April 1, 2007
Surveying courses aren’t all about the introduction to GPS, the proper use of total stations or the reading of legal descriptions. In 2002, Bill Tingle, founder of continuing education provider Geomatics Workshops (GW), saw a need for professional courses with an emphasis on land development. “At the time GW was founded, there were and still are many quality CE providers for those in the surveying profession,” he says. “Many of the providers offer courses dealing mainly with core subjects related to land surveying and emerging technology. GW recognized the need to provide a variety of CE courses with an emphasis on land development including regulatory and environmental issues.” Tingle is a professional geologist, certified professional erosion and sediment control specialist, and a certified floodplain manager. He has more than 20 years of professional experience in floodplain management and erosion and sediment control at the local government level. As a professional, Tingle recognized the need to utilize his experience to provide continuing education opportunities to land surveyors and engineers.
Serving as the entity’s administrator, Tingle set out to apply his experience in an educational forum in 2002. His purpose, he says, was to provide “practical instruction for land surveyors and engineers concerning land development issues and topics that have ever-expanding importance in today’s environment. GW’s students gain an understanding of a variety of topics that can be applied in real-world situations.”
How does Tingle meet the objective of Geomatics Workshops? Through the success of focused, nontraditional surveying courses, specified goals, a resolute course assessment and evaluation system, and highly qualified instructors.
Course AvailabilitySince its inception in 2002, Geomatics Workshops has offered courses in 34 states and boasts more than 1,800 satisfied graduates. Courses are offered about eight times a year, mostly in medium to large cities and towns across the country.
The organization is an approved continuing education provider in 14 states that recognize sponsors. Many of the individual courses are pre-approved in these and other states. While all states do not pre-approve continuing education providers or their courses, Geomatics Workshops has been recognized as a CE provider with courses pre-approved in 15 states: Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont.
GW OfferingsCourses currently offered by Geomatics Workshops include those on: the FEMA/NFIP (Federal Emergency Management Agency National Flood Insurance Program), sediment and erosion control, subdivision design, wetlands basics, practical hydrology and introduction to GIS. Tingle says the most attended course is the FEMA/NFIP workshop. “Flooding occurs in every state in the country, and there has been much attention to flooding in the recent past because of hurricanes in Florida and on the Gulf Coast,” he says. “Many of the federal regulations and forms [for flood management] require a professional land surveyor to certify mapping and elevation data. There have been several changes to floodplain maps and many federal forms recently. There is a need to keep abreast of these changes.”
Stacey King Mora, a surveyor-in-training at Naismith Engineering Inc.’s Corpus Christi, Texas, office, completed the FEMA/NFIP workshop last December. Mora says the course covered the recent changes made to the Elevation Certificate and is very helpful in her job; she completes the ECs for Naismith. “Knowledge is power,” Mora says. “The more you know, the better off you are.”
GW’s subdivision design course also attracts a great deal of interest. As many areas of the country experience rapid growth, subdivisions are springing up at an increasing pace. “There is a need for properly trained, competent design professionals to keep up with this demand, and land surveyors in many states play a major role in the subdivision design and platting process,” Tingle says.
The sediment and erosion control workshop is another popular course. “The NPDES [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] Phase II requirements in effect since 1994 and further strengthened in 2003 require properly designed storm water pollution prevention plans to meet the federal as well as state and local requirements,” Tingle says. “Land surveyors are empowered to develop these plans in numerous states.”
Additional GW courses are expected to be offered in the near future, including “Internet Resources for Mapping Data,” “Stormwater/BMPs/Low Impact Design” and “Photogrammetry/LiDAR/Topographic Mapping.” The foundation of each course is the set of targeted goals of the Geomatics Workshops organization.
GW GoalsGeomatics Workshops sets out to provide students with:
• Practical instruction that can be applied in real-world situations.
• An understanding of the requirements of individual states as well as federal requirements that govern land development activities.
• Problem-solving skills and references to apply to existing and anticipated projects.
• Hands-on exercises and scenarios, allowing students to become comfortable with the guidelines, forms and techniques required for planning for and implementing land development projects impacted by various state and federal requirements.
