Opportunities for continuing education

Turfgrass identification and diagnosis are easier in hands-on sessions in seminar or classroom settings.
Photos by Steve Trusty.

With unemployment rates remaining high, and budget cuts resulting in hiring freezes, the job scene has become extremely competitive. Whether you’re looking for a new position, seeking to advance with your current employer, or see self-improvement as a means to avoid downsizing, education is increasingly important.

Opportunities for on-site education are greatest in areas with colleges that offer a range of options in both credit and noncredit courses. For off-site learning, Internet accessibility provides educational opportunities 24/7, no matter where you live or how erratic your schedule may be. There are traditional hard-copy correspondence courses that offer the same degree of flexibility. For a quick refresher on hands-on sports field-related skills, conference and seminars may be the best choice. The key is determining what you want to accomplish and what format best fits your learning style, schedule and budget.

On-site

Seminars and on-site classes can provide additional components to the learning experience, with hands-on sessions allowing participants to touch and, at times, operate equipment or perform tasks.

Classroom and seminar or conference indoor sessions frequently offer on-screen graphics to enhance the live presentation.

Sports turf-specific seminars are offered through various associations and by industry suppliers, often as one-day sessions that combine classroom-style presentations with on-field demonstrations and opportunities for hands-on experience. They deliver solid value for beginning and experienced personnel for the limited time investment.

Classroom education through universities and community colleges require a greater commitment. These facilities offer multiple on-site options to serve a broader range of students. One example is Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC), located in the city of Walnut, Calif. It serves the 20 communities and nearly 1 million residents of San Gabriel Valley, drawing nearly 39,000 students each year. It offers a variety of noncredit courses, vocational certificate programs, and associate in science/art degree programs, some of which articulate with baccalaureate-level university programs. Many classes are held on campus, while some are offered at designated off-campus locations and online.

According to Brian Scott, a professor of horticulture and the agricultural sciences department chair, 75 percent of the students in Mt. SAC’s various horticulture programs are already working in the industry and taking classes to improve their skills. To accommodate those already in the workforce, up to 98 percent of the horticulture program lab/lecture courses are night classes running from 5:30 to 10 p.m. one night each week throughout the 16-week semester.

Demonstrations at seminars or on-field lab sessions add to the learning experience.

In addition, Paulo Madrigal, interim director of community and career education for Mt. SAC, says the Community Education Division offers a variety of adult education, personal development, job training, professional certificate and recreational programs. Courses and programs have been organized in two general categories: noncredit adult education (tuition-free) and community services and professional development (fee-based).

Sports turf management is one of the programs that can be taken as a for-credit, paid certificate program, with the credits applicable to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Mirroring that curriculum, it also can be taken as a noncredit program leading to an occupational training certificate.

Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) is based in Watertown, S.D., serving a population center of 21,000. According to Charlene Kruger, administrative assistant, the facility is focused entirely on corporate education, offering regularly scheduled classes, open to all, and customized training programs developed for a specific company’s requirements. Kruger says, “Classes cover areas of supervisory training, business communication, team building and customer service, as well as skills such as forklift training and OSHA training. We offer on-site computer classes ranging from five to 12 hours.”

Omaha’s Metropolitan Community College (MCC) offers a full program of career and personal development courses through their two-year program on-site and online. Like many other community colleges, MCC has a community education division that offers noncredit classes and workshops that focus on skill building. Among these are computer courses ranging from basic computer operation to more advanced classes in Word and Excel. These classes are held in up-to-date computer labs at a variety of locations on and off campus, including in some area public high schools.

Education to go

Online education provides almost unlimited possibilities with 24/7 flexibility, but self-discipline is essential for success. Education to Go (Ed2Go) offers hundreds of interactive, noncredit courses in partnership with 1,800 colleges and institutions. Courses fall within broad topic categories including: personal development, career and professional development, and computers and technology. All courses feature expert instructors. The courses start each month of the year, running for six to eight weeks, and consist of 12 lessons and 24 or more hours of instruction. A course’s content and instructor remain the same, provided by Ed2Go, but are delivered to students through partner facilities.

The Web site, www.ed2go.com has a course list and a “demo” course, so visitors to the site can see if the program fits their learning style. After selecting a course, by typing in the local zip code, it’s possible to find a local facility that offers the course. The list will provide several choices, starting with the one closest geographically. Clicking on the link to that facility will connect directly to the facility’s Web site for registration for the course.

Mt. SAC, MCC and LATI all offer online programs from Ed2Go, along with their own online programs. If you’re already taking courses at a college, check their Web site for online courses. Those from Ed2Go will be included with the other options.

Madrigal says, “Though all of the online courses do well for us, at Mt. SAC, we’ve found some of the most in-demand from Ed2Go are related to gaining competence in usage of Microsoft Office operating systems like Word and Excel.”

Sports field management online

The University of California, Riverside (UCR), extension turfgrass management certificate program is offered on-site and online simultaneously. Linda Coco, program coordinator at UCR Extension, says, “All classes are held in the evening and streamed to online participants via live webcasts so students can learn at home and still observe and interact with other online students, classroom students and instructors. A technical aid monitors a computer in the classroom for e-mailed questions and input and verbally expresses them on the student’s behalf. Those with a microphone option can interact directly.”

On-field seminars often provide the opportunity to examine or use specialized equipment.

Coco says the ratio of on-site to online participants varies with each course, with the online numbers often the highest. She says, “This is the only certificate program that we deliver this way. All classes can be taken online with the webcast included as a key component for all but the math class.”

Because of the live component, these classes are only offered during their scheduled time slot, in their scheduled quarter (spring, summer, fall or winter), but can be taken in any order.

The course content of the Ohio State University online sports turf management certificate program is applicable to turf conditions globally. It follows a different format, set up much like a seminar presentation. According to sports turf specialist Pam Sherratt, “The presentations for each module consist of a series of enhanced podcasts that run about 15 minutes, incorporating audio along with numerous photos on the specific learning experience. Online supplementary materials, including a glossary, accompany each module.” Each presentation is available 24/7 and can be watched as many times as the student feels necessary.

Hard copy self-study

For those who still like the hard copy format, the University of Georgia offers two print format certificate programs: sports turfgrass management and turfgrass management. According to Amy Skelton, program coordinator for professional and personal development, the sports field course is a self-study program, but requires the student to take two written, proctored exams. It’s the student’s responsibility to locate a suitable facility and proctor and schedule the exams. If unable to complete the course within the allotted time (12 months), the student may file for a six-month extension, though a fee is charged for doing so.

If you want to keep learning and enhance your employability, there’s an educational opportunity available to you.

The author is a contributing editor for SportsField Management.