Many resources are available to help welding instructors transition to a virtual platform during COVID-19 pandemic. Getty Images
Q: As an educator, what are some resources I could use that would help provide welding instruction online?
A: For several years people have been pushing for the lecture portions of welding classes to be available online or as a flipped classroom, where the student does the lecture and reading assignments at home before class. Most instructors (me included) put up a strong resistance to this change in favor of our traditional delivery methods. But as we’ve faced the reality of COVID-19, all of those old-school, traditional instruction ideals are no longer feasible. In short, online welding instruction has now become a necessary reality.
One of the first groups to respond were my friends from the Weld-Ed Educational Affiliates Network. The National Center for Welding Education and Training (Weld-Ed) originally started with a grant from the National Science Foundation and has been a resource for instructors for several years. You can find content on its main web page or on one of its Facebook pages, Weld-Ed and Weld-Ed Resource Center. These sites have hosted several virtual meetings providing instructors with necessary resources and ideas on how to set up their classrooms online.
Many major welding equipment manufacturers offer instructional videos and other educational content online. For example, the Welding Education Resource Center on Lincoln Electric’s website includes the U/Linc online welding curriculum through Tooling U-SME. And Lincoln Electric Education Partner Schools (LEEPS) certification program in partnership with the National Coalition of Certification Centers teamed up with other industry leaders to form the CTE Coalition, offering free resources to all instructors during the COVID-19 crisis.
ESAB’s online Knowledge Center, along with the ESAB University, provides access to its online welding technology courses and handbooks. Miller Electric offers the OpenBook free learning management system that includes e-learning modules, hands-on labs, and quizzes that instructors can use to create their own course curriculum paths. Most of the other equipment suppliers offer educational resources from their main web pages as well. Check them out and see which ones work best for you.
Social media sites also offer welding content for instructors. Look for welding instructor groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. YouTube has almost unlimited welding instruction videos both from the equipment manufacturers as well as individuals. It is important for instructors to preview and vet these videos before assigning them to students because the quality and content vary considerably!
The American Welding Society offers several resources for instructors. Both the member forum and the instructor’s forum offer information, help, and viewpoints from members throughout the world.
Finally, your most important resource is your network of colleagues. I knew only a few other welding instructors within a 50-mile radius of where I taught during my first few years in teaching. When I began to attend conferences, tradeshows like FABTECH, and manufacturers’ workshops, I became friends with instructors from across the nation, and my network of information and resources expanded.
Take the time to review these resources, reach out to others in this education community, ask for help, and offer it when you are able. We are all in this together.