National Fire Academy Fire and Emergency Services in Higher Education


Curriculum Conversion Cooperative Agreement

Summary of Project

The Center for Distance Learning at Empire State College, State University of New York, partnered with the Department of Homeland Security, Directorate of Preparedness, U. S. Fire Administration and National Fire Academy to take the lead in converting thirteen upper-level baccalaureate courses that constitute the Fire and Emergency Services in Higher Education (FESHE) online baccalaureate for fire service officers. The print version of this curriculum was offered through the NFA’s Degrees at a Distance Program (DDP) from 1979-2006.  The thirteen courses, coupled with an existing lower-level FESHE model fire science curriculum, are part of a nationally integrated model core and non-core curriculum for the fire and emergency services at both the associate and bachelor degree level. The NFA has released the curriculum to all qualified FESHE institutions. According to NFA officials, “this re-tooled degree program will better prepare graduates to lead in a post-9/11 world.”

The Program

The Fire and Emergency Services in Higher Education (FESHE) baccalaureate program is comprised of thirteen upper-level courses delivered across the country by the following seven accredited colleges and universities: Cogswell College; Empire State College/SUNY; University of Cincinnati; University of Maryland; University of Memphis; Western Illinois University; and Western Oregon University.

The FESHE online baccalaureate provides a vital alternative means for fire service personnel to earn a bachelor’s degree or to pursue college-level learning in a fire-related course concentration without residency requirements. Previously available as print guides, these courses have been revised and converted to an interactive web-based format, and enriched with media resources, library-based research, and best practices in online learning for adults working at a distance. This is particularly attractive to fire service personnel, for whom shift work and duties tied to crisis, disaster, and emergency response make classroom attendance difficult at best.

Program officers Ed Kaplan and Trina Clever from the NFA, and Curriculum and Instructional Designers Nicola Martinez and Sonja Thomson from Empire State College, provided leadership on the project, addressing higher level issues, change management, collaborative agreements, process planning, work planning, theory and best practices, and larger curricular issues while coordinating technical and instructional design services. Fire research scientist Daniel Madrzykowski from the Fire Research Division of the Building and Fire Research Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology provided expert guidance on project related research and resources.

Empire State College’s rigorous curriculum design process and methodology was modified to address the capabilities and resources (course management systems, educational philosophy/pedagogical approach, term length, and library resources) of all sponsoring schools. This adaptation required extensive pre-production and production planning, including the development of online training resources, a unique, scalable course model to collect content, and creative collaborative approaches to develop courses among geographically dispersed stakeholders. Course project teams included representatives from the seven FESHE schools, subject matter experts, instructional designers, librarians, multimedia and image specialists, content reviewers, and editors.

FESHE Curriculum

  1. Applications of Fire Research
  2. Managerial Issues in Hazardous Materials
  3. Fire Protection Structures and Systems
  4. Fire Investigation & Analysis
  5. Fire Related Human Behavior
  6. Personnel Management for the Fire and Emergency Services
  7. Community Risk Reduction and the Fire Services
  8. Political and Legal Foundations of Fire Protection
  9. Fire and Emergency Service Administration
  10. Fire Dynamics
  11. Fire Prevention, Organization & Management
  12. Analytical Approaches to Public Fire Protection
  13. Disaster Planning and Control

Empire State College Staff and Roles on the Project during this period:

Nicola Martinez, Director of Curriculum and Instructional Design

In addition to the responsibilities listed above, Director Martinez led project curriculum review and development workshops at the National Fire Academy in Emmetsburg, MD. She also finalized the development of Applications of Fire Research and Community Risk Reduction.

Robert Fruchter,Coordinator for CDL’s Fire Service Administration Program

Robert Fruchter is a longtime faculty member in the Fire Services program who has taught all 13 of the DDP courses and provides an excellent curricular overview. He made major contributions to the FESHE project throughout the grant period, reviewing several DDP courses throughout all stages of the development process, and served as an additional content expert.

Al Lawrence /Jim Savitt, Area Coordinators: Emergency Management and Fire Service Administration

Al Lawrence and Jim Savitt addressed higher level academic issues, hiring of content authors and reviewers, and content analysis for assigned FESHE courses that fell under the purview of Empire State College.

Sonja Thomson/Claire Miller, Instructional Designers

Sonja Thomson and Claire Miller provided research, writing, and instructional design services for the FESHE project. They served as primary contact with the subject matter experts, analyzed structural and pedagogical approaches to approved course content, coordinated the design of course learning activities, and improved discussions and written assignments. Additionally, Thomson co-facilitated project workshops with Nicola Martinez at the National Emergency Training Center in Emmetsburg, MD.

Marilyn McCabe, Course Editor

Marilyn McCabe reviewed each course for editorial clarity and consistency.

