Online Learning Is Here to Stay: Buy In, Get Started, Love It

Posted By: Chad Schron, Senior Director, Tooling U-SME on May 05, 2020

Carroll County Career and Technology Center in Westminster, Maryland

Online learning opportunities have become essential to nearly every school and college in the nation during the COVID-19 crisis. We are proud to offer competency-based learning solutions that schools can quickly implement so they can continue to serve the needs of their technical students.

We are recording sessions with several Career and Technical Education (CTE) instructors so other schools and colleges can hear how these early adopters have implemented and optimized an elearning program. You may listen to that recording here. These instructors can offer valuable insights on how to integrate elearning and overcome possible objections to it. Today we are pleased to welcome Tim Blizzard, Instructor Machine Technology from Carroll County Career and Technology Center in Westminster, Maryland.

 

Chad:

Good afternoon. This is Chad Schron and Meghan Shea-Keenan from Tooling U-SME-SME, joined by Tim Blizzard of Carroll County Career and Tech Center. Today we'll be discussing best practices using elearning and digital tools in the classroom. Thank you, Tim for joining us today. To kick it off, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself, your school and your program?

Tim:

I work at Carroll County Career and Technology Center, and I teach applied mechanical engineering. We recently changed the name, but basically, I teach machine shop. We are a magnet school, so we draw from seven different high schools in the county. Now that we've changed the name, and with the addition of everything we've been doing, I have a full class with a waiting list. I started out in that class many, many years ago. I worked in the industry for 23 years, and I've now been teaching for 25 years. I'm an old guy, but absolutely love using Tooling U-SME.

Chad:

That's great. Thank you for the background. How long have you been using elearning in your program?

Tim:

I don't know the exact date, but it's been approximately 10 years.

Chad:

Wow! And what are some of the reasons why you decided to integrate online learning into your program?

Tim:

I looked at Tooling U-SME because, being a student in the program originally, I know what it's like for students to read textbooks. I decided that Tooling U-SME would be much better. Students that I had at the time were not the best readers. They weren't interested in sitting down and reading a textbook. Tooling U-SME was just outstanding because it would actually read to the student. It worked out great all the way around. Students who would never read a textbook, or who had trouble reading, would jump right on it. One of the questions I had when I originally started was, what's this going to do for the students who have trouble reading as opposed to the students who are the AP or honors students? Tooling U-SME had the answer and I found it to be very true. It helps the students who have trouble reading, because they read along with it, they get a better vocabulary and they become better readers. The students who are the AP and honors students turn the volume off because they can read it faster. And that was one of my big reasons for getting it. Plus, everything was up-to-date. And when you look in a textbook and you see a picture of a cutter running across the part, well, it's just a picture. But when you have actual streaming video of what's happening, it's so much better for the student.

Chad:

Great! Tell me a little bit about your program and how you balance the lecture time with the lab time with the elearning.

Tim:

We were the first program in the state of Maryland, and we may still be the only secondary education program in the state of Maryland that is NIMS certified. I use Tooling U-SME in conjunction with NIMS. I give the students approximately four to six chapters per week to do. I start at the beginning and review. I start out with the NIMS program. It's all set up in Tooling U-SME for you to use. You click on the NIMS chapters and it gives you beginner, intermediate and advanced chapters. I start out with the beginning chapters. Every morning I kind of review the chapters with students. Then we do some other things in class and then we go out into the shop. I spend approximately an hour to an hour and a half. I have students who are in Hill County public schools. They have a four-mod day. In the first mod the students are at their home school, and they come to me for the remaining three mods. So, I get students at about 9:30 in the morning and have them the rest of the day. I spend approximately an hour to an hour and a half in class with them every day.

Chad:

How do you use the LMS, learning management system? Or what kind of reports do you find useful as you're administering your program?

Tim:

Well, like everyone else at this time, we're definitely using elearning whether we want to or not. I was just on the phone with Therese yesterday and it is all set up. You go into the management side and give the students whatever chapters you want on whatever dates. Tooling U-SME grades it for you. It tells you what the students are doing. I can see when they log on and when they log off. The management end of it is absolutely fantastic! I know I sound a little overboard with it, but it really is fantastic. I've used this for 10 years now. One of the great things is that my administration was behind me on this. A couple of them were a little leery of using online all the time. But the state of Maryland has actually stepped up and paid for this because it's less expensive with Tooling U-SME if the state buys it and goes with it as an entire program rather than just individual schools. And I understand that is still the case.  It's just worked great for me. With the name change in the program to applied mechanical engineering, I now have a full class. I have mostly AP and honors students, and they just eat Tooling U-SME up every week. I give it to them, and they're done. I've noticed that if they don't have 80s or 90s, they go back and redo the chapter, so they get better scores. I give them a grade on that every week.

Chad:

How has your program changed or adapted in light of the last couple of weeks with COVID-19? So much more has to be done remotely. How have you adapted your program in light of all those changes?

Tim:

Obviously, there's no lab time. You can't send a mill or a lathe home with a student, so we're going to be using all Tooling U-SME for the near future, until I incorporate some other odds and ends in with it. Right now, it just makes my life so simple that I can go in and plug in a couple of chapters. I can email them right to the students. Each student has their objectives to do and it works out great. I mean, it's just as simple as can be.

Chad:

What types of devices are most of your students using to access the content? Phones, tablets or desktop computers at the school?

Tim:

Well, I have run into a little bit of a problem with that. Out of the 18 students I have right now, I have two students who have some trouble financially. They don't have computers or Internet at home. We have to work around that. The county, due to this current crisis, is working on getting them laptops. With libraries now closed in the Maryland area, all students have to do is find a local school and get on the Wi-Fi. They can sit in the parking lot and get on the Wi-Fi. I don't know how many are using it on tablets, but I know some of them do. I had one student who went on vacation last year, so he was doing his Tooling U-SME coursework on his cell phone.

Chad:

What are some of the challenges that you've had or pitfalls that you've had, and how have you overcome those?

Tim:

When I looked at it, I was very skeptical at first. But I went through some chapters and everything was there. I do have a textbook associated with my class that I can use as a backup. I don't really like it because it doesn't go into as much depth as Tooling U-SME does. Tooling U-SME is very broad and it gives you a lot of things that a textbook doesn't give you. Plus, I like the streaming video. The other problem I've had is that you get some students who can't afford the Wi-Fi at home or don't have computer access. A lot of them go to the local libraries or go sit in a parking lot next to the school and log on if needed. The biggest challenge is that the instructor has to buy into this and accept it. The instructor has to want to use it. And once you figure it out, it really is easy.

Chad:

Great! If you were talking to instructors, what would you tell them? What are the first couple of steps they should take to get going in a program?

Tim:

The first thing I'd tell them is to sit down and actually do a couple chapters on their own. Pick a couple of topics that they’re interested in, that they have some background in, and go through those chapters. See what's there compared to what they know and see if it fits their program. I've found that it fits really well in a basic machine shop setting. The last several years Tooling U-SME and NIMS have gotten together, and it has really worked great for me there. You have to have computers for every student to get on. In my particular class, every student has their own desktop computer. For the students who can't get online at home, I allow a little time for them to get on the computer at school and do some. You have students on the upper end, students on the lower end and you just adjust things around accordingly.

Another thing I would tell them to do is look at the management end of it.  If they do that they're really going to love it. Instructors spend a lot of time grading papers. If you give it to the students as homework, which is what I do, you can actually see if they've done it or not. When the question comes from mom and dad asking, "Why does my son have a poor grade?" you can hand it to them. I call the parents periodically and tell them their daughter or son's doing great, or to let them know where their daughter or son is at in the program. A couple of clicks of the computer and I send them the cover page from the individual student’s record, and it's got the pie chart right there of what they've done and what they haven't done.

Chad:

Anything additional that you would like to share that we did not cover?

Tim:

I guess the biggest thing I can tell someone is that you have to personally buy into online education. It's no use to fight it because it's here. We have to deal with it, and you have to buy into it and want to do it. Look into the management end of Tooling U-SME, look at being the administrator and see what you have to do. I hate to give away everybody's secrets, but it makes it so much easier. It grades the students for you. Once a week, I look at Tooling U-SME and what the students have done, and put the grades in it. I'm transferring it from one page to another. We use the grade book computer system in Maryland, and I actually transfer the grades from Tooling U-SME right into the grade book and it's done.

Chad:

Thank you, Tim, so much for taking the time to talk with us. I know there are lots of instructors out there who are new to elearning and will certainly appreciate tips and tricks and best practices from someone who has been doing this for a long time. Thank you very much for taking the time today to share you experiences.

Tim:

Thank you. I'm honored to do it.


You may find the rest of the blogs in this series here:

Using Online Classes to Create Digital Learning Environments: Insights from CTE Instructors
Best Practices for Using a Virtual Learning Classroom for High School and Adult Students
Using Online Learning and Hands-On Experience in a Competency-Based Machinist Program
Blending Online Learning with Hands-On Experience: A Proven Approach


Tags: "applied mechanical engineering", "Career and Technical Education", "Carroll County Career and Technology Center", competency-based, COVID-19, CTE, elearning, "learning management system", LMS, "machine shop", NIMS, "online classes", "online learning", textbook, "Tooling U-SME"