Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $15,453 Total Non-Federal Funds: $19,844
Principal Investigators: Saichon Seedang, James Duncan, Jerry Harte
Abstract: Problem A goal of the Institute of Water Research (IWR) at Michigan State University (MSU) is to continually find outlets by which it can share its research findings and data, and the tools it has developed, with people so they can better understand and manage water resources. The need for this is continually acute given the importance of water resources to Michigan and the Great Lakes region, and the scarcity of water in areas of the United States and world. The need for reliable and sustainable sources of water is increasingly critical to agriculture as it is faced with feeding the world population projected to increase from 7 to 9 billion people by the mid-21st century. Once avenue through which IWR informs others of water resource issues and strategies by which to manage them is through the four online courses it developed that constitute its Certificate in Watershed Management program (WMC). Created in the early 2000s, the courses provide students with information about water resources and contemporary strategies by which to manage them. Successful completion of the courses earns the student a Certificate in Watershed Management awarded by IWR. Unfortunately, enrollment in the WMC program has waned, declining from a high of 14 certificates awarded in 2004 to 3 certificates awarded during since 2013. IWR staff attribute this decline to a general lack of promoting the courses and certificate program, and to changes staff turnover. After stabilizing staffing, IWR developed marketing brochures and a video to help promote the WMC program, and began reaching out to partner organizations to gain their endorsement. During the meetings with the first partner approached, the Michigan Water Environment Association (MWEA), concern over the method of course delivery was raised. While the courses are relevant and current, their semester-based method of delivery may no longer be suited for the schedules of contemporary students (typically post-graduate working professionals). Since many professional organizations require their members obtain ongoing education to retain professional certification, tapering the courses to make them available for continuing education units would serve these working students more practically and beneficially, thereby broadening their appeal and educating more people about watershed management. Methods Content in each of the four courses will be condensed into shorter courses by IWR. Each short course will contain the course material found in the current courses but offered over a shorter time frame and each short course will have fewer assessment requirements. Short course delivery will be made available 24/7/365 (rather than semester-only). MWEA will assign continuing education credits to the short courses, which will be available to its membership at their discretion toward attainment of a MWEA water professional certificate. (Note: the semester-based courses and WMC will continue to be offered.) Objectives Providing shorter, more focused courses, integrated into certificate programs offered by water resource related professional organizations, will make the courses appeal and be available to a wider audience, thereby providing education about watershed management and related topics to more people.