MCC Longview's Surveying Program

I remember when MCC Longview, the local community college in Lee's Summit, Missouri (a suburb of Kansas City), first told me about this job; I was extremely excited. I had been working for MCC Longview for three years as an adjunct instructor, teaching a single surveying class per semester. While it was true that the college had asked me to do some outside projects for them from time to time, I was utterly amazed that they had decided to hire a full-time surveying instructor. I felt honored that they had even considered me for the job.

The surveying program at MCC Longview (Metropolitan Community College) had been around since 1992, and, like many other such programs throughout the country, it seemed to be teetering on the edge of being eliminated for lack of enrollment. Part of the problem was the lack of a full-time instructor, without which the program would never be able to grow to its full potential. As an adjunct instructor, I was well aware of the fact that few practicing professionals could devote the necessary time to promote the program to the extent required. Couple this with the fact that the college itself had only a vague notion of what surveying was all about, and the hiring of a full-time instructor seemed necessary to the continuation and success of the program.

I began working for MCC Longview on a full-time basis starting the fall semester of 2008. Let me be the first to say that a job in academics is nothing like a job in industry. Industry is dominated by the needs and deadlines of the client. Academics moves at a much slower pace; everything has to be decided by committee and there are seemingly endless meetings-I had no idea how complicated the whole process really was, but I was ready and willing to tackle the problems at hand.

I recognized, at the very beginning, that one of the first things the program needed was online course delivery. Having absolutely no experience with the concept, you can imagine my initial difficulties. It is somewhat natural to think that the creation of an online class would be a simple task-just regurgitate all the stuff in your traditional class with some electronic buzzwords-but nothing could be further from the truth. If you want students to be successful, the creation of online courses is more like writing a thesis; online courses are difficult to build for the instructor, and difficult for the student to complete. An enormous amount of time is required just to create the framework for the course, let alone the amount of time spent adding content, lectures, supplemental materials, etc. The mere act of coordinating time with the designated instructors for the training that is required by the college is sufficiently complicated to make one hesitant to even attempt such a project.

The college plans to offer their first online course in surveying in the spring semester of 2010. This course is designed around the "gold-standard" Robillard, Wilson and Brown's, Evidence and Procedures for Boundary Location. This will be followed by a second course offered in the fall, which covers the "other" legal text, Brown's Boundary Control and Legal Principles. For anyone who has read both of these texts, this may seem a little out of order, but scheduling issues prevented us from offering them in the "correct" order, at least this first time around. After this first year, I think it will all work together much more smoothly. While certainly covering complicated material, these two classes were chosen for online delivery for the specific reason that there is no need to work with surveying equipment in these courses.

Speaking of equipment, the school district, in conjunction with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, has recently purchased two Topcon GTS239W total stations and two complete Topcon HiPER Lite+ systems, which we use extensively in our Elementary and Advanced Surveying courses, as well as our Fundamentals of GPS Surveying course. It would be nice to acquire a robotic total station and a laser scanner, but I just don't think these things are in the budget. As a part of a package deal, we also acquired ten licenses of AutoCAD Civil 3D, which are used in our Subdivision Planning and Layout class.

This last spring, we started our PDU seminar series for practicing professionals. It is, unfortunately, the nature of colleges often to be preoccupied with incoming students and forget the fact that the community has a demand for continuing education, in addition to the more traditional sort. With the help of the KC Metro Surveyors Association, the college was able to bring Dave Doyle with the NGS to our campus for a four-hour seminar on state-plane coordinates. I was actually surprised; we had 57 people in attendance. With the negligible costs for facilities at the college (surprisingly, there are a lot of rooms that are empty), the college was able to offer this seminar at a fairly reduced rate as far as these things go. Since this first seminar was so successful, we plan to hold about three to four per year, with the goal of offering about 20 PDUs per year. Hopefully, the college can keep things new and fresh by offering a wide variety of presentations and not become trapped into the mold of offering the same material with the same speakers year after year.

In the coming years the college has several goals in mind for the program. First and foremost, the college needs to increase awareness of and enrollment in the land surveying program. To this end, it is my plan to take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by the local Trig-Star program this coming year. Getting the word out about the opportunities available in this chosen field will be our strongest selling point. The program at MCC Longview has always been dominated by so-called "non-traditional" students. While I am certain that this trend will continue for many years, my hope is that the college can attract younger students to the profession through advertising and promotion in the local high schools.

Second, and just as critical to our success, the program needs to pursue ABET accreditation. Not being a traditional educator, I feel that I will need to lean heavily on my colleagues who have a little more experience in these matters. In the past, the college has sought endorsements from individual state boards, which has been a tedious and often fruitless process. ABET accreditation will make this process almost unnecessary, as many states' boards recognize an accredited program automatically.

Third and finally, we are still shopping for a transfer agreement with a four-year institution so our students can continue their studies if they choose. We were very close to completing an agreement with Metropolitan State College of Denver, but with our preeminent Dr. Stoughton leaving the program and Metro State losing its ABET accreditation, we may be back to square one. The biggest problem is the distances involved. The closest four-year program specifically in surveying and geomatics is over 600 miles away. Transfer agreements are complicated and legal in nature and often take a year or more to complete; my role in the process is minimal.

There's still a lot of work that needs to be done, but I look forward to the challenge. While I still enjoy the practical side of surveying (the summers leave me free to work on surveying projects that interest me), the education side has been quite fulfilling. I plan to be here for as long as they will have me.
David Gann, PLS is a licensed professional land surveyor in the state of Missouri. David graduated from Harvey Mudd College in 1995 with a Bachelor's of Science in physics. He has been working in the field of land surveying for over a decade and has worked in twenty different states.

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