If only all students were as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as this little pom is for distance learning!

Welcome back to our distance learning tips exclusive, featuring experts from community colleges all over the country! 

In part one, we explored a little bit of Bitmoji with Gogebic Community College. We also took a deep dive into hands-on CTE with Barstow Community College and discovered insider classroom management tips with Sierra College. If you missed it, be sure to check out part one here: 9 Breakthrough Hacks You Really Need to Know for Fearless Virtual Learning!

In this month’s installment, get ready for some drool-worthy tips on taking culinary classes to cooking show with Leeward Community College, part of the University of Hawai‘i. And, we’ll enjoy some pro tips on promoting interaction online with South Texas College, while Mendocino College holds down the virtual fort when it comes to collaboration.

Buckle your seatbelts! You’re in for an exciting virtual ride. Bring your favorite digital tablet to take notes. And for extra credit, have an orange and a paring knife handy! Just kidding. Please leave the fruit basket carving to the professionals! ????

Part 2: Going the Distance with Distance Learning Tips

A cat giving a grumpy look to a computer. The text bubble says, "Ugh. The internet."
How we all felt when our lives went suddenly online, 24-7

Culinary, nursing, and physical therapist assistant programs — oh my! How did professors launch these intensive hands-on classes into the cloud? With determination, innovation and a whole lot of guts!

  1. Find out how to MacGyver an online teaching and cooking experience. Matthew Egami, Culinary Instructor at Leeward Community College, shares his key takeaways from teaching his classes online. There’s no need to feel fricasseed with a top community college chef keeping things crispy!
  2. Learn how to keep courses hands-on, virtually and beyond, with South Texas College. The Director of the RN-to-BSN Program, Dr. Christie Candelaria, shares some clutch online teaching tools… And the true secret to keeping her classroom interactive.
  3. If you think a Physical Therapist Assistant program can’t go the distance online, think again. Program Director Sara Bogner at Mendocino College shares how she fosters a strong classroom community on screen.

Experience is the Best Teacher: How Leeward Community College Culinary Went Cooking Show

An image of Chef Matt in the school's cooking lab about to record for distance learning.
Chef Matthew Egami in the kitchen!

The sudden closing of campuses last March hit all of our colleges hard, but it was especially onerous for colleges in the University of Hawai‘i system, where classes are modular.

“We had the first week of the second module, and then it was spring break, and then the shut down happened,” explains Matthew Egami, Culinary Instructor at Leeward. “It was really odd timing for us.”

Over the summer, instructors spent countless hours assessing how spring went and making the next semester better. For teachers, the biggest challenge was how to keep high-quality instruction, despite having to go HD. “With culinary, what was missing was that kinesthetic part,” explains Matthew. “That was our biggest challenge.”

How Culinary Cooked its Way Through Campus Closure with Seriously Savory Innovation

Four students cook simultaneously on Zoom during distance learning.
The Great Hawai‘i Cook Off! Students showcase their stuff on Zoom.

Luckily, the school could go hybrid in fall 2020, but spring was tricky because it was totally online. So, Matthew came up with a comprehensive schedule to get cooking with digital classtime:

  • Mondays: Online lectures would prep students for everything they would need that week.
  • Monday nights: Matthew would pack up ingredient bags for students until 9 p.m.!
  • Tuesdays: Students would schedule a time to come, one by one, to pick up their bags. As part of their goodies, they also received separate taste-testing containers of the dish of the week.
  • Wednesdays: This was dish demo day, where Matthew would show how to cook the feast from start to finish.
  • Thursdays: Students would split up into Zoom groups and show off their cooking skills as Matthew observed to give feedback on technique. In a different lab, students submitted video recordings of their kitchen work instead.

“I had the most MacGyver setup,” recalls Matthew. “I had my iPad hanging from the ceiling and one laptop here and my phone on a tripod here to give them some different angles.”

Watch Matthew demo how to make a fruit basket in class!

According to the intrepid instructor, he was not the only one working overtime to rock online teaching. In fact, one of his fellow instructors took the challenge as an opportunity to kick start his own YouTube channel! 

