Starting this fall residents in Northwest Montana can earn a certificate online in advanced manufacturing programs from the Flathead Valley Community College. The classes are taught by FVCC instructors but can be taken anywhere in the state.
Brett McCoy is a student at FVCC, studying computer science. He has a wife and kids and sometimes finds it hard to make it to class, so he’s taken classes online before.
“They allowed me to work within my own schedule. I didn't have to show up to the school for any specific set hours. I was able to do more things on my own time, and with a job and kids and a wife that's very helpful," McCoy said.
However, when McCoy heard the online courses were for manufacturing, he was confused. He wasn’t sure how such a hands-on program can be taught online.
NBC Montana got an explanation from the program coordinator.
"It really is a lot of the coursework that is traditionally face-to-face lecture format and a lot of theory, not the hands-on," said Dan Leatzow, the advanced manufacturing program coordinator.
“If it’s mainly concepts, you’re able to do that more with reading in an online atmosphere," McCoy said.
The classes that do have hands-on activities will require students to go to their nearest college and complete those assignments.
Leatzow says there are several ways these classes can be taught.
"One aspect could be using standard slide presentations with voice-overs," he said.
Or teachers can use a light board device that allows teachers to lecture and write as if in front of a class.
Leatzow believes the program will be of great benefit to people statewide. People in Helena, almost 200 miles away, are already signed up, as well as people in Hamilton and the Flathead.
“It’s about having the ability to access that where you’re at, really at any time of a convenience of your schedule, so that you can continue to live the life that you have and better yourself at the same time," Leatzow said.
McCoy thinks its also about bringing education to people that aren’t close.
"I think any chance that you can include more kids into an online classroom atmosphere, where it’s not something you have to have close proximity to, would help encourage students be able to come in through the college atmosphere," McCoy said.
Classes start next Thursday, August, 28.