85th AMS Annual Meeting

Tuesday, 11 January 2005: 11:00 AM
Attempts towards introducing an Online Weather Studies course in a rural college
Safianu Rabiu, Paul D. Camp Community College, Franklin, Virginia 23851, Franklin, VA
I observed that student recruitment remains a persistent challenge to small, rural junior colleges, including Paul D. Camp Community College, Franklin, VA (PDCCC), the institution concerned in the present study. The service area was relatively large – two towns and two counties, and the populations of prospective recruits were generally small and widely dispersed. Although I noted that certain courses attract a reasonable number of students, generally the resources expended in student recruitment tended to be high. The challenge of recruitment is rather daunting in respect to new programs and courses, such as my Online Weather Studies.

There was also the college catalog problem; we did not have meteorology, climatology or, even geography courses in our college catalog. Thus, it was obvious that I needed much time to exhaust the processes involved in introducing and legitimizing a new course, hence I opted to paste the Online Weather Studies course into one of several course templates (in geography) developed by the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), the broad administrative umbrella of the Virginia Community Colleges. This was simple and did not involve complicated phases of approval process.

There was still a major snag; how to make the course attractive. In order for any course to draw a sizeable number of students it must simply be required, contribute towards a degree program or, transfer towards a higher degree elsewhere. The first two options were not available to me.

Also, there was an unresolved conflict regarding the nomenclature of the course. While a segments of my prospective students, which includes K-12 teachers who are seeking recertification, were happy with the course being called a Geography course, others, prefer the a more ‘relevant’ name like Meteorology, Physics or Climatology.

During the summer of 2004 six students were enrolled in the course. The class was taught in a hybrid format, i.e., a blend of both traditional classroom and online exercises. Students’ background greatly influenced the pace at which they progressed, being lowest, as expected, in students with limited background in physical geography and physics. Whereas a segment of the students showed excitement about the challenges of the exercises, others appeared frustrated with their inability to complete their work. The latter segment sought the most help. All six students expressed interest in pursuing additional courses on weather and climate.

This author had tremendous encouragement from administrators and staff from PDCCC. It is worthy of note also that encouragement and support from the American Meteorological Society (AMS), and positive attitudes and professionalism from Dr. Ira Geer and Ms. Elizabeth Mills were major contributing factors sustaining the interests of this author. Notwithstanding aforementioned challenges, the general reception to the Online Weather Studies was pleasant, and the prospects for establishing it at PDCCC are bright.

Supplementary URL: