Grant to Help Develop Distance-Learning Construction Major

Published 06.11.2002


Construction-industry employees soon will be able to work full time at their jobs while pursuing a bachelor's degree in Residential Construction Technology and Management at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

The major will be offered in a distance-learning format by Penn College's School of Construction and Design Technologies, courtesy of a Link-to-Learn Higher Education Technology Grant from the state Department of Education and the generosity of a business partner.

The $234,679 grant will enable the Office of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning to establish an "eLearning Center" that will help the College reach a wider continuing-education student market. The College, with help from business partner Centex Homes, will provide $88,002 in matching funds. Centex Homes has agreed to provide $34,000 in services and an outright gift of $10,000, as well as curriculum materials to assist in the development and implementation of the core courses.

The partnership with Centex developed out of the School of Construction and Design Technologies' long association with the Pennsylvania Builders Association and its members. The student chapter of the National Association of Home Builders (the Penn College Construction Association) along with College faculty has participated in many local and regional builders' shows. The PCCA also regularly participates in contests at the national homebuilders' show.

Tom Gregory, dean of the School of Construction and Design Technologies, said the College anticipates that many people in the construction industry including students who earned their associate's degrees at Penn College will take advantage of the opportunity to earn a bachelor's degree while working full time in the construction industry.

"Construction businesses in Pennsylvania and the Northeast have recognized that there is a shortage of qualified people in the building trades," Gregory said. "This major will fulfill a critical need for both new graduates entering the workplace with practical skills and the continuing-education requirements for those already employed full time."

Eight faculty members will begin developing the courses this summer and continue through the 2002-03 academic year. The faculty will also receive basic and advanced technology-skills training.

It is expected that 300 students and 100 continuing-education clients will benefit from the services provided by the grant during the funding period. Portable computer classrooms will allow the College to demonstrate and deliver training modules to continuing-education client organizations in Central Pennsylvania and the Northern Tier counties.

The courses associated with the Residential Construction Technology and Management Distance Learning degree are expected to be available beginning with the Spring 2003 semester. Ten courses will be adapted to the Distance Learning format and delivered to student pilot groups over two semesters.

"This degree program and its delivery method is a natural extension of Penn College's central mission to provide high-quality academic programs with a technical emphasis," said Jennifer McLean, director of instructional technology and distance learning. "The demand for this degree is established. It's a unique program to begin with, and placing it in a distance-learning format will promote enrollments from across Pennsylvania and, ultimately, from across the country. We hope the faculty-training initiatives that are implemented in conjunction with this grant project will facilitate the development of similar distance-learning degree programs here at the College."