09/25/2020 by Val D'Anna
Industry-recognized training that gets graduates jobs is the appeal of I-CAR’s® collision repair curriculum for technical schools; and I-CAR’s work with state boards of education and private and public technical schools has led to widespread use of its Professional Development Program-Education Edition (PDP-EE). Now, for the very unexpected reason of a pandemic that forced a shift to remote instruction, educators have even more reason to value the PDP-EE. That’s because the PDP-EE is partially structured with learning modules and end-of-program exams that are online. 
Wrapping up last spring semester and planning for the 2020-21 academic year was a lot less stressful for PDP-EE educators. While their peers teaching other programs scrambled to set up live streaming of lectures and figure out how to handle homework and tests, PDP-EE educators and their students had far fewer adjustments to make.
When the Salt Lake Community College campus shut down in the middle of last spring semester, educator Kirk Miller says, “The PDP-EE saved our bacon!”  He explained that students continued working on online coursework then returned in summer, when the campus reopened, to wrap up remaining labs. All but one student completed the online PDP-EE end of program exam.
“My associate dean told me I had better resources (with the PDP-EE) than most teachers at the school. He told me I was lucky, and I am,” Miller says. This fall semester, Miller is relying on PDP-EE live course teaching materials and 3M videos to conduct his non-structural class, which is at full capacity. To practice social distancing, he’s holding class in the shop and jokes because his students have clipboards instead of desks, they stay alert, with no place to lay their heads down.
The PDP-EE also made a big difference last spring to second-year students at Contra Costa College, San Pablo, California, who took the PDP-EE end-of-program exams online. “They were able to finish the program and graduate,” Laura Lozano, professor and Automotive Department co-chair, said. Planning for the 2020-21 year, “given the uncertainties, we decided not to offer classes that might have to be cancelled. It was not an easy decision, but we knew time was better spent planning for one thing, which is online.” Being able to offer online resources like the PDP-EE “was the deciding factor for offering collision repair this fall,” according to Lozano.
Students at North Idaho College started the 2020-21 school year on campus receiving live instruction and practicing social distancing and other safety measures. Normally, educator Cal DeHaas would start new students in the PDP-EE’s Intro Series, but he’s focusing on hands-on learning and delaying online coursework in the event “I need to draw upon it at a later date. COVID is a moving target and unpredictable. I am very grateful to have the PDP-EE available to supplement our curriculum.” 
“If we didn’t have the PDP-EE,” Joe Dietrich at Wenatchee Valley Technical Skills Center, Wenatchee, Washington, says, “I have no idea how we would approach next year (2020-21).” Although he has the ability to hold class virtually, he says it would be difficult to teach without the PDP-EE. “It makes it a lot easier with the PDP-EE classes all set up. It’s huge having an online component, with industry certification tied to it.”  
With Dietrich’s first- and second-year classes full, each with 30 students, live instruction could only be provided to half of the students at a time, with the other half working remotely online. In the school lab, students will work on cars. If live labs cannot be held, Dietrich hopes to provide door panels and tools for students to work on at home. 
The University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College is opening for college-level students this fall, and the PDP-EE “gives the option of having classes in Zoom or Teams,” educator Jacob Standley says. “We rely heavily on online training for the theory side but have other means of training and testing.” After gaining foundational knowledge from the PDP-EE and completing hands-on work on campus ("There is no substitute for hands on training,” Standley stresses), second semesters students go on to internships. 
Due to high level of COVID cases in Arizona, educator David Melian at West-MEC, Phoenix, explained the 2020-21 school year started with all instruction done virtually until the school was cleared to open by the state. Using Zoom meetings and Google classroom, Melian didn’t skip a beat, covering the PDP-EE curriculum just as he would have done so live in the classroom. “I feel using the PDP-EE allows a much more structured resource in which to present lessons to students online. I am grateful there are resources like this.” 
Reflecting on how much faculty and students have had to adapt and the hard decisions that had to made at Contra Costa College, Lozano sees something good resulting. “Knowing how to put it all together, combining curated materials and your own, understanding CANVAS (the school’s learning management system) and the online teaching process better…I felt that it enhanced our programs, that we learned how to use resources better. I hope to build a better hybrid collision repair program with a better experience for the student.”