VINCENNES, Ind. – A love for teaching, a dash of creativity and a garage, this is the recipe for an amazing virtual classroom!
Vincennes University Precision Machining Technology Assistant Professor Jonathan Vennard completely transformed his garage into an incredible learning environment complete with green screens, LED lighting and multiple monitors.
Cookie-cutter videos are not this self-described YouTube junkie's style. With VU's switch to remote learning, Vennard is jazzing up the instructional videos he films for precision machining majors. He lectures with a newsroom style set behind him. He also adds graphics such as waving American flags and logos.
"I wanted to make what I do with my classroom a little more creative rather than just seeing my screen and listening to me talk monotone about the program I'm writing, we could make it more interesting and fun, and try to keep them engaged and laughing a little if we can," Vennard said.
Vennard's videos make students like Noah Hoskins feel like they are sitting in a classroom. "It is not as difficult with the videos Professor Vennard is sharing," Hoskins said. "With him sharing the videos, I can watch him do a little bit on the part then I can switch over to mine and do exactly what he did and if I do something wrong, I can watch it again and maybe catch something I did not in the first time over."
The majority of Vennard's students are balancing remote learning, while also working in essential businesses. Many work in machine shops and manufacturing facilities. Some are even helping create products that are helping in the fight against COVID-19.
"A lot of them work for companies that make medical instruments and devices," Vennard said. "Some of them have picked up production rather than slowing down. Our students not only are they still making sure they get their coursework done, they're also helping keep the gears rolling."
Hoskins, a sophomore from Crothersville, Ind., and Devyn Brown, a sophomore from Paris, Ill., are both working in machine shops. "The support from Professor Vennard and all my other professors is just incredible," Hoskins said.
The machine shop where Brown is employed is working on manufacturing air filters for masks to protect workers. "He is very in depth and does a good job of covering our material," Brown said. "Our industry is always changing and forcing us to adapt, so I feel like this is just another challenge we have to adapt to. Our CNC program at VU is one of the best, and I think that we are doing the best that we can with what we have. We are receiving a lot of support from our machining instructors. They are in constant contact with us to help or answer any questions we have. In one class, we even have an open discussion board just to talk about how we are doing at home."
By creating a student-centered learning environment that engages students, Vennard is keeping the wheels of learning turning. "Even at times of normalcy, you have that same pride in your students because you know what they're out there doing and the stuff they are working on because it's basically what keeps the gears of the economy going," Vennard said.
VU professors are being creative and keeping the lines of communications open with dynamic videos, virtual office hours, email, texts, chat rooms, phone calls, and more.