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Computer & network services technology ...

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by Christen Jackson

SBJ Contributing Writer

Crowder College will soon be providing students with the opportunity to major in surfing the 'Net well, sort of. In the fall of this year, the Neosho community college plans to offer an associate of applied science degree in computer and network services technology.

College officials began discussing and planning for the program in early 1998, said Jeff Woods, director of information technology at Crowder. The Crowder College Board of Trustees recently gave its approval and the program must still be approved by the state Coordinating Board for Higher Education.

"This program was inspired by comments we heard in the business community," Woods said. "Businesses need employees who can help establish and maintain computer networks."

The Missouri Occupations Employment Projections estimates that there will be 100 percent growth in computer specialist jobs over the next six years.

Students who complete the Crowder program will be certified in Microsoft and Novell network technology, Woods said.

"The program we are putting together is going to be first-rate," Woods said. "We aren't cutting any corners. It's designed to train networking administrators, the people who will help develop, maintain and monitor computer systems."

Two labs are planned: one for repair and diagnostic techniques, the other to teach network management. Training will be provided on a variety of computers.

"Each student will have their own workstation, and we will try to create a good simulation of a real work situation," Woods said.

Woods added that he expects the curriculum will be changing constantly to keep up with rapidly changing technology.

"The level of technology is growing so quickly," Woods said. "There is no telling what we will have in a couple of years. It's an exciting time to be in this field."

An internship at an area business will be required before students can complete the program, Woods said.

"We want them to have work experiences," Woods said. "We expect students to be going from the classroom right into the work force. We want them to be prepared."

With that in mind, some communications classes will be provided so the students can develop good people skills.

"Crowder doesn't want its graduates to turn into computer nerds. The won't just be working with computers; they'll have to deal with real people, too," Woods said.

Crowder anticipates enrollment in the first class this fall will be around 20 students. "There could be more," Woods said. "We don't know what to expect right now. We'll have a better idea later in the year."

Area industries have been enthusiastic about the college's plans, Woods said, and in fact, Crowder has a computer science advisory committee, made up of representatives from a variety of industries, who have helped in the planning of the new program.

"This is the way people are doing business now," Woods said. "This program will definitely fill a void."

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