RDC engineering technology students learning from home with help of simulation technology

RED DEER — Engineering technology instructors at Red Deer College (RDC) are finding new ways to teach in the midst of pandemic.

RDC’s three engineering technology programs have transitioned to a blended online delivery model with only a limited number of in-person labs being offered on campus.  In an effort to keep students and faculty safe, many classes with lab components were moved from the fall term to the winter term.

Barry Cavanaugh, the chief executive officer of the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET), said he was initially concerned with the challenges COVID-19 presented to students and instructors in a field where hands-on learning is so important.

“We were concerned with what would happen to technical education because technical education is very demanding,” said Cavanaugh.

“Is this going to delay things for students? Is this going to have an impact?”

However, RDC’s engineering technology instructors tackled the challenge head on by using software that enables students to access lab equipment remotely from home.

“They can manipulate that lab equipment the same as if they were standing beside it in the lab itself,” said Joel Gingrich, dean of RDC’s School of Trades and Technologies.

Furthermore, RDC has also provided software simulations that facilitate virtual lab experiences. This is where engineering technology instructors create video demonstrations, and students perform calculations based on the findings in the lab video.

“The benefit that I thought of is that every student has a front row seat,” said Clifford Long, a trades and technologies instructor.

“You have students that maybe have to sit in the back of the class, and, now, the screen is right in front of them.”

Long said these new methods of teaching brought on by necessity are methods he plans to apply in the future.

“This forced us to do all that, and I think it’s going to really benefit the student in the future now at RDC,” said Long.

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