The KPU Faculty of Trades and Tech is Adjusting to Online Learning

Some instructors are using online simulations to mimic the hands-on element of classes

KPU’s Cloverdale Trades and Tech Campus. (Saggal Gara)

KPU’s faculty of trades and technology, which usually consists of hands-on training, has moved all courses online. The faculty has also created hybrid courses, which combine online learning with in-person learning.

Laura McDonald, the Associate Dean for the faculty, says they were able to make this transition with the help of the Teaching and Learning Commons at KPU.

“We have worked with the university executives to create safety protocols, and this is in conjunction with a few different layers of governance at the university to make sure that we are keeping [the] safety of the faculty, student, and staff,” says McDonald.

When the time comes for students to return to campus, trades and tech classes will be smaller, McDonald says.

“If we had a class of 16, we might do eight students on day one and eight students on day two,” she explains.

Tom Westgate is an instructor for the Appliance Service Technician Certificate program. The program aims to prepare students for entry into the appliance service and repair industry.

The appliance service program has become a hybrid course. Only eight students are able to enrol at a time because of the social distancing regulations in the shop.

“We are going to do hands-on projects, but the students are six feet apart and there are arrows in [the shop] indicating what direction to enter, what direction to exit,” says Westgate. “You have to wash your hands when you leave the classroom and when you enter.”

Once in the shop, students are required to wear the provided masks and visors before they start their training.

Westgate teaches the theory part of his course using BigBlueButton through Moodle. He says he has no problem assigning exams, quizzes, and homework through the platform.

“Right after the presentation, I close my screen so [the students] can’t see it. Throughout the chat, I ask certain questions to see if they have understood what was taught, and so far it’s really great,” he says.

Electrical instructor Emma Baggott has found a creative way to teach her students. She uses online Physics Education Technology, or PhET Simulations, to mimic the hands-on parts of the course.

“They can manipulate the circuits however they want, and they can actually see the current move through the circuit, and they can see the voltage. For me, I thought, ‘Wow this is incredible,’” she says.

Baggot says these simulation labs might be more valuable than face-to-face labs because, in real life, individuals aren’t able to see the current.

“Our students are not used to online learning, so I think it’s a really big adjustment for them to basically hold themselves accountable,” she says.” That’s been a really big adjustment, to take control of their own learning.”

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