“I’m really proud of what we did,” says Matthew. “Given the situation, especially that super quick turnaround, we did an excellent job.”

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Chiffon

It’s no secret that culinary connoisseurs are adept at taking the ingredients life hands them and making spectacular feasts, a la Iron Chef. For Matthew, the virtual teaching experience has similarly expanded what he thought was possible.

Beyond making him a Zoom aficionado, Matthew says, “The biggest takeaway from all of this is that we can do things differently, and it can work… It unlocked a lot of barriers to making modernizations.”

Students cooking meals to feed the hungry. Two student chefs are grilling up a feast!
Chef Matt Egami’s Fundamentals of Cookery II class cooked, packed and donated 30 meals a day for local non-profit Aloha Harvest last November. @leewardculinary on Instagram.

Learning from Experience: Savvy Tips to Make Instruction Stronger, Online & Beyond

1. Ditch Distance Learning Perfectionism, Embrace the Possibilities

Matthew’s top tip for teaching classes online?

If he could take a time machine back to March 2020, the instructor would tell himself to stop overthinking it and trying to make everything perfect. 

Even though they were online, classes were, after all, still classes. And besides cooking, teaching is what culinary instructors do best. “Regardless if we’re in person or online, you’re still the expert — you still know what you’re doing.”

2. Learn from Your Successes

And if Matthew could take a time machine into next year?

He says that you would see a new thing or two that he picked up during the pandemic for moving forward. For example, he’s committed to recording all of his cooking demos from here on out. 

“I find that it’s really beneficial to students,” says the innovative instructor. “Now, they can go back and watch it over and over again, so that’s definitely one thing I absolutely plan on continuing.”

Distance Learning Du Jour

For Matthew, online instruction brings a new flavor that is here to stay on the menu.

“This really opened a lot of eyes for people to see that you can give good-quality education even in an online environment as long as you have the right strategies.”

The University of Hawai‘i has an innovative Teaching Online Preparation Program team. Check out this video from last summer’s professional development camp for faculty and staff. It will make you laugh, and it will totally get stuck in your head!

South Texas College Puts Interactive into the Internet

A student on her laptop for distance learning.
Thanks to distance learning this year, students didn’t have to stop!

For the RN-to-BSN Program Director at South Texas College, Dr. Christie Candelaria has always kept an engaging classroom. 

Her first secret is making sure participants feel welcome. She gets to know her students and addresses them by their preferred names. The professor also cultivates inclusion by showing respect to all of her learners and being a role model.

Virtual Experience

When it comes to hands-on in health care, she provides plenty of active learning situations to the virtual classroom.

“In nursing education, it is vital that students are able to apply what they learn in classrooms and skills labs to actual situations in clinical areas,” says Christie.

Students in the program take advantage of high-fidelity simulations across the curriculum, including virtual clinical experiences to fulfill requirements. These simulations span numerous client scenarios, and afterward, students take a quiz to help them debrief and evaluate what they learned.

Tool Tips: Christie’s Top 3 Distance Learning Apps

Blackboard discussions are just the beginning. Christie also has a wide array of interactive tools at her disposal to make learning online engaging:

1. Padlet Power

Padlet is a web app where students can post and share images, text, and even videos on digital walls. The possibilities are virtually endless! From collaborative note-taking to a class document hub, the app has a variety of uses. It especially comes in handy for engaging group activities, including gathering and collaborating on research.

This primary school teacher gives a great how-to on using Padlet for learners of all ages!

2. Flipgrid Sparks Distance Learning Conversations

In this Microsoft-powered app, teachers can set up grids, which are communities or hubs for students. Within each grid, instructors create prompts where students can post short video responses and reply to each other. It’s a great way to share work and build community. And, it’s free, simple and accessible.

Flipgrid made easy with a YouTube tutorial.

3. Powtoon Makes Picture-Perfect Presentations

Combine “PowerPoint” and “Cartoon,” and you’ll instantly understand the name of this app and how it works. For creating engaging animated presentations that are anything but “death by PowerPoint,” Powtoon is a great choice. And, basic features are free!

