Water and Environmental Technology Education for Rural Small Water Systems
Access to clean water is uniquely crucial for health and economic prosperity of all human communities. Efficient production of enough potable water for an increasing population requires technicians with specialized knowledge and skills. Well over 90% of US public water systems serve fewer than 10,000 people and are classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as Rural Small Water Systems. Because of retirements and use of new technologies, the rural water industry has a growing need for new technicians who are skilled in these new technologies. Filling this need is complicated by chronic challenges in providing equitable education and training opportunities to rural residents. This project will address the need for Rural Small Water Systems technicians by providing an educational model that is designed to serve a rural population. Specifically, this project plans to develop online instructional modules to educate rural water technicians who have the knowledge and skills required by a modernizing industry. Through distance learning strategies, the project will also enable practicing rural technicians to build or update their skills. The rural small water system curriculum will cover the spectrum of knowledge and skills needed to ensure the proper installation, inspection, maintenance, repair, management, and operation of successful small public water systems.
The project will develop 20 online instructional modules that address advanced knowledge and skills not currently fully covered in the existing Water and Environmental Technology program. These modules will be integrated into six current Water and Environmental courses and fully online versions of the courses will be developed. These changes are expected to better serve students who live and work beyond commuting reach, as well as working technicians who seek additional education from rural locations. The modules will include video presentations, technical documents, and virtual field experiences. This work will be done in consultation with industry partners, the Advanced Technology Environmental Education Center, and the Regional Center for Nuclear Education and Training, thus leveraging existing knowledge and resources that include expertise in online and virtual education. All modules will be available nationwide to other educational programs and to industries for training purposes. Representatives of the region's water industries have agreed to work with the project personnel to ensure that the modules address their needs for technical knowledge and skills. It is expected that this online module-based training platform can serve as a model for other programs interested in reaching rural students and meeting rural needs.