forever forward: Innotech college’s reaction to the covid-19 isolation requirements. 

 

With the increasing spread of COVID-19 in Alberta, and globally, InnoTech College has prioritized the continuing education of their students with the implementation of a remote-class delivery plan. 

“The emphasis is on our commitment to our students receiving the highest standard of education as possible, despite the COVID-19 crisis,” said CEO, Julie Rubin. 

Rubin also stated that the college is committed to its staff, and that all staff members have remained employed.

Warren Uhrich, the instructor for the Web Development Diploma program at InnoTech College in Edmonton, is one such employee.   

Thanks to the ability to borrow technology and teaching aides from the campus, Uhrich is set up and ready to teach from the comfort of his living room.  But preparing to teach wasn’t too far a stretch for him.  As the program he teaches is technology based, he already had the basics on hand.

 “I’ve upgraded my set up a little bit, with a nicer microphone and better lighting, but it’s been a pretty smooth transition,” he said over a Zoom video chat on the afternoon of March 27.Web Development Diploma - Warren Uhrich

After receiving notice from the Government of Alberta that all post-secondary institutions would be closing due to the spread of COVID-19 in the province, InnoTech restructured their organization in a single day.

Classes at InnoTech have been in full session, full steam ahead since going virtual on March 16.

Being a smaller, private college certainly has its advantages.

“We’ve hardly noticed any interruption in our delivery at all, and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon,” said Uhrich.

Larger post-secondary institutions such as the University of Calgary, SAIT, NAIT, and Athabasca University, took up to three days to organize an online lecture delivery setup, and are still encountering issues with remote access to networks, and available licensing to the software students need to complete their work. Some are even cutting program requirements short, due to an inability to adapt. 

The Web Development Diploma program is one based heavily in technology, so the transition for students has been relatively seamless.  Most students are already confident with navigating various software and programs on the internet, such as Zoom, which is the platform InnoTech uses to deliver its online lessons.

And, while Uhrich admitted that typing on a virtual whiteboard has a different feel then scribbling with this regular board, he feels the Zoom chat classroom gives students a chance to collectively learn in a way that they didn’t get to in the classroom. An unexpected happy accident.

“When a student encounters an issue while they’re working on an assignment, or while they’re following along with a lecture, I can have them screen share, and then everyone in class gets to see the full problem or error encountered, and the steps to arrive at a solution.  In a [normal] classroom, often I’m helping people out [individually], and people don’t get to see those steps.”

While it is uncertain as to how long it will take for Calgary’s economy to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is clear: technology isn’t going anywhere.  If anything, the industry will only get stronger, especially in Alberta. 

As per a recent estimate by Calgary Economic Development, there are currently between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs available in the Alberta tech industry. Within the last two weeks, businesses in most industries have had to revert to working remotely.  The pressure has been on to make these arrangements as efficient as possible to ensure that these businesses continue to operate and generate revenue.  File sharing platforms, along with the web security required to keep information secure, means having employees specifically trained in different tech areas is crucial.

Now, more than ever, people are relying on social media and the internet for everything from entertainment, to ordering toilet paper, to having food delivered to their doors.  The programs, websites and apps for these services need to be built, and rebuilt, and maintained in order to continue servicing people around the globe. 

The Web Development Diploma at InnoTech not only teaches students the skills required to work in this industry, but they do so in just six months, meaning that graduates can start earning wages much sooner than those in a four-year program.

Uhrich agreed, saying that while overall the tech industry is an exciting and accessible one, it’s especially so in present times when being able to work and learn remotely is key to success. 

“If a student ends up freelancing or working for a company overseas, this is a great introduction to something closer to what that experience might be like.  You might not be face to face with a client, or your supervisor or your boss, but you’re still able to work with them and walk through things with them,” Uhrich explained.

“This is certainly adding on to their experience toolbelt” when referring to students’ current virtual classroom experience.

Technology hasn’t slowed down, nor has InnoTech’s desire to keep their classes full and functioning at full-steam.  New and prospective students wanting to learn more about the programs offered have the ability to meet with enrollment staff via video for an information appointment, where they’ll learn about the curriculum, the industry, the instructors, funding information, and the enrollment process.

 

By Keane Straub. 

 

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