Facing the COVID-19 Crisis: Resources for Educators Pivoting to Online Education

Posted By: Jeannine Kunz, Chief Workforce Development Officer, SME on April 29, 2020

Jeannine Kunz, Vice President, Tooling U-SME

In just the last six weeks, our educational system has been completely transformed. To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, many states have now ordered or recommended that schools don’t reopen this academic year, and instead, rely on remote learning.

In an impressive feat, Department of Education leaders and instructors across the country quickly pivoted to find virtual solutions for their students. Suddenly, online education has become an urgent national necessity.

As a non-profit organization committed to developing the workforce, we work extensively with schools, workforce development organizations, economic development groups, manufacturers and Departments of Education across the country to address this and other challenges.

Now more than ever, we are mobilizing to quickly transform traditional classrooms into overnight digital learning environments and to redesign our offerings to best meet short-term educator needs. And while we will eventually return to the classroom, we all recognize there will be a new normal. Technology will be a regular part of the classroom — and a source of continued innovation as new and improved technology becomes available.

We are proud to support the outstanding work and best practices being done as the community of educators and manufacturers comes together in this time of crisis. Today, we want to share some of the initiatives that can help educators on the front lines.

Resources for CTE Programs

Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs face unique challenges. The hands-on portion of learning is as important as the classroom piece. How do we teach hands-on skills in a distant learning environment? For instance, how do you weld virtually? Educators are looking for creative solutions and technology to help answer these questions.


To help with these challenges, we have joined together with industry partners to form the CTE Coalition. This group of world-class leaders is providing the resources necessary to keep CTE programs moving forward despite the closures.

Just in the last weeks, to address immediate needs, we’ve given bundles of online classes to over 3,200 students at 74 schools across the county. These program bundles include core machining, mechatronics, welding, Industry 4.0 / Smart Manufacturing, and foundational skills classes.


We also are sharing videos , at no charge, on manufacturing processes, technology, and systems that can help educators and students.


Best Practices for Instructors

To help share best practices, we recorded sessions with instructors as they share insights and real-world examples on how they have successfully used eLearning with their students. These interviews are an important resource to help schools quickly transition to a virtual learning environment.

Online Curriculum

We are partnering with hundreds of high schools, community colleges and universities across the country to provide online curriculum as they shift from face-to-face instruction to an online format.

Despite some uncertainty of switching to a new learning system under such extreme conditions, students and instructors are surprised with the ease of set up and welcome the flexibility it provides. School now goes beyond the classroom setting; it is 24/7 on tablets and smart phones via our mobile app.

We are here to partner with you to create tailored solutions for your distance learning needs now —and to help you think ahead to what you may need in the future. For instance, along with helping schools finish their current programs online, we have also been engaged with delivering Related Training Instruction for apprenticeships online, certification training such as NIMS and MSSC online, and short-term training programs.

MEP’s, Community Colleges, and Economic Development Organizations

Tooling U-SME has a long-standing partnership with The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) network combining each of our strengths and resources. For instance, we are working with the MEP at Columbus State in Ohio to offer a new online training program that pairs with one-on-one virtual coaching by the community college’s faculty and professional staff. This online training allows employees to upskill in preparation for a new industry landscape in the coming months.

Preparing for New Technology

New guidelines related to COVID-19 have forced companies to take a close look at new technologies both to help address challenges today and for future growth and innovation. While early adopters are already embracing a smart manufacturing strategy, the vast majority of manufacturers have yet to begin their journey. This unprecedented time is accelerating the process, and it is essential that the workforce acquire new skills to meet the need.

To help, we are adding new elearning classes on various aspects of Industry 4.0, including additive manufacturing, cybersecurity, data collection and machine learning. Dozens of these classes are already available, and we are working with industry and academia to incorporate them into effective blended learning programs.

This fall, we are piloting new XR (Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality) labs to deliver training. Student safety is at the top of the list of benefits. XR is a way to train and skill build before a student or employee actually uses real equipment. This breadth of delivering instruction means that we have Industry 4.0 training and development solutions that work for virtually every manufacturer, big or small.

Sharing Ideas and Experiences

We are in constant touch with hundreds of schools and manufacturers and can share ideas and practices that are making a difference in their worlds as they build the next generation of manufacturing workers — and might work in yours too.

Together, we can make a difference every day. There is no doubt educators continue to play a critical role in getting our nation through this crisis by preparing the current and future manufacturing workforce. As a mother of two grade school children, including a high school freshman, I personally receive emails from educators and administrators using all the tools they can to continue teaching while keeping students focused and calm. The commitment to our youth has never been more evident.

Be safe and stay well.

If we can provide assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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