People become ATE principal investigators (PIs) because they are innovators. They are educators who have ideas to improve technician education and they have obtained funding from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program to test those ideas.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the creativity and stamina of ATE PIs not only sustained ATE initiatives, in many instances the way PIs responded to the public health crisis helped advance their ATE projects in new and interesting ways.
This blog features the work of Skilled Workers Get Jobs 2.1 and Smart Manufacturing for America’s Revolutionizing Technological Transformation (SMARTT). Both projects switched their professional development programs to virtual formats from in-person workshops with unexpectedly positive results.
Skilled Workers Get Jobs 2.1 Creates Durable Assets
Skilled Workers Get Jobs 2.1 at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in Asheville, NC, developed several assets that in the short-term served more adults and through them more teens than would have been reached by in-person activities. Best of all, the videos it created to help faculty will continue to be available when the project’s grant ends.
When its professional development workshop – Innovative Expo – had to move online in summer 2020, 100 people enrolled. Eighty-seven completed all the requirements and 32 were invited to attend the Zoom focus groups afterward. As a result, virtual presentations were given to 13 classes with 403 students.
“As a result of the virtual expo we were able to expand our reach to more instructors and more students than would have happened in a face-to-face setting,” said Pamela J. Silvers, principal investigator of Skilled Workers Get Jobs 2.1. She is a computer technologies instructor at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.
The project also created YouTube videos (https://tinyurl.com/SkWorker2) for school personnel, students, and parents. The “Quick Bite” videos for school personnel provide helpful guidance to engage students while teaching remotely. The videos are a sustainable asset that will continue to share information about STEM careers, promote science and math skills, and direct individuals to community college technician education programs.
Silvers said the high school teachers reported that they found the short videos extremely helpful for improving their pedagogy. One administrator told her that his school district will use the videos going forward for its on-boarding of new instructors.
“This would never have been possible with face-to-face meetings,” Silvers said.
SMARTT Attracts Larger, Geographically Dispersed Audience
The Smart Manufacturing for America’s Revolutionizing Technological Transformation (SMARTT) project converted its professional development workshops for online delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Materials were sent to workshop participants in advance, and hands-on activities were carried out simultaneously by participants during the online sessions from the host institution, Motlow State Community College in Smyrna, TN.
With the online conversion came a significant jump in the number and diversity of participants. Its online workshop in 2020 had 39 participants compared to 18 for each of the previous sessions.
Not only did the number of faculty participants double, the demographics of the online workshop participants were more diverse.
Participants were from 18 states and included 16 women and 20 men. Seven were Asian; five were Black; one was Hispanic; three were other races; and 22 were white. Most of the of the in-person workshop participants were White men.
SMARTT’s first workshop was held in person during 2019 with project partner Tunxis Community College in Farmington, CT. It had 16 participants from Connecticut and two from Massachusetts.
Its second 2019 workshop was held in collaboration with another partner, Tennessee Tech University, in Smyrna, TN. It had three participants from Alabama, one from Kentucky, and 14 from Tennessee.
It’s noteworthy that advertising for all three workshops was nearly the same.
Khalid Tantawi, SMARTT principal investigator, said the project plans to build on these results and the feedback from participants for future in-person workshops on the West Coast for faculty at Tribal and Hispanic-serving two-year institutions. Tantawi is a mechatronics instructor at Motlow State.