COVID-19 presents challenges for engineering technology instruction at tech schools like Red Deer College
14, Dec, 2020
EDMONTON, Dec. 14, 2020 – For technology institutes and colleges whose education of engineering technology students often relies on hands-on instruction, COVID-19 has presented challenges. The good news is that engineering technology instructors have marshalled their trademark ingenuity and inventiveness in finding solutions to keep Alberta engineering technology students on track to completing their education and advancing into successful careers, despite the pandemic.
Engineering technology education is, in most cases, three years of instruction compressed into an intense two-year program at any of the four technology institutes and colleges in the province: NAIT; SAIT; Red Deer College; and Lethbridge College. Of the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta’s (ASET) 16,000 members, hundreds are full-time students.
Red Deer College has carefully adapted to mandatory social distancing protocols instruction of its three engineering technology programs: electrical engineering technology; instrumentation engineering technology; and mechanical engineering technology. Classes have transitioned to a blended online delivery model. Theory classes are taught virtually and a limited number of in-person labs are offered on campus.
In the interest of safety and depending on the course, some classes with lab components were moved from the fall term to the winter term, and theory classes with no labs were moved from winter to fall. Labs were reconfigured to meet COVID-19 occupancy and safety requirements, including wearing of face masks, sanitising equipment before and after use, and provision of hand sanitiser stations.
Among the college’s COVID-19-driven innovations is its use of software that recreates lab activities by connecting students to computers in the labs, enabling them to access lab equipment remotely from home. Also available to students are software simulations that facilitate virtual lab experiences, allowing them to operate machines remotely and take measurements without setting foot in a lab.
“Our engineering technology programs involve many practical, experiential learning activities,” said Dale Gust, associate dean, school of trades and technologies, Red Deer College. “We’ve stepped up to meet the challenge of finding ways to continue to provide meaningful, quality and engaging educational experiences for our learners during these unprecedented times, keeping both our students and faculty safe.”
In its commitment to protecting the safety of not just engineering technology students, faculty and staff but the college as a whole, Red Deer College has innovated an app for that. Prior to COVID-19, the college had already developed the SAFE RDC App. Designed for smartphones, it enables students, faculty, staff and visitors to easily and quickly connect with campus security in event of an emergency, medical emergency or injury.
In response to the pandemic, the app was updated to include health check and contact tracing. Anyone wanting to enter the campus must first complete the health check, which is a series of questions about your health and symptoms as they relate to COVID-19. You will be asked about your exposure to anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and your recent travel. Based on your responses to these questions, you will either be granted or denied access to the campus.
“It’s no surprise to ASET that Alberta technology institutes and colleges like Red Deer College have applied the innovation that is the hallmark of the engineering technology profession to finding safe and effective ways to continue that education for students in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis,” said ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh.
Nothing works in Alberta without ASET members; they are the behind-the-scenes, hard-working women and men who keep this province safe. ASET members represent a wide range of sectors, including civil engineering and construction, avionics, biomedical, chemical, computers, electrical, environmental, geological, instrumentation, oil and gas, and telecommunications. From the moment Albertans wake up in the morning and turn on a light switch or shower until the end of the day, they rely on the work of these professionals.
Technicians install cable and phone, monitor traffic, work in labs, and serve as process workers in refineries and manufacturing. Technologists design plans with engineers, create commercial buildings and return well sites properly to nature. They ensure fast-acting telephone networks, smart bus connections, proper water pressure at home, perfectly clean water to drink, reliable natural gas service and electrical power, smooth roads on which to drive, and responsible oil and gas exploration/production/processing/and distribution.
ASET is the professional self-regulatory organization for engineering technologists and technicians in Alberta. ASET currently represents over 16,000 members, including full-time technology students, recent graduates and fully certified members in 21 disciplines and more than 120 occupations across a multitude of industries.
Michele Penz, Calico Communications for ASET