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WCC’s strategic goals leave technical education behind

“In addition, we have already – we’re already working – because it was one of our strategic goals – to have that complete college online. And we have so many good things that are already happening. Like – and almost out of necessity – things are occurring that people said before we couldn’t do – they’re doin’ it now. For example, you know, our student activities – with that remote dance they’re having.

I mean, so – I mean there’s so many, you know – yes – yes – and I think we’re probably the best community college online, and perhaps we can – get uh – some of the students that might be interested in – uh – a… a less expensive yet quality way of learning their first two years of college.

But – and so – we are going to continue down that path and we’re going to put everything we have in doing that and invest the dollars that we need to do that.

– Rose Bellanca, April 17, 2020

Delivering certain classes and degrees online is easy. Any college anywhere at any level can offer degrees comprised of classes that do not require any hands-on instruction. The greater challenge – and one of the more strategic goals – is developing online teaching tools to enhance delivery options for students in occupational education programs.

Students enroll in occupational programs to develop specific skills. They need to learn how to use specialized tools and equipment. They require coaching and supervision. Often, these students must complete licensure exams and certifications before going to work in their fields. In many cases, they are learning to do inherently dangerous work. Self-teaching – which is a major determinant of the success of online learning – is simply not an option.

Strategic goals must include occupational programs

By itself, the inability to deliver occupational education online is not a failure. It is the nature of occupational education. Unfortunately, the WCC administration wants to deliver only two-year transfer programs. The administration has no plans to invest in students who pack a “complete college experience” into just two years or less.

Occupational classes are hard to teach in-person, and they’re damned near impossible to teach online. Under the best circumstances, they require a lot of dedication on the part of both the instructor and the student. And the WCC administration – which neither understands nor appreciates the value of its technical programs – has no interest in investing in occupational education. They’re only willing to invest in programs for students who are – at least theoretically – on their way to somewhere else.

The Administration’s strategic goals leave behind occupational and vocational education programs – the very foundation on which WCC was built. Voters authorized the College’s creation specifically to create technical education programs.

WCC’s strategic goals should not include creating online degrees made up of easy-to-deliver classes. Anyone can do that, and it does distinguish the institution. The College should focus on figuring out how to deliver classes and programs that don’t fit that narrow ideal. It would require the administration to invest an enormous amount of work, resources and creativity to develop instructional delivery strategies and high-quality tools that serve all of WCC’s students – and not just those on “the pathway to nowhere.”

That would require this administration to have a clear appreciation for the value of technical education. It would require administrators who understand classes that don’t depend upon lectures and textbooks. Instead, the WCC administration has written these programs and classes off in its long-term strategic goals along with the students who fill them.

Photo Credit: Chad McDonald , via Flickr