In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the face of education is changing. Traditional higher education is rapidly incorporating remote learning into every facet of their delivery, and a new way of learning is emerging before our eyes — paving the way to seismic changes in how we deliver education going forward for everyone.
It’s not only colleges, universities, and other traditional schools and programs who have been acclimating to this change — vocational and alternative education programs are also adapting as well. Many aviation schools, coding bootcamps, welding schools, and more are still open and offering classes online for their students.
Against the stereotype that vocational training isn’t as up-to-date within the landscape of online learning and technology, these programs are still active and allowing learners to get the credentials they need to further their careers after this pandemic subsides.
“Our intention was to start a YouTube channel at some point, but this kind of forced our hand,” Tyler Sasse of Western Welding Academy said. “We really had to sit down and lay out exactly how we were going to teach it on video. And it forces you, as you’re shooting that video, to make sure you don’t miss any detail, but also to keep it short and exciting enough so that somebody’s not falling asleep on the couch watching it. That was our biggest challenge, to present the information in a manner that made it appealing and fun — and of course I had to learn how to be a video editor almost overnight. That was a challenge, but we got through it.”
David Lee of NTI told us how the school has also been transitioning to video: “Like most other schools, we are using live Zoom meetings to keep our students engaged. Also, what we do feel to be more important currently is communication. We are reaching out to students multiple times a week and just checking in. Everyone is nervous and students are no different. They want to hear that we are still here for them, we’re going to be here when we’re able to get back in the classrooms and that we care … by taking the time to put the Zooms together, give them a little instruction, and be there to listen, it’s really helped build some confidence lost within their minds.”
Amongst many other lessons COVID-19 has taught us is that online learning is available across many different industries and provides a huge opportunity to the many students for whom that is their only option — in one survey, over half of respondents (52%) stated that existing work or family commitments was their main reason for choosing to take an online program. As like other goods, online learning isn’t just a resource to the well-heeled who are planning to go into desk or office work; it’s also available to trade skills and career training.
COVID-19 is slowly forcing schools to become more adaptable in a way we never thought possible, especially through programs that were never taught online before.
Western Welding Academy has been using this as an opportunity for further growth and improvement: “we’ve had changes we’ve wanted to make, not only here in our shop, but to our curriculum. But you just get so busy and caught up in the day-to-day, it’s hard to find time for all that. So this really allowed us to pump the brakes a little bit, take a moment to pause and reflect and really do a tremendous amount of internal growth.”
According to David, NTI’s biggest obstacle in transitioning to online “was getting the instructors to buy into the virtual technology and ways to use it effectively. Once we helped the instructors understand that we were not trying to replace in-class labs with Zoom, rather that we were using it as an engagement tool, we got instructors onboard.” Now, they plan to continue utilizing video calls in some capacity even after the school opens back up — more important than the new technology and skills, though, is what they’ve learned about their school and students in recent weeks: that everyone, from administrators to students, are “resilient, proactive, results-driven, invested,” and committed to “doing the right thing.”
Going forward, we see a future where more schools offering remote learning opportunities can help bridge the skills gap as well as expand access to higher education across the country.