As Maintenance Practices Change, Teaching Methods Must Also Change
Working through web has and will change maintenance practices. How do we train students to learn and work through the network?
A maintenance plan is always made to the requirements of the company. It defines maintenance needs and practices. With the Internet of Things (IoT), the availability and analysis of information has become much easier. The collected data passes directly from the sensors, for example, to the cloud. If certain threshold values are exceeded, the signal indicates that something is to be reacted to. In addition, data can be better combined.
IoT has been greatly hyped. In practice, at least in Finland, larger companies can make full use of its after-sale services. Thus, the services sold are the capability to predict what must or can be done - and in addition to this, if needed, the ability to be in contact with the customer even from other side of the world.
This is the reality that we train our students of Electrical and Automation technology at Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK) to. The students must have the ability to work in large companies, but also have the capability to bring practices, that reform operations and boost competitive ability, to small and medium companies.
Working and learning through the web
Today, IoT is involved in much of the maintenance education content. Content on its own is not enough, students need to get the experience, that shows them the ease of use, possibilities and challenges of working through the web. Skills and experience are needed in addition to theoretical knowledge. If processes crucial to the company’s trade are made and controlled through the web, learning content of skills essential to the craft should also be implemented. This challenge has been answered by creating a maintenance module (15 credits) for electrical and automation studies, based on time and place independent network implementation.
HAMK's pedagogical model has its basis on phenomenon learning. It has its basis in constructivist learning concept, that states that the student always creates or constructs the knowledge. That is to say, the knowledge does not transfer from teacher to student as it is. Multidisciplinary understanding of the phenomenon, inter-science, in which different fields combine, is central. The phenomenon is studied from the perspectives of different fields, but in such a way that the yield is shared. This requires team teaching.
In addition to phenomenon learning and team teaching, modularity is important. In the pedagogical model of HAMK, instead of separate courses the lessons are compiled into 15 credit compilations, modules. For students this means about 400 work hours per module.
Goals are defined, methods not
In HAMK's pedagogical model the learning goals are defined, but the team can make the whole plan and define the methods used to reach those goals. In addition to technical studies teachers it may include for example a communication teacher. The role of the communication teacher is usually integrated to implementation of written and spoken assignments, in other words directly to the development of students’ qualifications. He or she can also act as an important resource for content teachers as support in the development of study materials.
Team teaching helps teachers to cope with constant changes, provided there is trust between the members. It also helps to try different pedagogical solutions. In the Electrical and Automation Engineering study programme, team teaching is a normal and systematic way of teaching. Development work of many years has created a culture, where teams can test different pedagogical methods. We call that an experimentation culture. It is a way to test a new way to work and develop study implementations.
Process based on interaction
So, an e-learning module for maintenance has been created, but work is just beginning and much more remains to be done. Its basis is both the changed maintenance operating model and the thought that students need to be able to learn and operate through the network. One of the main questions is: How prepared the students are for this type of studying? Experience shows that variations are wide. The experience shows that studying online requires great discipline in familiarization with the materials doing tasks on time chosen by the students, but within timeline set by the teachers. Some of the students wants to plan their studies themselves, but part of the students needs more guidance and deadlines.
The changing methods challenges the teachers. It is always easier to use the methods he/she is used to use. The change means you need to go to the discomfort zone. Role of a teacher has changed from "knowledge transferrer" to a coach. Teaching through the network requires a new type of guiding skill, as students are not left stranded. Teaching materials and assignments have to be comprehensive. For example, doing assignments after watching online lectures or videos is not enough. It is possible to do group assignments or have conversations through the web. Usually students are already in working life, so they have the opportunity to reflect on what they have learned and to create and share knowledge.
Studying by the network gives also a lot of flexibility to share and transfer the tacit knowledge. In the previous implementations part time students, who often work in the week time, had their classes Friday evenings and Saturdays. Full time student had their classes Monday to Friday at the daytime. This made the cooperation and knowledge sharing between students difficult. Now when changing the materials, discussion, tasks and group works to the network, it gives a possibility to mix the teams in different combinations. This maximize getting together different kind of ideas and experiences.
At its best, studying becomes a process where the student learns, and the teaching improves. When making most of the network while studying and creating a developmental learning model for students, we believe it will also have a transfer effect to develop new maintenance models.'
Senior Lecturer (Communications),
School of Technology,Häme University
of Applied Sciences (HAMK)
Senior Lecturer, Electrical and Automation Engineering study programme, Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK)
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