GEAPS Distance Education Program Continues Growth

November 10, 2014

3 Min Read
GEAPS Distance Education Program Continues Growth

By Joe Florkowski, Managing Editor

The distance education program created by the Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS) is making the grain operations and processing world more accessible for all of its members – no matter where they come from.

About to enter its 10th year, the program – offered by GEAPS in partnership with Kansas State University – has students learning about grain operation and processing fundamentals in 14 countries, with some enrolled and studying as far away as China and Sudan.

And there is room for more.

The program has enrolled more than 2000 students with more than 600 last year, and that total is expected to increase in 2014 as well. “It really has taken off over the past few years,” said Dirk Maier, director of the GEAPS/Kansas State Distance Education Program operations. “We have many, many repeat customers.”

The distance education program is continuing to add courses and credentials. Students can currently earn a credential in grain operations management, and a credential in grain processing management was added last summer. Courses focus on a variety of grain-related topics, such as grain drying, managing insects in stored grain, material handling, and more.

The distance education program began in 2005 after a GEAPS Exchange technical conference program where some members of GEAPS decided that it would be a good idea to share the presentation materials from the Exchange online. GEAPS partnered with Purdue University in 2005 to begin the program.

Since then, the program has moved to Kansas State University and won accolades. The Association for Continuing Higher Education recognized the GEAPS/K-State distance education program as its Distinguished Program: Non-Credit Award for 2012.

Maier, who helped develop the partnership with GEAPS when he taught at Purdue, and continued the partnership when he went to Kansas State to teach, said the courses are not just academic in nature.  

Many of the instructors of these courses come from the grain industries. “This is not just a bunch of university professors teaching theories,” said Maier.

Maier said the goal of the program is to teach the fundamentals of grain operations and processing. “That fundamental understanding is not taught anymore,” he said. “That’s what we want to focus on.”

The program aims to fill that knowledge gap that has occurred as baby boomers and others have retired and left the grain industry, according to Douglas Forst, chair of the distance education program oversight committee for GEAPS. “We didn’t have anyone to train them – the old guys were gone,” Forst said.

GEAPS has recruited industry experts who have been in the facilities and have been in the workplaces to teach the courses. “You have to be fairly careful you know what you are talking about,” said Forst.

At the same time, the amount of effort that instructors put into the courses is multiple hours and there is little financial reward. Instructors initially did not receive payment but a small stipend has since been developed.

Forst estimates that it took him about 200 hours to put together one course on electrical safety.

Despite the long hours, instructors still had time to answer questions about courses if students had questions, according to Troy Goldner, who was one of three students in the program to earn a master’s credential in grain operations management. The program helped Goldner understand the entire grain handling process.

“It’s real helpful to get a good base – a good understanding of what I am doing,” said Goldner, a control room operator for Kalama Export, a Washington-based company that manages product such as corn, soybeans, and wheat.

For example, for one class, Goldner said he and other students had to design a working grain elevator and present it. “It all had to make sense,” said Goldner.

The distance education program has helped Goldner understand how portions of his facility work, such as when the elevator maintenance technician explains a problem. “When he is telling me something, it’s not Greek,” Goldner said.

Click here for more information on the GEAPS Distance Education Program

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