Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Restoring Declining AAS Programs Using Emerging Technologies

In the last several years many colleges across our country have experienced a decline in enrollment and graduates from their technician education programs. Five colleges have experienced this in photonics-related programs. As OP-TEC attempts to build national capacity for preparing photonics techs we have concentrated on these declining programs--and we are experiencing very rewarding results in every case. The declining, or recently closed programs often have valuable labs and equipment that newly developing programs might take 3-5 years to accumulate.

But the declining programs frequently have some "baggage" that has to be eliminated. This may be in the form of some outdated curricula, courses, lab equipment, inactive employer advisory committees--and faculty. Eliminating this "baggage" is not easy for technical deans and department chairs; it takes an understanding of emerging technologies and their implications on technician careers. It also requires that the administrators have the courage and institutional support to make some very difficult changes.

Over the last 3-4 years this restoration process that has been successfully achieved at Tri-County Technical College, in Pendleton SC. TCTC was one of OP-TEC's original Partner Colleges, when we began the Center over four years ago. But TCTC had to drop out for several years until they could re-establish their focus in photonics education.

The background, strategies, process, curricula and results of TCTC’s restoration is documented in an OP-TEC Monograph entitled “Restoring a Declining Photonics Program at Tri-County Technical College.” The monograph can be read or downloaded, without cost from OP-TEC’s web site, by clicking the monograph title above.

This is a relatively brief monograph, but it shows the causes, the restoration process and the results. Of particular interest is the Lessons Learned section, which emphasizes the following success factors:
• Persistence
• Having the right people in right position
• New curriculum strategies
• Technical assistance, mentoring and partnerships with other photonics colleges.

Eugene Grant, Dean of Industrial & Engineering Technology, Tri-County Technical College, is to be congratulated for his efforts in restoring Photonics Education at TCTC.

Dan Hull

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