JSU Newswire
Jacksonville, Alabama

Distance Learning Degree Program
in Public Safety Communications

JACKSONVILLE -- January 30, 2001 -- The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International and Jacksonville State University have come together to offer a first-of-its-kind distance learning program through which students can earn associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees in the field of public safety communications.

Students from 20 states are enrolled in the program this semester.

"For the first time in history, we now have a degree program for our people," says Dave Bubb, director of the APCO Institute. "Jacksonville State University came to us about a year ago and said, ' Look, we've got this distance learning degree program.' They work with the Institute for Emergency Preparedness. They said, ' We're already doing this kind of stuff; why not with you guys?' We started into dialogue and put this program together in about eight months."

The first courses debuted through APCO's on-line "virtual college" (www.jsu.edu/depart/iep/apco_college.html) on August 31, 2000, to a reception that dwarfed expectations. APCO anticipated 10 to 12 students in the first semester. They got 38.

The program entails more than just emergency dispatch. Current course options include Interpersonal Communications, Introduction to Crisis Intervention, Legal Issues in Public Safety Communications and more.

Additional classes will be added to complete the associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees.

Bubb said, "I don't think anybody who's in the program in the first semester is going to stop at the certificate. I believe they're all going on through the associate's program, which started in January. While they're doing that, we'll be putting the curriculum together for the bachelor's, and specific material for the master's."

Although JSU instructors now teach the courses, Bubb said industry professionals will be added as classes become more specialized.

Throughout their studies, students are able to communicate with their professors and fellow students by computer from anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day. Bubb said the program is not exactly a work-at-your-own-pace schedule but that it does offer a good amount of flexibility.

"You have a specific start date, and you log on and do all the preliminary stuff," explains Bubb, "then you're typically given a week -- ' Here's your assignment, do your work.' You can get back on and post your completed assignment anytime. Then the instructor will review it and make comments, and as of the next week your new assignment will be up.

"The instructors make themselves available. There are discussion boards, so everybody gets to see the responses; and there's a chat room, so people can go in and interact with other students.

"I am so proud of this program," Bubb continued. "We are incredibly lucky to have found the folks at JSU, and our partnership continues to flourish. In all my years in this business, I have yet to see a team of individuals so committed. We are forever indebted to Dr. Barry Cox, director of the Institute for Emergency Preparedness, and Dr. William Meehan, president of JSU, for believing in us."

For more information about the program, call 800-231-JAX1, ext. 5925, or send an email to iep@jsu.edu.


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