How to Engage Trades Learners in a Virtual Class?
In March 2020, when the pandemic had just started to affect us in Australia, I got sick with a common cold. At that time I was working part time as an electrical teacher at one of the TAFEs and had a scheduled class. The discussions around remote teaching had just started at the time in trades departments and there were no examples to follow. Instead of handing my class to another teacher, I decided to run it remotely.
In this blog, I will share with you my experiences of my first attempt at conducting a class remotely and how I improved to make the learning virtual and engaging. I’ll also share a list of tools that I used and recommend when running a class remotely or virtually.
My first experience with remote classes
Since my first attempt at this was in response to my ailment, I did not have time to set anything up so I requested assistance from one of my colleagues. The learners were in the classroom, because there were no restrictions at the time, and so I asked my colleague to set up a webcam and login into the classroom computer and start the meeting.
I used a webcam at my end and used the whiteboard to do all the training. I love using a whiteboard to explain concepts before getting into demonstrations because it gives the learners an opportunity to take notes their own way. Besides the class notes, the learners also had to use the learning management system (LMS) for their learning material but mainly the focus was on classroom quizzes and some assessments.
This setup was new for everyone but the learners adopted it very well, which proved that technology is usually not something they shy away from. In fact, they took it as a challenge and tried to get the most out of the situation
WHAT TOOLS DID I USE IN MY FIRST ATTEMPT
WHAT WORKED WELL AND WHAT DIDN'T GO SO WELL IN MY FIRST ATTEMPT
What didn’t go well
Improvements and recommendations
Improved virtual classes
Here are some of the comments I got from my learners about my virtual training and the equipment
The teacher provides very good demo part with all equipments needed
I think having people go through the online content and then you going over it would be better as we come in to the class already having an idea of what is going on and then you clear up any missing bits.
I believe the notes you made would be better kept and more easily reviewed if your handwriting was a little easier to read. Doctors also have illegible handwriting too, so it might be an IQ thing .
maybe do more demos. I know it’s easier said than done but I really enjoyed and took more in when I was visually looking at it
I honestly don’t have anything negative to say Hus. Considering we had to go online because of Covid, a lot of us were hesitant about how it would go. But you had the entire setup ready to go and everything! …If I could give some positive improvement. I wouldn’t bother with the whiteboard next time! The Ipad worked heaps better! and was much easier to follow along with! Plus you can just email the notes document instead of having to video record stuff (if you wanted to) and also the videos that you made were super helpful, and really helped me because I’m very much a visual/tactile learner, so I really benefitted out of those, and I know that others would be the same.
only criticism I have is handwriting, but this is only a (barely) issue due to online learning I think.
I also asked them if the practical equipment I used helped them or not. Here are some of their responses
- Enjoyed this. Perhaps better camera angles
- very helpful and good practical learning
- Very helpful, made it easier to understand theoretical concepts when seeing it applied practically
- I enjoyed watching the practical presentations. It made me more interested.
- the pracbox was good helped explain what was going on
Virtual and remote classes were a godsend for the training organisation during the lockdown and whether we wanted or not we had to adapt to the situation and use them. We did really well with getting on board with it and with minimal disruption to our learners. Perhaps this had become a semi permanent solution for most organisations but for trades it’s only temporary.
Learners join the VET sector to gain hands-on knowledge, which can be very challenging to achieve remotely. However, with the right preparation and equipment, I and many other trainers were able to achieve it. The best things about the planning and the equipment is that when we move back to training in the preCOVID setup, these efforts will transfer easily. Kudos to all the teachers in all sectors of education for embracing the technology and continuing to provide an excellent education amidst all the chaos.
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