After moving to online learning as the Covid-19 pandemic began taking off around the world, a limited number of Kwantlen Polytechnic University students have started returning to campus for essential hands-on classes.
Strict physical distancing and health protection measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of students and employees for classes that have to be delivered in person. The first to return to the classroom were trainee appliance service technicians at KPU’s Tech campus in Cloverdale, Surrey.
The majority of KPU’s courses continue to be delivered online during the pandemic. But in a very limited number of courses, where academic progress requires hands-on learning – like trades, for example – the university has developed safety protocols to ensure students can continue with their studies.
“It’s been very important for the students in the class here to be able to finish this program on time and hit the deadline,” says student Luke Rotheroe. “That way we are qualified to be able to go and work in the industry versus having a delay and it then puts everything on hold.”
Students have to stay at home if they are unwell. When they arrive at the shop they wash their hands and follow a one-way system to their work stations, which are spaced more than two metres apart. Everyone wears masks, gloves and face shields when there are moments in the class where the instructor has to come within two metres of a student to help demonstrate a procedure.
“Things have been properly planned for the whole class,” adds Rotheroe.
Instructor Dave Fengstad and his colleagues put in a lot of work to prepare for the transition to a blended approach of online and essential classroom learning. Fengstad had a head start having already moved to the electronic delivery of educational materials, but he had to learn additional tools to deliver classes online.
“Now what we’re doing is we’re taking all that lecture format, that theory, and delivering it online at the front end, then we’re going and spending 100 per cent of our time in the shop, so we’re pretty close to giving the same ratio of practical delivery and theory,” says Fengstad.
The course safety plan and in-person teaching strategy was developed by the appliance service technician instructors with support from Dr. David Florkowski from KPU’s Covid-19 Action Team, Brian Moukperian, dean of the Faculty of Trades and Technology, Occupational Health and Safety and other partners in the university. The plans were approved by Dr. Sandy Vanderburgh, the university’s provost and vice-president, academic.
Re-certification of welders is also back in operation at KPU Tech with appropriate pandemic precautions.
“It’s huge for the economy,” says Moukperian. “There are major projects in industry that require welders to be certified or re-certified. Every time there’s a new manufacturing item, a procedure has to be written for that and a welder has to be tested to meet that standard.”
Moukperian praises the instructors and staff in the Faculty of Trades and Technology for the swift transformation in the way courses are delivered.
“They’ve done a great job,” he says. “We have pivoted very well.”