Lab based classes transition online

The Industrial Technology Department consists of mostly hands-on learning, so the department is trying to use relevant programs online to give students quality education while following Safer at Home orders and practicing social distancing.

Tom Fortune, professor of automotive technology, said in a phone interview that the automotive class is fairing well as the campus transitions to online. 

He said that he believes the lecture is even better online than it is in person as students can rewind and rewatch as they please. If students are unable to attend the lecture, they have the option to watch it later. 

“The lab is a bit of a challenge, but there are some virtual programs that we are utilizing,” Fortune said. 

The class, which has a deal with Chrysler, continues to use their online training program. Fortune said that since students have started learning from home, they are performing better on the Chrysler training program. The lecture also utilizes Electude, an e-learning program for automotive students that use simulations and gaming technology. 

Fortune said that when classes resume to in-person lectures, he hopes they continue to integrate the technology they are using for distance learning. 

The welding and machine shop programs also continue doing as much as they can online. They calculated how many hours a student needs in order to complete the lab course and will have students complete those hours once the campus is reopened, according to Department Chair of Industrial Technology, Elizabeth Cheung. 

Cheung said in a phone interview that these courses need hands-on practice in the lab in order to complete them. The date as to when students will be back in the lab remains unknown. 

“The faculty in this department are doing a great job adapting,” Cheung said. “They are flexible and working with the current situation and students well.” 

 Industrial Tech Instructor Alex Villalta and Automotive Instructor Michael Van Dyke said in an interview through Zoom that the department has done an amazing job in the transition to online classes. 

The department meets once or twice a week in an effort to discuss how the classes are going and how they can improve to make it work for the professors and students. They use online programs such as Zoom, Canvas and Electude to keep students engaged in learning. 

Van Dyke said around 60% of his automotive class was spent in the lab. Now he will try to use video and simulation software to try and replace the lab work, but he said it is a “poor substitute.” 

Villalta believes that the department has done the best they can with the tools they have been given. He also said that it’s not a replacement for hands-on learning. 

“I could get all the bells and whistles, but you can’t teach someone to swim without a pool,” Villalta said. 

The Industrial Technology professors also have non-instructional meetings in which students can ask questions and talk to their professors and peers in a non-class setting to feel more connected. They feel this is an important tool in keeping some sort of sense of community and normalcy for students during the sudden changes brought on by COVID-19. 

“This is a very confusing time for us all,” Van Dyke said. “We have been reaching out and keeping in touch with drop in meetings.”

Students in classes that can’t be completed at the time, will remain enrolled in the classes until they can be completed in person.