Teaching and Learning Online during Crisis

Faculty, students and staff adapt to COVID-19 pandemic

On Thursday, March 12, 2020, Chancellor Devinder Malhotra announced that 30 Minnesota State colleges and universities would suspend their in-class instruction due to the COVID-19 global outbreak. Dakota County Technical College and the Minnesota State system office continue to take action to limit the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Students, faculty and staff at DCTC have worked together to make the transition from on-campus instruction in classrooms and labs to teaching and learning online. Technology Services at the college is showing students how to succeed via alternative modes of learning, including D2L Brightspace and Zoom Web-conferencing. Information regarding reduced-cost computers and laptops, reduced-rate data services, and free and reduced-cost software is also available.

Minnesota State is delivering support via Student Technology Help during COVID-19. Guides for students cover D2L Brightspace, Kaltura MediaSpace, Zoom and Office 365. The Minnesota Office of Higher Education offers Resources for Colleges, Faculty, Staff, and Students for COVID-19. The OHE site itemizes crucial information related to:

  • Help Finding Assistance
  • Financial Support
  • Student Loan Payment Assistance
  • Food Resources and Support
  • Healthcare and Insurance
  • Legal/Minnesota Courts
  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Child Care
  • Internet and Technology Support
  • Mental Health/Psychological First Aid
  • Survivors of Domestic Violence
  • Transportation
  • Utilities
  • Scams and Price Gouging

Jason Wetzel serves as dean of transportation, construction and manufacturing at DCTC. Jason oversees 16 programs at the college, six in the Transportation department and 10 in the Construction & Manufacturing department. He understands the importance of securing academic continuity during the pandemic.

“This crisis has tested our creativity and initiative as a campus,” Jason said. “Our faculty have answered the call with innovative ways to keep the online classroom fresh and effective. They have used technology to challenge and educate their students in unique ways. It is fun to watch our instructors find new opportunities in a difficult situation.”

Director perspective…

Martin Springborg
Director of Teaching and Learning
Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College

Martin Springborg began teaching in the Minnesota State system in 2002; his teaching career began at Inver Hills. Martin started working in the field of faculty development in 2007 as a program director at the Minnesota State Center for Teaching and Learning. His interests include techniques for the assessment of student learning, teaching and learning with technology, and student engagement in both traditional and online classrooms.

During the COVID-19 crisis, faculty have relied heavily on the services highlighted on Teaching Continuity pages at both colleges. These pages are accessible from the Faculty Resources sites (see below). Most recently at DCTC, the Faculty Teaching Online Community of Practice has brought faculty together across disciplines to learn about online instruction. This has been very helpful. There are no preset agendas; faculty simply bring their questions, or come to share their successes, and my job is facilitating the sessions at DCTC.

Martin Springborg

Faculty have also relied heavily on one-on-one consultations with myself and other Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) staff. We have seen faculty every day since the shelter-in-place order went into effect, but especially in the two weeks following our regularly scheduled spring break. We’ve helped faculty adjust from communicating with students almost solely in person to entirely online, via Web-conferencing tools such as Zoom. We’ve also helped faculty who’ve never taught online begin to build online courses where students can access course content and assessments.

We have a couple events scheduled in the near future that are in direct response to faculty need we’ve seen emerge in the last month. One is a two-day webinar on using D2L Brightspace and other technology such as Zoom, MediaSpace and Microsoft Teams. The webinar is scheduled for May 20–21, 2020. We are also organizing a Summer Online Course Design Institute, which will run June 8–24, 2020.

Center for Teaching and Learning resources available to all faculty at DCTC and Inver Hills:
  • DCTC Faculty Resources (tutorials, articles and assistance available to any faculty member on their own)
  • Inver Hills Faculty Resources (tutorials, articles, and assistance available to any faculty member on their own)
  • D2L Brightspace Trainings (every fall and spring semester)
  • Faculty Mentoring Groups (year round)
  • Faculty Teaching Online Community of Practice (year round)
  • Transparency Community of Practice (spring 2020)
  • CTL Grants such as the OER/Z-Degree at Inver Hills (as funding is available for special projects)
  • One-On-One Consultation with CTL Staff (year round)

Faculty perspective…

Matthew Boudinot
Automotive Technician Faculty
Dakota County Technical College

Matt Boudinot not only teaches courses in the college’s Automotive Technician program, he also graduated from the program in 1998. Matt joined the program’s faculty in 2014. He is an ASE Master Certified Technician with 13 years of experience in the industry.

