During the next two decades, world population growth and the industrialization of lesserdeveloped countries will elevate worldwide demand for occupational, environmental, and safety (OES) professionals. Presently, institutions of higher learning that offer full-degree OES training should equip themselves to meet this global need. However, in order for OES programs to thrive in the academic arena, they must adapt to the technological, social, and economic milieu of a new millennium.

Furthermore, changes in the domestic workplace necessitate that academic OES programs provide degree candidates with an interdisciplinary foundation of professional knowledge and complementary preparation in management and training. This comprehensive education is imperative if graduates are to assume the greater range of responsibilities likely to be expected of them. Although OES curricula are already obligated to a constellation of topics, increased degree requirements need not place an undue burden on programs. Practical modifications to teaching methods and information transmittal can enable higher education institutions to advance their student-load capacities to necessary levels without compromising the credibility of instruction.

This presentation encourages two critical strategies that OES programs can implement to ensure their ability to produce qualified professionals. (1) Traditional academic courses of instruction should be supplemented with problem-based learning, and (2) electronic delivery mechanisms should be used to the greatest extent possible to administer and update didactic OES information. In combination, these two strategies should allow higher education programs to maintain the quality standards required for accreditation. Moreover, institutions will be able to graduate a larger number of candidates and add more content to curricula. The development of problem-based alternatives to conventional instructional formats is an evolutionary process. A casebook of "problems" should be devised and tested. Faculty need to be groomed to function as tutors. Students should discover how to perform as self-directed teams of learners. Quality controls and evaluation tools must be established to ensure that the integrity of student learning is not compromised by alternative instructional formats. This transition will require new educational resources, the development of which may be too costly and specialized for OES program to undertake on their own. In additional to the support of their parent institutions, programs will need the assistance of extramural partners in industry, government, and the professional community in order to implement these changes successfully.

In a similar vein, the development of quality distributive learning materials (e.g., CD-ROM, Internet training) involves time, expertise, and capital that most higher education programs do not enjoy. Therefore, accredited programs may find it best, if not compulsory, to acquire these instructional supplements through external partners.

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