Rob Winn
Rifle, CO Colorado

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October 3, 2012
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New grant means new approach to solar education, training

This fall at Colorado Mountain College in Rifle, we are preparing for a whole new era of learning to help us improve the way we deliver our integrated energy programs, which prepare students for high-skill, high-wage jobs.

Thanks to our $1.3 million share of a three-year federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Colorado Online Energy Training Consortium grant that's been awarded to the Colorado Community College System and Colorado Mountain College, we're developing a hybrid curriculum and equipment to enable us to take a leadership role in making our energy courses and programs more accessible. Our goal is to enable students from throughout our college's district and around the state to take advantage of our many energy courses, certificates and degrees.

Our aim is to teach students the skills they need to find a job as soon as possible. By making our classes more accessible and designing them to meet student needs, we hope to significantly shorten the time it takes to earn a certificate or degree. For instance, earning a basic solar photovoltaic certificate may take two to three semesters. With the redesign - and hard work from students - they should be able to complete this certificate in one semester.

As a part of the grant, we were able to hire an instructional designer, Loretta Driskel. She has recently joined the grant team and has begun to translate many of our energy courses into a hybrid, or blended, learning format that combines online learning, hands-on lab and face-to-face training. These hybrid classes allow a student to replace the lecture part of the class with online learning. In addition, they will get hands-on lab experience either in the classroom or in the field, depending on the program.

Loretta's expertise and background in instructional design will be key to building the hybrid nature of these courses. She'll make use of our soon-to-be-created mobile lab so our students will have the advantage of both accessibility and hands-on learning.

The first certificate she'll be working on is the basic solar photovoltaic certificate, and she'll then move on to designing other classes. Over the next couple of years, our goal is to offer the integrated energy degree and certificates in an online or hybrid format.

Colorado Mountain College has been creating hybrid courses for a number of years. But the TAA grant allows us to take this to a whole other level. It has provided the funds not only to hire an experienced instructional designer to design and integrate these courses, but it allows us to purchase laboratory equipment, a mobile training lab and a truck to take that lab around the state. We anticipate the truck, which will run on compressed natural gas, will arrive here sometime this month. The mobile lab will arrive sometime during spring semester.

So watch for our course offerings, and our mobile lab, bringing a fresh new approach to learning.

Rob Winn is Colorado Mountain College's new grant coordinator for the TAA grant. He has an M.A. in school administration and supervision from the University of Phoenix and a B.S. in agricultural education from Colorado State University.


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The Post Independent Updated Oct 3, 2012 05:47PM Published Oct 3, 2012 05:46PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.