Hazard Community and Technical College was recently awarded a grant to help expand their distance learning labs.
HCTC officials say they have been dedicated to bringing as many opportunities as possible to the school’s students through any means available. With the University Center of the Mountains on campus, they have utilized many different distance learning options, allowing students to take courses from partner universities in distance classrooms or even from home.
This distance learning has helped hundreds of students take classes and earn degrees while staying in Perry County that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Now HCTC will be able to do even more with distance learning for its students thanks to receiving the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant.
This grant gives HCTC $243,836 to improve, upgrade or expand their distance learning efforts. While school officials are still trying to figure out exactly which classes are going to be using this new equipment however they have been working on plan to use it to its full potential.
Dr. Steve Greiner, president of HCTC, said they are planning on using the grant to make it easier and more convenient for students who cannot make it to Hazard’s main campus for classes. Many of these students are non-traditional students who have families, jobs and little time to come to a class room a significant drive away.
Along with offering more to students right where they are, they are also looking to better link their own campus.
“One of the uses would be that many times when we have our staff for a meeting, often times in Hazard, they can be on each of our sites,” said Greiner.
Currently, HCTC offers to mirror nursing programs on two campuses, and through the telemedicine equipment they can better combine these courses.
“For academics it enables classes to be taught on all campuses,” said Greiner. “For example, we have a nursing program here in Hazard, and we have one in Jackson and they can actually interact at the same time with the classes going on.”
HCTC was one of only two community colleges to be awarded this grant this year. Officials tried for the grant last year but fell just short. However, while they were preparing the second grant they were contacted and informed that they had recieved the grant for this year based off of last years application.
“This is a collaborative project with our grant writer Melissa Vermillion and Donna Roark, our IT director,” said Greiner. “We knew it was a long shot because, as we found out, we were only one of two community colleges in the entire country to be chosen.”
HCTC has been taking advantage of distance learning for many years now, and has been able to grow its nursing program from 20 to 284 thanks to this technology. Since the early 1990s when they began using these types of distance learning opportunities technology, they have grown the use of this technology and it is currently at nearly every HCTC Campus.
The difficulty they are currently having is that much of this equipment is out of date and others are being used to their full capacity and are not able to accommodate all of the students desiring to use it. This grant will help to remedy many of these problems.
Another avenue that HCTC hopes to further explore is working even closer with their UCM community partners. Greiner said that they may utilize them in new roles.
“I have talked to our university partners, and they are quite excited that we are going to be using this equipment,” said Greiner.
HCTC must now order the specific equipment, but it should be installed and ready for use for the coming semester.