In March, colleges and universities nationwide were forced to shift from in-person classes to online learning amid the coronavirus outbreak. But, what does that shift mean for a conventional training center built on a model of 80-90% field work? How can the International Training Institute (ITI), the training arm of the unionized sheet metal industry, continue to operate?
“In many ways, we’ve been preparing for this for years,” said James Page, ITI administrator. “Since before I began at ITI, we have been building an online presence to offer self-paced learning modules and online courses. But this pandemic pushed our industry out of its comfort zone. We had to quickly react to provide the services our training centers needed. I can say with certainty, that we’ve met our initial challenge.”
The staff at the ITI quickly developed webinars and distance learning classes to replace scheduled in-person classes, adding to the already robust offerings ITI has in its online portal, Page said.
“It is not ideal, but we were able to develop distance learning classes while sheltering in place,” Page added. “Our staff is extremely talented at what they do, and they took in-person courses that we had scheduled and reworked them into five-day, online webinars with two, two-hour sessions held daily.”
For more than a decade, the ITI has been expanding its online course offerings and that forethought may have given it the upper hand when the unprecedented nationwide shutdowns began in March.
“No one could have imagined something like this happening, but our staff, our trustees, and our instructors have all been working toward a larger online presence for years. Is it ideal? No, absolutely not. There are just some things you cannot teach online, but we are able to do a lot using a distance learning platform,” Page said.
“While several people have been beating the drum for an online academy environment for years, we know that we must build out a structure that is, in many ways, different than what we currently have in place. And, internally, we have been researching ways to make that happen. Certainly, the predicament we find ourselves in today has accelerated our progress, but nonetheless, we have to supplement our current offerings in the environment we have in place while building a parallel, more robust environment for a future online learning experience.”