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QCC Offers Hands-On Learning Experience to Students from the Safety of Their Homes

December, 2020
  • Hands-on learning is an important part of the educational experience at QCC.
    Hands-on learning is an important part of the educational experience at QCC.

Hands-on learning is an integral part of student success at QCC. Students who have the skill sets that enable them to hit the ground running in a new job are more valued when they enter the workforce. Thus, when the College transitioned to remote instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the College’s programs developed in-home, hands-on learning modules for students to continue this important educational training.

“QCC is dedicated to providing quality education and this in-home learning module approach is a method that allows students hands-on experiences they would otherwise not be able to have in a remote environment,” said Betty Lauer, dean for the School of Business, Engineering & Technology.

Students in courses that ranged from electronics engineering technology to computer systems engineering technology, and food service, have been able to experience hands-on learning from the safety of their homes, mimicking activities they would have normally performed in an on-campus lab setting.  

“We have been reviewing our laboratory work to determine what projects can be done remotely, then modifying those projects so that students can do them at home. This is an iterative process to identify the best combinations of tasks and interaction levels for different students,” said Jacob Longacre, professor of Electronics Engineering Technology.

In some of QCC’s electronics courses, students received a learning module that included both instruments and components.  The components enabled students to build simple circuits and the instruments enabled them to make various electrical measurements. Students in the embedded microcontrollers course received components that included an Arduino programmable microcontroller, small electric motors, LEDs (single color and red-green-blue), pushbuttons, switches, a joystick, temperature sensors, and light sensors. 

“With these components students can unleash their creativity and build program projects that involve controlling light (blinking, flashing, fading, multicolor), sound, motion and temperature,” said James Heffernan, professor of Electronics Engineering Technology.

Other electronics students received “breadboards,” devices used to make up temporary circuits, as well as myDAQ, a Student Data Acquisition Device. The myDAQ is an interface that includes a comprehensive set of plug-and-play, computer-based lab instruments for hands-on student learning outside the lab.

“The myDAQ is a bit like a Swiss army knife and allows students to do a variety of problem solving and experimentation at home,” Mr. Longacre said.

In the food services programs, faculty and staff reviewed curriculum requirements and selected recipes for take-home learning modules, which demonstrated specific learning concepts and provided key academic knowledge and skills development.  The modules contained non-perishable food items, small kitchen tools and miscellaneous items to enable students to work from their homes. They were mailed to students, or students were able to pick them up at QCC at the Senior Center, where the College’s Hospitality Restaurant Management programs are housed. Students either obtained their own perishable food items or picked them up from QCC.

An example of a key learning concept in food service is the importance of cleaning protocols, required under ServSafe requirements. In the food service module, students received a “glow” powder that they sprinkled on a food prep surface they had cleaned. Then, using a mini black light also provided in the take home packet, they could see any particles that remained on the surface.

Additionally, during the upcoming Spring semester, manufacturing students will be taking certificate exams for Precision Measurement in Associate Professor Lee Duerden’s quality manufacturing course. The students will practice on measuring equipment they will receive in their “Metrology Tool Chest” that contains tools such as:

  • Tape measure
  • Rulers
  • Steel rules
  • Calipers
  • Micrometers
  • Combination sets
  • Dial Gages
  • Bore Gages

“QCC has been lucky to expand its capability and equipment in this area. Just packaging all this equipment up has proved challenging, but providing hands-on training is essential for the successful completion of this manufacturing course. It has been an incredible achievement from QCC and its faculty to provide this equipment that is so necessary to continue hands-on learning during this pandemic,” Mr. Duerden said, adding that the tool chests will be returned upon completion of the course.

“We expect to continue using this method of learning in the future. Students have really embraced the idea of learning in their own space and many students have excelled in this learning style environment,” Ms. Lauer said.