Not long ago, the idea of online learning for sheet metal workers seemed like an unattainable goal. With hands-on experience as the crux of the trade, how could online learning help apprentices gain their education and journeymen continue it without a classroom, books and an instructor in a live environment?
The International Training Institute (ITI), like many other schools across the country, uses the modular object-oriented dynamic learning environment, or Moodle, an online learning portal, to bring original curriculum to its students. Moodle is free for members in good standing; works on any operating system and web browser, including mobile devices; and allows students to move at their own pace.
“If we develop the classes, they’ll be free to our members and available to them anytime,” said Mike Harris, ITI program administrator. “We can put any type of class on there, even if it’s as simple as video of a speech or lecture. It can be as complex as you want it to be. It’s a pretty flexible system.”
To date, classes offered have included: supervisor training, Fire Life Safety Level I and Level II Technician, foreman training, AutoCAD exercise, and safety classes such as residential safety, electrical safety and the Big 4 + 2. Additional courses are in the works for 2016.
Members can create a member profile on the ITI website, sheetmetal-iti.org.
“It’s just about workers going in and trying to bone up on their skills,” said Larry Lawrence, field representative for the ITI. “It’s also good for those who are in more rural areas.”
Once classes are finished, it’s up to the student – apprentice or journeyman – to report their completion to their local’s training center coordinator to note it and award any continuing education units earned.
Lecture scenario classes work well in Moodle, allowing students to take section tests as often as it takes to pass them, Lawrence said.
“If a journeyman wants to take the foreman training course and doesn’t want to go to the training center, they can take it on Moodle,” he added.
Welding courses are on the horizon for the Moodle, including those to help certified welding inspectors (CWI) maintain their certifications.
“When you become a CWI, every nine years you have to have continuing education units, at least 20 units in the last three-year period,” Harris said. “The goal is to put at least the last 20 units on the Moodle to help CWIs achieve that milestone.”
The demand from members for online courses led to the use of the Moodle, and demand also will dictate how many additional classes will be available on the portal.
“Now we’re seeing more need in this direction, and I think we’re going to push for it,” Harris said. “It’s being used in different ways. The more classes we get on the Moodle, the more people will use it that way.”