Each individual GW instructor designs his course(s) based on practical experience, instructional experience and input from students. Most courses consist of an introduction, practical problem-solving examples and a final project or overall problem to be solved by the attendees.
Each student is involved in group exercises that involve solving a problem or problems indicative of the course or topics involved. Each group presents findings to the class as a whole. Courses also involve “mini-exams” throughout the workshop in order to gauge the participants’ knowledge of various topics discussed throughout the day. Mora, who took the FEMA/NFIP workshop, benefitted from completing an actual Elevation Certificate.
Students evaluate the content and method of presentation of each course via questionnaires disseminated near the conclusion of each workshop. Students are asked to rank each instructor’s method of presentation, course content, subject matter and relevance of the course to their profession. Courses are then revised based on input from students. Course content is also updated as changes occur in the profession.
GW InstructorsThe current four instructors were selected based on their professional experience in their field of expertise and their experience (of at least five years) in a teaching or instructional environment.
“Instructors are professionals who have many years of practical experience in their area of expertise supplemented with a solid background in instruction and education,” Tingle says. “Instructors are not hard to find. I have a working relationship with many instructors and professionals after twenty-plus years of experience at the local government level.”
If the need arises to add additional instructors, Tingle says the minimum qualifications are at least 10 years of professional experience and at least five years of teaching experience.
Instructors are evaluated based on three methods:
• Evaluation forms completed by students following each workshop presentation. (Courses and instructors routinely achieve above average to excellent rankings from students.)
• Onsite evaluation performed by Tingle serving as the Geomatics Workshops administrator.
• Random E-mails or phone calls to students.
Patrick Garner has been an instructor with Geomatics Workshops for more than a year and a half teaching the wetlands/hydrology course. A three-state licensed surveyor, Garner meets the qualifications of GW with his bachelor’s degree, post-graduate courses at Harvard University and extensive list of seminars and workshops conducted. Garner has presented educational courses for a number of state and nonprofit groups, including the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions and the Association of Massachusetts Wetland Scientists, among others. He says his time with Geomatics Workshops has been valuable: “One of the many things I like about teaching with GW is the opportunity to meet so many bright and focused professionals in different states. I like being challenged, and I like challenging individuals through new concepts. The GW venue is ideal in that regard.”
Fred Gore, instructor for GW’s subdivision design course, is a long-time friend and former teacher of Tingle’s. “He was a student in my very first Surveying 1 class in 1984,” Gore says. Gore has been a part-time teacher in the civil/surveying department at Charlotte, N.C.’s Central Piedmont Community College for 23 years. A professional engineer and professional land surveyor, Gore holds an AS degree in Surveying Technology and BS degree in Civil Engineering from West Virginia University Institute of Technology and is president/owner of Civiltek Associates, a civil engineering, land surveying and planning firm in Charlotte, N.C. Gore says he likes the interaction of engineers and surveyors with their classmates in his courses. “I have them talk about practical experiences, problems, solutions, et cetera. I always learn something new myself because of this,” he says.
“Everything I discuss in my subdivision class is based on real-life examples, all of which I previously designed,” Gore continues. “The highlight of the subdivision design course seems to be the homework subdivision design assignment where groups of two lay out a subdvision from scratch and present it to the class as if we are the planning board. The assignment also has a prize of fifty dollars each for the best subdivision as voted by their peers.”
A Solid Option“I am pleased with what GW has accomplished,” Tingle says. “We are small enough to offer individual attention for every interested student. We hope to continue as a core group of instructors providing quality CE courses for professionals. It is satisfying to be able to provide answers and guidance to real-world problems that many students bring with them to the courses.”
“From my experience taking courses,” Gore says, “I think we have to be one of the most practical and usable teaching seminars for our industry. Bill and I both practice what we preach and teach every day.”
Garner states his opinion of Geomatics Workshops matter-of-factly: “GW is well organized, professional and staffed by highly knowledgeable instructors. For someone seeking strong continuing education, what could be better?”
The Geomatics Workshops website, www.geomaticsworkshops.com, is currently being constructed. Check in for updates, or contact Bill Tingle at firstname.lastname@example.org.