Turning presentations into cartoons is a cinch with this tutorial!

The Heart of Distance Learning

Online learning tools are clutch. Yet, for Christie, creating truly engaging classes is all about heart.

“I have no personal secret. The teaching strategies I use in my classes are driven by my passion for sharing my knowledge and skills with my students,” says the instructor. “It is my desire for my students to become life-long learners and innovators. “

Making Physical Therapy Virtually Successful: How Mendocino College Collaborates

Students in the PTA class Zoom during distance learning.
Many screens, one big happy Zoom PTA classroom

For the brand-new Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Mendocino College, the campus closed right in the middle of its first semester. Luckily, the program was built to be hybrid, so the virtual switch went on without a hitch… And without sacrificing collaboration.

According to Program Director Sara Bogner, “Collaboration is one key to successful learning, especially in an online environment.”

The Students that Study Together Succeed Together: How to Build Collaboration

1. Connecting in Distance Learning

Some of Sara’s tips and tricks include encouraging students to form small online study groups. They will typically connect through Zoom, text and more. 

“In the online environment, it is easy for students to feel isolated,” shares Sara. “Having peer groups helps keep everyone actively involved in the learning process.”

2. Group Projects Build Relationships and Skills

Plus, each course has at least one large group project at the end of the semester. Depending on the class, groups have between two and four students, which helps learners get to know each other.

The group projects foster collaboration and so much more. Students also hone their interpersonal and teamwork skills while taking a deep dive into the topic at hand.

3. Welcoming Ideas and Faculty Feedback

Students also share ideas on the discussion board, where there is a special place to offer instructor feedback. And teachers respond right away by making changes in the course as needed. Not only does the process make students feel like valued members of the community, but it also enriches the curriculum!

Now, PTA students can do labs by going the social distance.

Community is Key

For Sara, the bedrock of virtual teaching is creating community.

“The most important aspect of successful online learning is student inclusion,” says the director. She says it takes both peer collaboration and interaction with the instructor to ensure student success. “If a student feels alone in an online class, their chances of success are significantly lower. 

“Online courses should be designed to allow the students to know and regularly interact with each other and the instructor.”

Distance Learning Tips Takeaways:

A Pomeranian pooch with glasses and a sweater by a laptop. A cartoon bubble says, "Virtual? I got this."
After a year of distance learning, we’ve all gotten more tech savvy!
  1. Ditch Perfectionism, Embrace the Possibilities: Try not to overthink it, and be confident in your ability to teach, no matter the platform.
  2. Learn from Your Successes: What did you learn from virtual teaching to take forward into all of your classes?
  3. Padlet Power: Try the Padlet app to bolster student engagement and collaboration in group activities.
  4. Flipgrid Sparks Virtual Conversations: A short video can make a big difference. Use this creative app where students can share videos, interacting with the content and their peers.
  5. Powtoon Makes Picture-Perfect Presentations: Jazz up your lectures with animation.
  6. Connecting in Student Groups: From study groups to a support network, encourage learners to collaborate.
  7. Group Projects Build Relationships and Skills: Collaborations provide rich experiences. Plus, they also build soft skills while engaging in active learning.
  8. Welcoming Ideas and Faculty Feedback: Do you have a place for students to give feedback to faculty? It’s a fantastic way to make students feel like valued community members while enriching your courses.

That’s All for Distance Learning Tips Part Two… But It’s Not Over Yet!

Stay tuned for the finale and part three, which will be an East-Coast-Community-College extravaganza! 

  • Join Wayne Community College and learn how to keep students motivated in the online classroom. 
  • Wallace State Community College will give us the 411 on providing outstanding student support in the virtuals. 
  • And finally, we’ll fine-tune expectations and time management in online learning with the Community College of Beaver County.

Don’t want to wait? Check out these posts:

Want to share your online teaching tips? Email reachout@interactcom.com for a chance to be featured in our next blog or on social media!

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By Published On: April 14, 2021Last Updated: April 4, 2022Categories: Blog ArticlesTags: