June 15th, 2021

Business Beat: MHC leads in blended trades and technology programs

By Chad Flinn on January 27, 2021.

Back in March when the educational world moved online, many thought trades would not be able to make the transition. With its blend of theory and hands-on training, it seemed like an insurmountable task to join the rest of academia in the great educational pivot.

Many also worried that students who pursued a career in trades and technology were hands-on, kinesthetic learners. While this may be true, it is an overgeneralization that those who work in hands-on careers require only hands-on training. The discussion regarding “learning style” or “learning types” may be better left to my next column but suffice it to say there are some grey areas when it comes to how students learn best.

I’m happy to say these fears haven’t been realized.

Over the past nine months we have seen trades and technology educators do what they do best: Assess the situation, figure out a solution, and then get to work. Several trades and technology instructors saw this as a “challenge-accepted” situation, and subsequently proved the naysayers wrong.

Hours were spent building videos, recording audio and scanning PDFs. Many learned new technologies. Webinars were attended, networks were formed, articles and blog posts read. And in the end, programs in these disciplines are seeing rich learning environments built.

There is no arguing that at the end of the day there will be a need for students to have some face-to-face interaction with the tools, equipment and instruction. With the proper protocols and care this is being done.

But while the hands-on aspect can’t be ignored, many instructors found innovative ways in which to demonstrate techniques, perform labs and assess students’ understanding in regards to their training.

Some of our instructors have found there are students who prefer this method of instruction. It offers them an opportunity to stay in their communities and not have to travel to attend school. And when travel is required, it is only for a truncated period of time. They are also finding the asynchronous aspects beneficial.

Having access to lecture videos allows the students to pause, rewind, or skip parts they may have already watched. Students are able to connect with each other and share work through the online video conferencing software available. And they enjoy the benefits of having formative assessment check-in points through the learning management systems.

While there is still a lot of work that needs to be done figuring out this new paradigm of a blended trades educational experience, there is no doubt our instructors and staff are up to the challenge.

With the “student first” mentality of MHC we continue to strive to provide the best educational experience possible, whether that be face to face, online, or somewhere in between.

Chad Flinn is the Dean of the School of Trades & Technology. Connect at cflinn@mhc.ab.ca

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