The global pandemic required adaptability and innovation like never before. With stay-at-home orders came the need to evolve online education and training. KU Lifelong & Professional Education’s Aerospace Short Courses were no exception. Instructors and students alike adjusted as needed to continue teaching and learning online.
Have you been considering online professional development but are unsure of its quality, effectiveness and how it will fit into your schedule? A KU Aerospace Short Courses instructor and online student break down how they have adjusted to, and found the value of, online professional development.
Quality and engagement
Pierre Trudel, system safety unit member for Boeing Defense, Space and Security in Seattle, has been teaching KU Aerospace Short Courses since 2019. While this is not Pierre’s first time delivering online instruction during his career, there is a significant difference when it comes to his KU courses: the audience. “Everyone wants to be there,” he pointed out. “Students are very active and engaged.”
As he adjusted his on-site course to an online format, he used the tools at his disposal to parallel the physical classroom experience as much as possible, as he also modified his personal instruction delivery.
“My verbal explanation has to be better online, and with cameras on, I can tell if people are picking up on the material or when confusion sets in,” he said.
Jorge Delmonte, an airworthiness/system safety engineer based out of Alabama, said he was thankful for the opportunity to be able to take a KU course online. A first-time online student, he is ready for his third course in the program as he earns multiple certificates of specialization from LPE. So far, he has completed Trudel’s System Safety Assessment for Commercial Aircraft Certification, as well as the Electrical Wiring Interconnection System (EWIS) and FAA Requirements course with classmates from across the United States, Canada, Europe, China, South Korea and more.
Delmonte said the current demand for airworthiness-related engineers with an aviation safety background and his desire to stay current on airworthiness issues ultimately led him to KU.
“KU has a multitude of courses and certifications, which allow you to practice your profession more consistently,” Delmonte said. “In these courses, everything directly applies to the real world. Instructors either have used these concepts, are using them or are about to.”
Delmonte credits Zoom, KU’s facilitators and Trudel for enabling group work and breakout sessions, which allow for more engagement with fellow students and instructors, mimicking the in-person experience.
“If your instructors know their material and are passionate about what they teach, then they can be just as effective behind the computer as they are in person,” Delmonte said. “The same goes for the student: If he or she is motivated to learn, how the material is presented shouldn’t make a difference.”
Courses usually take place twice a week, which Delmonte said is very reasonable for a working professional.
“The online course schedule gives students some recovery time,” Trudel said. “Meeting a couple of nights a week gives students time to refresh.”
Trudel also offers a third optional session each week dedicated to discussion for his system safety course. This gives students a chance to ask questions, further discuss concepts covered in the course and learn from fellow students, such as when Delmonte was invited to participate in a discussion session to share experiences as a safety practitioner.
Online coursework not only provides convenience, it also makes high-quality education available to a much wider audience.
“This opens doors for students in other parts of the world that may be prohibited from travel for whatever reason,” Delmonte said. “It helps eliminate barriers to proliferate this knowledge.
Delmonte mentioned when it comes to airworthiness and aviation safety another benefit of more courses being widely accessible to geographically diverse participants is building a foundation of consistency in different parts of the world.
“This opens up a new era in teaching that makes our training more accessible to a greater audience,” Trudel said. “To be able to sit at your desk and reach people all over the world is unprecedented. This is the next evolution of teaching.”
As Trudel looks at his children’s experience over the past year as well as what he has observed as an online instructor for adults, he’s noticed an acute need for accessibility of the instructor.
“I make sure to be accessible through office hours, email, or personal phone calls if you’d rather,” he said. “People are often surprised at my willingness to respond to all their questions and make sure they're satisfied.”
Trudel is dedicated to providing the highest quality of instruction and has noticed students benefit from online learning, particularly introverts and those who prefer a variety of learning methods. And he doesn’t see this variety going away. Moving forward, Trudel says he looks forward to a mix of in-person and online offerings.
With quality, flexibility and accessibility intact, the next step is to register. For students like Delmonte, now is the time to take advantage of online professional development.
“This was the first time I found myself having to take online schooling,” Delmonte said. “I was open to trying it and seeing how it goes. Apparently, it worked because now I want to do it again!”