Wisconsin College Creates Online RE Courses

Madison Area Technical College is launching a major effort to improve the teaching of renewable energy technologies in technical colleges and high schools. The initiative will feature new online courses, interactive learning tools and other resources to better prepare qualified technicians to work in the fast growing renewable energy industry.

A $500,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant — the second such grant MATC has announced in the past month — will fund the “Partnerships in Educational Resources for Renewable Energy Technologies” project. “This project addresses a critical high-tech workforce challenge: how can we make sure that teaching keeps pace with new and emerging technologies in rapidly changing fields like renewable energy,” said Dr. Joy McMillan, director of MATC’s Center for New and Converging Technologies. Soaring fuel costs and environmental concerns have made alternatives, such as solar energy, wind power and hybrid vehicles, popular with many consumers. That, in turn, has created a demand for technicians trained in the latest renewable and alternative energy technologies. But much of the college and high school curriculum in this area has not kept up with changes in the industry, McMillan said. Under the grant, MATC with other college partners will develop online courses that two-year colleges and high schools can use to revitalize existing programs. The courses will include renewable energy, energy management, alternative transportation, photovoltaic, solar home design, wind power, and biomass. MATC will also create a series of cutting edge, web-based, interactive “learning objects” that give students virtual access to renewable energy technologies. “Technical colleges have the flexibility to respond quickly to economic trends and changing workforce needs,” McMillan said. “Through this project, we can help meet the emerging needs of the renewables industry and create career pathways for energy technicians using innovative, learner-centered strategies.” MATC chemistry instructor Ken Walz will direct the project, whose principal investigators are MATC instructor Barb Anderegg, Bill Johnson of Alliant Energy, and McMillan. MATC is one of the largest of the Wisconsin Technical College System’s 16 colleges and serves approximately 50,000 individuals annually. It provides a comprehensive curriculum of technical, liberal arts and science, adult basic education and life enrichment studies and activities, as well as customized employee training. MATC provides training in more than 100 career programs. It awards associate degrees, vocational diplomas and certificates, and offers non-degree courses. The college serves all or parts of 12 counties located in south-central Wisconsin and offers instruction through five campuses and various other locations throughout the district.
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