in Virginia, they can complete all of their technical courses on-line from MECC and take their support courses in English, Math, Humanities, Social Sciences, etc. from their local community college. If they already have a four-year degree, they probably have completed all of their general studies courses and would only need to complete the technical courses on-line.
The on-line program, which has been partially funded by the Virginia Department of Health, has been in place for almost three years. It consists of ten courses that comprise over 8,000 web pages. Besides the courses, there is a great deal of technical information, informational links, and other resources useful to the water/wastewater field. Besides working toward a degree, the site is useful in other ways. Some people may need educational courses for professional re-certification. Courses may be taken for credit or non-credit for this purpose. The site also offers career studies in "Water Operator" or "Wastewater Operator" which allows individuals to earn a technical diploma without all of the requirements of a college degree. Additionally, it is a free site so that anyone who wants to browse it can do so without cost. The specific nature of the site and the extent of the site make it a useful reference place for water and wastewater operators as well as other professionals in the field. It is a dynamic site, so that these professionals can make contributions to the site in order to share their expertise and advance knowledge in the field.
The distance learning program can provide training, education, certification and re-certification study for water/wastewater professionals. Through the use of the internet, this information may be recieved in plants, at home, or whatever place is convenient to the user. This site eliminates the need for rescheduling personnel for training, the cost of traveling and per diem, and eliminates or minimizes the cost of training (since the site can be accessed at no cost and the cost for credit or non-credit training is only $58.71 per credit hour in state). This additional flexibility (courses taken at any time and from any place) and low cost should provide opportunities for more personnel to be trained. More trained and up-to-date professionals should have a significant environmental impact on the field.
Social and Economic Impact
The MECC distance learning program in water/wastewater should increase the productivity of plants by providing asynchronous learning to personnel. Shifts will not have to be rearranged; operators will not have to travel long distances; and overall productivity can be continued while training costs are lowered. Individuals interested in entering the water field or workers already in the field can improve their job opportunities by getting additional education and even earning an associate degree without traveling great distances, having to reschedule work hours, or paying great sums of money. Water and Wastewater plants can meet certification and re-certification requirements more easily and at a lower cost. In the past year alone, about 80 individuals have earned retraining credit utilizing this site.
The distance water/wastewater program at MECC is a manager's dream of efficiency. Users can take courses at their own pace, on their own time, from a convenient site at work or home. Additionally, the cost of training/education is very low and may even cost nothing, depending on individual need or available scholarships. Personnel can also browse the site for free to access resource information.
Originality and Innovativeness
The entire A.A.S. Degree program in Water/Wastewater can be earned through distance learning. All of the technical courses in the program (all of the water/wastewater courses) can be taken over the internet. All of the support courses can be taken through the internet, by video, or from the student's local community college. Allowing students to take courses from their own location anywhere in the world and whenever they want (i.e., 3:00 in the morning) is pretty original and innovative. The site has also added virtual labs, which make it a leader in this particular use of computer graphics.
This distance program is technical in nature. By providing the technical content needed by water/wastewater professionals, this program is meeting training/educational needs that before could only be met through arduos rescheduling of personnel, travel, and high training costs. With funding provided by the Virginia Department of Health, math concepts and instructions have been added to the site as well as virtual labs which can be performed on-line. Pictures, drawings, and illustrations have been added to explain complex, technical concepts.
This program is very flexible and adaptable, conforming to most customer's needs. It is a model for future training and education where the training changes to meet the needs of the customer not the opposite. The program can only grow due to its flexibility, high quality technical content, focus on a specific field, and low cost. The site typically gets 240 hits per week. In Spring Semester 2003, we have over 70 students (head count) taking courses. The majority of these are in Virginia, but we also have students from across the country and around the world. The program meets not only the needs for those seeking degrees or certificates, but also for those wanting to enter the field, those needing certification or re-certification and for those needing resources in their field.
- To provide a course of study in water treatment in order for students to acquire a certificate or an associate degree.
- To link site information to certification topics (including expanding math concepts and examples) in order to support the preparation of individuals for Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulations (DPOR) examinations.
- To provide a comprehensive resource site for water treatment plant operators to include maintenance topics.
- To collect and categorize basic material from the world of water treatment and publish it on the internet.
SPECIFIC FUNDING REQUESTS
Mountain Empire Community College, with the help of the Virginia Department of Health and the Slemp Foundation, has established an on-line water program. This program will aid individuals wanting to enter the field as well as provide training and improved credentials for those already in the field. The site is currently at a basic level and needs enhancement and further development from the current 8,000 pages toward the goal of 15,000 on-line pages. By doing the activities specified in this request, this site can serve all of Virginia's water operators as well as other professionals in the field. This site has the potential to be the World's premier site for water training, education, and information. The funding requested will move us very close to that position.