We have made some drastic changes in the way our students are accustomed to learning. Students in our program prefer that most course content is delivered in a hands-on manner. We needed to shift to an online delivery method due to the governor’s March executive order to close schools to all students. This has been quite the task not only for the instructors, but also for the students.

Matt Boudinot

One major consideration we as instructors had to make was understanding that our students may have experienced changes to their work schedules due to the COVID-19 crisis. Our delivery needed to adapt to the needs of students who could not attend our live lectures. Luckily, our program has been recording lectures for a year now, and we felt confident in our ability to meet this challenge.

However, we needed to expand the recordings to include hands-on demonstrations that we perform in our garages on our personal vehicles. Our instructors had to check out tools from campus to bring home to complete these recordings and live demonstrations.

We have also incorporated Kahoot, a quizzing tool, to review topic content in a more interactive way. Online resources like Cengage Unlimited and Electude have been essential to help cover core content theory in an interactive way. We use Zoom and Microsoft Teams for live daily lectures and demonstrations. Some of us use Microsoft Teams to be able to communicate with students in a more interactive and responsive manner (instant messaging, etc.).

We also use videos in Kaltura MediaSpace to build interactive videos with embedded quizzes. Most of us still use lab sheets that students must use to complete hand-on tasks, either on their own vehicles or in a shop where they’re employed. We also must thank our service and repair reference providers, ALLDATA, Identifix, MotoLOGIC and Chilton Car Care, for giving our students remote access to what would normally be limited to campus-only access.

With these changes to the delivery of our course content, we know that students and instructors will have to put in extra effort to achieve success. On the bright side of this situation, we have learned some new ways to offer more interactive content that we will continue to use once we return to the more hands-on methods of teaching our curriculum.

Student perspective…

Jessie Sweeney
Automotive Technician Major
Dakota County Technical College

Jessie Sweeney is earning her Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Automotive Technician. Jessie is on track to graduate from DCTC spring semester 2020. She will be returning to the college in the fall to start the Auto Body Collision Technology program.

As a student in the Automotive Technician program during this crisis, I did make some changes in the way I attended school, and I did spend more time on the computer completing my schoolwork. I also spent more time this semester researching on my own. I had done some distance learning in the past, but in regard to this subject, a hands-on approach is an extremely crucial part in learning the skills and techniques required to service and repair vehicles.

Most of my fellow classmates work in the automotive industry. They have access to and work on, repair and/or service customer vehicles on a daily basis. Those of us who do/did not have access to a garage dressed out with lifts and all the tools a mechanic would ever need had a number of problems to solve. If it were not for the skills, knowledge and patience of our teachers, and other college staff and faculty, we probably would not have as many successful students, either graduating or moving on to the next semester.

Fortunately, I have a vehicle at home that is in need of some minor work, but I do not have a garage or the extra tools and equipment for specialty work and testing. Perseverance comes to mind when you’re faced with challenges like we have been. You have to take each step and think: what can be done and how can I do it?

I think we had an advantage over many other programs in our school since our teachers have been improving and upgrading the way they teach and present each topic. All of our teachers have made a multitude of changes to improve the Automotive Technician program itself and to help the students succeed—from taping daily classroom lectures to the videoing of hands-on training and live demonstrations from the school’s shop (previously recorded) or their home garages to the use of online tools like Kahoot (a quiz tool used to help us review what we have learned), to obtaining remote access from four automotive repair references for the students to use from home.

We also use several online resources, including Electude, Cengage, Chrysler, Subaru, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, with assigned training to complete for each subject or topic. Also, the use of both Zoom and Microsoft Teams gave us a modern approach to online learning and communication, greater access to the teachers, and a better variety of online tools to use.

Another major difference for us now is that we all have to learn independently. This is another challenge. While attending classes at school, we were paired up in teams of two or three students to work on shop assignments. We had our team tool carts, and we had access to specialty tools and resources that most home auto mechanics only on dream of owning.

Since the implementation of the stay-at-home order went into effect, we are now having to complete these shop assignments independent of others. This process in some cases takes longer and is more thought provoking to complete the job—not because it’s terribly difficult to do, but as students we learn together and help each other, all while completing the assignment.

Learn more about the Center for Teaching and Learning at DCTC and Inver Hills by contacting:

Martin Springborg
Director of Teaching and Learning
DCTC Email
Inver Hills Email
DCTC Phone: 651-423-8659
Inver Hills Phone: 651-450-3628

Learn more about the Automotive Technician program at DCTC by contacting:

Jeffrey Copeland
Automotive Technology Faculty

Scott Anderson
Automotive Technician Faculty

Matt Boudinot
Automotive Technician Faculty

Crist Siebenaler
AUTM Faculty