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RCC modifies its construction technology program offerings

Rogue Community College's construction technology program is upgrading the way it conducts classes in hopes of boosting student enrollment going into the 2012-13 school year.

Department chairman Ralph Henderson said the program will combine regular and online classes with open lab sessions, creating a hybrid class model. Construction technology officials hope it will be more time-suitable for students and bump enrollment numbers by at least 10 percent, anywhere from five to eight students per class.

"By offering the classes in a different format, that will increase our enrollment," Henderson said.

Instead of meeting once a week 11 times per term, students will participate in a "blended" class environment. They might have three classroom sessions supplemented by eight online classes. There will also be open lab time for more hands-on classes, such as AutoCAD training, allowing students to come in and complete necessary lab hours as their schedules allow.

"It gives them much more chance to select what works for their schedule," Henderson said.

The shift, Henderson added, will eventually turn into a money saver for the program, though an exact amount was not available.

"It does reduce costs, but in the beginning it's mostly just opening it to more people," he said.

State community college officials said this way of hosting classes is nothing new and is a good method for the more hands-on career technical curricula.

"The Rogue (Community College) model of construction is pretty familiar," said Camille Preus, commissioner of the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development. "In career and technical programs, they have what we call a hybrid-based model where some of it is online, some of it is in the classroom, some of it is on the job site."

The department currently costs about $200,000 a year to operate. It is headed by Henderson, the only full-time faculty member, and eight adjunct instructors with industry ties.

Because state funding for community college programs is expected to decrease over at least the next three years, the college has taken precautionary cost-saving measures, including a $1 million cut to the 2012-13 budget and subsequent cuts in the 2013-14 fiscal year. At one point RCC officials considered cutting the construction technology program altogether.

But Henderson said the program has strong industry support, and a substantial construction-market recovery is projected over the next two years.

"The industry needs this program," Henderson said. "And people who are going to be in the construction industry, they should be seriously looking at training now."

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.