College instructors develop best practices for moving technical education online, share ideas through technical association

Students controlled a wind tunnel for a lesson aerodynamics in Cait Cramer’s engineering class. They utilized the LabVIEW GUI to control a wind tunnel (located in Ohio) and collect air velocity and pressure readings from the multiple sensors along the air foil. Students could also access a camera where they could watch the air foil respond to their controls.

Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne instructors have developed online instruction for technical classes and are now sharing their expertise with other instructors throughout the country by leading “Best Practice” sessions for the American Technical Education Association (ATEA). Five instructors from the School of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering, and Applied Science have led nine sessions on subjects relating to Engineering, HVAC, Automotive and Diesel Technology, Industrial Technology, and Construction Technology to a nationwide audience of technical instructors.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic forced our classes online, initially many technical instructors across the country felt paralyzed by the move,” says Darrel Kesler, Dean of the School of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering, and Applied Science. “However, ultimately this situation has helped us rethink the way we teach technical education. At Ivy Tech Fort Wayne, we’re discovering just how effective online education can be, even for technical programs. With our newfound knowledge, we felt it was important to become a lifeboat to other technical education institutions and developed these best practice sessions.”

The ATEA sessions allowed Ivy Tech Fort Wayne instructors to demonstrate how they are teaching highly technical programs virtually. Some examples of these methods include learning how to use technical devices through simulators, recording custom GoPro video tutorials, and creating enhanced discussion forums through Zoom or WhatsApp. The ability of any institution to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis is vital to their survival, and Ivy Tech Fort Wayne instructors were willing and able to help others through the transition with the help of ATEA.

“The American Technical Education Association thanks Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne for stepping up to hold ‘Best Practice Calls’ for instructors and deans in technical colleges across the country. Ivy Tech was early in providing best practice calls starting March 18, when technical education first realized it needed to go virtual,” says Sandra Krebsbach, Executive Director of American Technical Education Association. “It was and is an important bridge and connection in an academic exchange environment. The ‘common denominator’ is a commitment to students to finish their programs and to providing technical education to keep the nation moving forward.”

ATEA’s Best Practice sessions have the potential to reach 40+ colleges and 2,400+ individuals in multiple states. They have now held over 30 best practice calls with participants across the nation and expert leads. Their mission is communicating the role and importance of technical education to the nation, sharing best practices among technical educators, developing professional relationships among technical educators and those who train and employ technically trained workforce, and identifying trends and technology that will impact technical education. ATEA will continue to provide “Best Practice Calls” as technical education moves from triage to transformation.

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