Programs Form Rare Partnership to Offer Much-Needed Course

Teacher using pointer while speaking from front of classroom.

WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College’s efforts to provide quality educational programming in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to new instructional delivery methods and collaborations.

A prime example came in August, when the college’s Paralegal Technology curriculum partnered with its Fire-Rescue continuing education program to offer a highly-sought “Law and Administration” course. Even though both programs are part of PCC’s Public Services & Fine Arts Division, collaborations between degree curricula and continuing education professional development programs are rare.

PCC Paralegal Technology Instructor Chris Young taught the course to more than 30 students, using a hybrid flexible (or HyFlex) format that gives students the option of attending class 100% in person or entirely online synchronously. Roughly half of Young’s class came to the classroom while the rest participated remotely via video conferencing technology.

“I believe that this is the first time any school has given students the option to attend the ‘Law and Administration’ course in person or remotely,” Young said. “… I have been teaching like this in our curriculum program for quite a while. The pandemic has required a lot of creativity from instructors, and we have been lucky to have the [technological] means to do what has been needed.”

Like many continuing education courses required for professional certifications, Young says “Law and Administration” is in high demand. He explained that it’s a standard certification class that the state’s Code Officials Qualification Board requires code enforcers to complete in order to perform building inspections within their technical fields. The course consists of 15 instructional hours that must be taught by an attorney licensed by the North Carolina State Bar and certified by the N.C. Department of Insurance.

Mekenzie Newkirk, PCC Director of Fire & Emergency Services Training, invited Young to offer the course shortly after her department merged into the Public Services & Fine Arts Division.

“Chris has been teaching legal classes with all kinds of delivery methods for a long time,” Newkirk said. “I thought that we could leverage that for the legal courses we need over in the continuing education side of things.”

The idea paid off.

“All of the materials for the course were available to students electronically. They could access everything from the computers in our lab or their own devices at home or at work,” Newkirk said, adding that student reviews of the course were “universally positive.”

For Young, “Law and Administration” is only the beginning. He’s working on a suite of courses for lawyers and paralegals to satisfy annual certification requirements, particularly in the areas of technology and ethics.

“I’m a big believer in cross-divisional and interdisciplinary education and projects,” he said. “Any time I get a chance to branch into other areas, I take it. I’m looking forward to continuing ‘Law and Administration’ and implementing more courses to serve the legal education needs of the community.”

Dr. Dan Mayo, dean of PCC’s Public Services & Fine Arts Division, says the “sky is the limit” with regard to future training possibilities.

“We are so excited; this is only the tip of the iceberg,” Mayo said. “We’re lucky to have dedicated education professionals and subject matter experts, like Mekenzie and Chris, leading the way in these kinds of collaborative efforts. More certification courses, continuing education for attorneys and paralegals, and customized field-specific training are all possibilities here.”