George Guba/Dave Wolf, Coordinators of Curriculum and Instructional Design

George Guba and Dave Wolf provided additional instructional design services for Fire Protection and Organizational Management, Disaster and Fire Defense Planning. Personnel Management for the Fire and Emergency Service, Fire and Emergency Management Administration, and Analytical Approaches to Public Fire Protection

Darlene Dow, Curriculum and Instructional Design Program Aide

Darlene Dow completed the HTML conversion of Community Risk Reduction and the Fire Service.

Tiffany Williams, Secretary to the Director of Curriculum and Instructional Design

Tiffany Williams was instrumental in finalizing the project requirements as specified in the government contract. She coordinated the preparation of courses for content and editor review, infused editor and reviewer comments and recommendations, handled the HTML conversions of courses, specifically Fire and Emergency Services Administration and Political and Legal Foundations of Fire Protection, and coordinated course delivery to the National Fire Academy and appropriate course contributors. In addition, Williams packaged each course using a Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) software program.  This brought the courses into compliance with National Fire Academy’s SCORM compliance mandate and completed the project.

Charitable Leadership Foundation Grant

Improving Adult Learner Literacy in Mathematics and Science Through Online Learning

In 2005 Empire State College received a $1.25 million grant to develop online courses for the purpose of enhancing the scientific and quantitative literacy of adult learners seeking to earn a college degree. Over the last three years, Center for Distance Learning faculty, CDL Curriculum and Instructional Design team and Center for Learning and Technology staff worked collaboratively to develop or redesign fifteen courses in science and mathematics that engage students in problem-based learning relevant to their lives and work while teaching them to think and speak knowledgeably in the community as engaged citizens.

The grant provided the opportunity to develop courses with a highly interactive curriculum, employing case studies and laboratory experiences, both real and virtual. Accountability and ongoing project evaluation required by the grantors served to produce an excellent process for collaboration, pre-planning and innovative approaches.

To see examples of learning activities and featured courses click here.

Course Goals of the Science and Math Grant

  1. Promote relevancy through creating authentic learning experiences:
  • Use real-life learning experiences to minimize math anxiety or to otherwise connect learners more directly to the subject matter.
  • Encourage the study of abstract concepts and/or theory within appropriate contexts.
  • Emphasize personal, social and work connections.
  1. Emphasize scientific discovery as a methodology with opportunities to “play” using simulations.
  2. Engage a variety of learning styles including audio, visual and text modes.
  3. Promote active experimentation through virtual laboratories.
  4. Emphasize problem-based learning. Integrate case studies and problem-based exercises to promote learning.
  5. Emphasize the analysis of data using technology tools. Create opportunities to visualize data for better understanding and analysis.
  6. Emphasize literacy through communicating (writing and discussing) math and science concepts.
  7. Develop transferable tools/learning objects within each course that can be applied to other courses in other areas, thereby reinforcing learning.

Courses Developed Under the Grant

  1. Marine Biology
  2. Math Modeling
  3. Math for the Inquiring Mind
  4. Contemporary Environmental Issues
  5. Discovering Math Across Generations
  6. Visualizing Math
  7. Evolution: One Long Argument
  8. Invention by Design
  9. Global Climate Change
  10. GPS and the New Geography
  11. Populations and Diseases
  12. Energy: The Issues and the Science
  13. Statistics: An Activity-Based Approach
  14. Ethnobotany
  15. The Future of Being Human

Empire State College Team that managed the SMP Grant:

  • Pat Lefor, Vice President for Educational Technology
  • Meg Benke, Dean of the Center for Distance Learning
  • Nicola Martinez, Director of Curriculum and Instructional Design
  • Evelyn Ting, Director of the Center for Learning and Technology

CDL SMAT Faculty Area Coordinators Assisting with the SMP Project

  • Betty Lawrence, Mathematics and Technology Studies
  • Mary Mawn, Biology
  • Phil Ortiz, Natural Sciences
  • Diane Shichtman, Information Systems
  • Jianhao Chen, Information Technologies

The Final Stages of the SMP Project

In January of 2008, we began the review and revision process of the fifteen science and mathematics courses originally developed under the Charitable Leadership Foundation grant-funded Science and Math Project (SMP). Review and revision of the courses was always an integral part of the overall Project Plan, intended to ensure refinement and updating of the courses after offering them to students for one or more terms.

We selected external content reviewers with ample experience in their fields, online education and/or adult learning from the following colleges and universities: University of Massachusetts-Boston, Pepperdine University, Skidmore College, University of Texas at El Paso, State University of New York-Oswego, and Genesee Community College. Overall, the blind reviews have been very favorable. The completed reviews have resulted in a robust compilation of suggestions to improve each course in terms of content and authentic learning experiences based on adult-centered pedagogy. We are currently seeking outside content reviewers for the three most recently completed courses: Energy: The Issues and the Science, The Future of Being Human, and Ethnobotany. The first 12 courses were reviewed in 2008, and the final three are scheduled for review in 2009.

