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Auto tech professor uses YouTube to educate students

Professors at Pittsburg State had to redesign courses for online delivery since face-to-face classes were cancelled in March.  

Scott Norman, automotive technology professor, is doing something different. Norman makes videos for his students and uploads them to YouTube.  

“So, our students at the beginning of the semester, let’s say for example my air conditioning class, we spend most of the beginning of the semester learning about the basics, all the different concepts, all the different things that you have to know about… the automotive conditioning before we actually go out into the shop and start working on layouts about doing the air conditioning, diagnosing, repairing, (and) stuff like that,” Norman said. “So, about the time we were about ready to go out to the lab, well the Coronavirus hit, and we couldn’t go out. So, our students missed a lot of the hands-on activities and so obviously these videos aren’t replacing those hands-on activities, nothing could, but they’re the next best thing. They are lessons that they would have… learned about… that you can’t learn from just reading the textbook. You have to be able to see it, you have to experience (it), (and) you have to look at all the different conditions on the car. I’m trying to duplicate that as best as I can. On the videos, some important concept that they’re able to watch, and then they’re gonna have to watch the videos (and) do some type of assignment related to those videos.” 

Norman hopes the videos will benefit students even after the semester ends. 

 “A couple other benefits is that now that they’re out on the net, the students, as they get their summer jobs, a lot of our students will go be technicians during the summertime and maybe they’ll do a certain procedure one time or maybe twice,” Norman said. “Well, just doing something one time or two times doesn’t make you an expert at it. So, a lot of times when they want to do that procedure on their own they kind of forget how to do it (or) they’re kind of nervous about it, it’s nice to be able to have a resource where they can really quick go watch the video, see… it done, and then (think), ‘Oh yeah, I remember how to do that’ and then they feel confident doing that.”  

Many professors and teachers around the world have turned to Zoom and are teaching lessons that way but Norman uses Zoom to go over assignments and uses the time to let students ask questions if needed.   

“… So.., normally the class meets twice a week and then we have our lab on Fridays,” Norman said. “So, let’s say our… the class on Tuesday, there will be a Zoom call in which I explain the assignments, I explain what they need to do, (and) I explain the discussion. So, I’m not really teaching on Zoom, I’m making sure that they understand what the assignments are and then they do the assignments throughout the week. They turn them in and then on the next Zoom meeting, we then debrief the assignments. After I grade them all, I can say, ‘Oh look, question number two, a lot of people got that one wrong. I need to explain that concept one more time and make sure that they understand it’.”  

The automotive technology students enjoy having the videos according to Norman.   

“… They do like the videos because, like I said, trying to read about that is like reading how to drive a car,” Norman said. “So, these videos are trying to give the students the experiences of being able to go out and do it and trying to practice as much as they can. Another thing that I did is that I’m giving the diagnostic scenarios. So.., they’re not in the lab with the vehicle in front of them so I am video taping all the different scenarios that they have to look at on a car to make a diagnostic call. So, they have to watch the videos and then they get to ask, I say 20 questions, ‘you guys get 20 questions to ask me to try to narrow down what you think this problem is’… Then they have to post what they think the problem is. So, we are simulating a job that they would actually do when they graduate. One of the jobs that our students do when they graduate is that they go work at what we call a hotline… If dealerships have problems where they can’t fix a car, they’ll car a technical hotline and they’ll talk to maybe one of our students and our students will work through trying to help diagnose these problems over the phone or over the internet. So, this is exactly what they have to do… I have a problem and I’m giving them all these different scenarios and data. Now, they have to come up with some tests that I would perform to try to pinpoint what the problem actually is.” 

Due to all the shutdowns and stay at home orders, Norman has more free times to make the videos.   

“So, being over in the Technology, the Kansas Tech Center, I have lots of different labs (and) I have lots of different equipment,” Norman said. “So, most of my day during normal business hours is working with students, working in the lab, fixing components, (and) getting lab activities ready to run. So, companies are coming in, we are hosting companies, students are coming in for… tours, (and) we… (have) lot of meetings that we go through. So, what’s nice is that with this shutdown all those other activities that I have I’m not doing right now. I’m not going to the lab to fix equipment and stuff like that. So, it’s giving me more time to concentrate on course content for my class and to video tape these lessons so the students will be able to refer back to them when they need to, if there’s a test coming up, if there’s a procedure on the lab that they have to do, (they can) watch the video before they do that and obviously if they want to refer to it sometime in the future too (they can do that).”  

This could also help graduates who may need something to reference in the future as well.   

“So, students graduate two years from now and they work in one area of the industry and maybe they move over to another area and they hadn’t been doing any technical area,” Norman said. “So, if they’re able to utilize those resources and watch those videos and be able to get more familiar with those concepts.”  

Norman hopes that this could also help bring new students to PSU.   

“…Also, this could be used as recruiting too,” Norman said. “So, I’m hoping that now that this information is out there maybe some high school students may be working on their own car and so they happen to see one of the videos and they say hey this guys from Pittsburg State University automotive… so maybe the Goggle us and they check us out and so (I’m) hoping that it helps out for recruiting also.”  

Norman’s Introduction video can be found here.

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