An expanding menu of courses at HCC

Adult education runs from fundamental to fun

July 25, 2008|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,Special to The Sun

Interested in learning how to promote your business through blogging? How about becoming an improv comedian, protecting yourself from street crime or improving your memory?

This fall, the continuing education department at Howard Community College is offering more than 50 new noncredit classes, more than ever before, said Joanne Erickson, marketing coordinator for the Division of Continuing Education & Workforce Development at HCC.

"This is the highest number of new courses we've ever had," she said. Some classes are for academic enrichment, professional licensing, or serious goals such as getting a job or building a business. Others are for fun.

The offerings range from seminars that are a couple of hours long to classes spanning six weeks or more. Classes that are new this fall promise help with practical topics such as finding a federal job to more esoteric fields, including business etiquette (from the course catalog: "If you've ever had to make small talk with a VIP and been lost for words, you know how agonizing such moments can be"), finding your personal colors ("Create your own personal color palette by identifying how color reflects your unique personality and lifestyle") and putting photos on digital video discs ("Turn your collection of digital photos into a multimedia production that tells your story").

A three-hour class in intermediate beer appreciation is being offered Oct. 15 as a follow-up to a successful beginner class on the topic. The $49 course, for students who completed the beginner class, will focus on brewing techniques, beer styles and food pairings.

HCC officials explore many avenues when thinking of new classes to add to the growing catalog. They take seriously suggestions that come from instructors, students and members of the community. They also study trends and get together with officials from other colleges to talk about what might be popular.

"A lot of times, we will get people who will send in their own course ideas," said Marge Cangiano, the college's coordinator for lifelong learning. "They can even send them in online. We talk about trends and what we think people in our county would be interested in, and we just go from there," Cangiano said.

Said Erickson: "If there are certain trends that are hot right now, we try to generate a course."

One new class that resulted from a reading of the proverbial tea leaves is called "Surviving Volatile Financial Times." The $39 two-hour course will be offered Sept. 15, starting at 7 p.m., on the Gateway Campus. The instructor will be Harry Slade, an Ellicott City-based financial adviser at Edward Jones, who was asked by Cangiano to teach the course.

Slade, who has taught at the community college before and will be running a six-week course on investing this fall, said the class is a good fit for the times and will "discuss a lot of things that are on people's minds right now," including rising costs of everything from gas to health care, the volatile stock market and the weak real estate market.

Slade said he likes teaching at the college, partly because the classes get his name out there and educate people about financial advisers. He also likes that the college "tailors its classes to the needs of the community."

Another class being taught this fall is about being street smart, Cangiano said. She said the instructor is writing a book on the subject and approached her about teaching a class.

The college offers a wealth of language classes, including ones in Hindi, American Sign Language, Czech and Japanese. Many are taught with specific goals in mind, including "French for Travelers." One new offering is "Spanish for Landscaping," designed to help people at landscaping companies communicate with their Spanish-speaking co-workers and employees. The course focuses on basics such as giving specific instructions and eschews the complications of verb conjugations and other nuances.

Not every idea is accepted, but all are given consideration. "We can't accommodate all the hundreds of ideas that come in, but we do look at every one of them," Erickson said.

A class generally needs at least six enrollees to be viable, and the college sometimes cancels classes that do not generate enough interest. In some cases, momentum for the topic builds, and the class is offered again, Cangiano said. Other times, it never returns.

"We don't have a crystal ball," she said. "I wish we did."

Cangiano added: "We choose based on past history, what we've tried before, what's worked and what hasn't worked. A lot of times, it will be something new and different, and we have no idea if it will work. We'll put it out there and see."

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