The Process:

  • Review: Each course is reviewed by an external peer reviewer (faculty members from sister institutions who are highly qualified in the subject areas). In addition, the Curriculum and Instructional Design team reviews each course in three areas: overall pedagogical integrity, instructional design, and learning objects/activities. The review is made up of 39 questions covering all aspects of content, pedagogy, design, and the Grant Goals. Reviewers are able to add unlimited comments on each question.
  • Recommendation:The review team then meets to discuss the results and compile a revision recommendation. This brief document presents the reviewers’ findings with an emphasis on the major strengths and weaknesses of the course and how it might be improved. This document is then sent to the SMP leadership team and the Area Coordinator (AC) in charge of the course. ACs may also request the individual blind reviews, with reviewer identification removed.
  • Revision: The course is scheduled for revision during either the long development cycle (major revision) or one of the short cycles (minor revision). The AC and course developer create a final revision plan based on review recommendations. The AC may delegate the creation of the revision plan to the developer and CID if s/he chooses, but the AC must review and approve the final Revision Plan.
  • Schedule: The first twelve SMP courses are on schedule to be revised between September 2008 and July 2009.  The final three courses will be revised during Fall 2009.
  • One final step: Editorial Review. A professional editor will be reviewing each revised course for editorial consistency.

Course Reviews include an analysis of the following:

  • Quality and level of the content according to current theories and practices in the area of study. The outside expert makes sure that important content is not overlooked, and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the content.
  • Curricular integrity across the courses to meet grant goals.
  • Pedagogical consistency of the learning activities and objects with authentic and active adult-centered approaches.
  • A comprehensive content perspective. This is separate from peer content review and is to ensure that there is no unintentional content overlap between courses.

Below is a table showing the status of each of the courses in the review process projected and revision schedule (Table 1).  Those courses that need a comprehensive revision are scheduled for more than one short cycle, whereas those in need of lesser revisions have been schedule for the one of the new short cycles.  We have currently identified three courses in need of a major revision:  GPS and the New Geography, Math for the Inquiring Mind, and Evolution: One Long Argument.

Courses Scheduled Review Review Completed Scheduled RevisionCycle
1. Evolution: One Long Argument Jan-June 08 Yes SR1
2. Invention by Design Jan-June 08 Yes SR3
3. GPS and the New Geography Jan-June 08 Yes SR3
4. Statistics: An Activity-Based Approach Jan-June 08 Yes SR1
5. Visualizing Math Jan-June 08 Yes SR3
6. Discovering Math Across Generations Jan-June 08 Yes SR2
7. Populations and Disease Jan-June 08 Yes SR3
8. Marine Biology Jan-June 08 Yes SR3
9. Mathematical Modeling Jan-June 08 Yes SR3
10. Math for the Inquiring Mind Jan-June 08 Yes SR1
11. Contemporary Environmental Issues Jan-June 08 Yes SR2
12. Global Climate Change Jan-June 08 Yes SR2
13. Energy: The Issues and the Science Sept. 2008 In Progress SR4
14. Ethnobotany Sept. 2008 Scheduled Mar 09 SR4
15. The Future of Being Human Sept. 2008 Scheduled Feb 09 SR4

Table 1: Status of course review and projected revision schedule.

LDC Long Development Cycle (10/01/08 – 6/30/09)
SR1 Short Revision Cycle 1 (9/01/08 – 12/01/08)
SR2 Short Revision Cycle 2 (11/03/08 – 2/02/09)
SR3 Short Revision Cycle 3 (12/01/08 – 3/02/09)
SR4 Short Revision Cycle 4 (4/06/09 – 7/06/09)

3 Responses to “Special Projects”

  1. I am impressed by the quality of information on this website. There are a lot of good resources here. I am sure I will visit this place again soon.

  2. Greetings, David, thank you for the amazing work you do, and for your kind comments about the fire and emergency services program at SUNY Empire State College. I was in involved in the FESHE national revision project in collaboration with the National Fire Academy and participating institutions. Jim Savitt and Robert Fruchter coordinate our fire and emergency services curriculum. I’ll let them know you are interested in finding out more about the program.

    Best Wishes, –Nicola Martinez, Ph. D.

  3. David Shultis says:

    I am a volunteer firefighter with 15 years experience and to many certifications to list here. I am pursuing my goal of a carrer in the Fire Service. A very close friend of mine also attended your program, and informed me of how good the program is. I live in Kinderhook, NY and would rather seek my education here than other internet courses. I am looking for ALL inforamtion on the online Fire Science degree program. Thank you and have a nice day.
    D. Shultis NFD
    Col. Cty. Hazmat 27
    Col. Cty. Instructor 11-83

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