THE-ICE members tackle placements & practical classes during the pandemic

THE-ICE members tackle placements & practical classes during the pandemic

THE-ICE Webinar Series has resumed, with Webinar 8 drawing 28 attendees from 12 leading tourism, hospitality, events, and culinary arts (TH&E) educational institutions of THE-ICE member network in 9 countries to discuss the ‘tricky bits’ of curriculum management during the COVID-19 crisis, with a focus on internships, placements, and practical classes.

On Thursday, 27th August 2020, attendees of THE-ICE Webinar Series 8: The ‘Tricky Bits’ of Curriculum Management During the Crisis heard from expert presenters Ms Olivia Turner (Academic Director, Dubai College of Tourism, United Arab Emirates) and Mr John Daly (Director of Quality Assurance, Swiss Education Group, Switzerland) about delivering internships, placements, and practical classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms Turner and Mr Daly shared their institutions’ experiences of adapting skills-based courses for online teaching, managing on-the-job education during the crisis, and developing content and reinventing curriculum to accommodate postponed or adapted placements and practical coursework.

In-webinar polling showed that the vast majority of attendees’ institutions use an internship programme. Within that, 1/3 respondents shared that they have been able to maintain their internship programme during COVID-19, while the remaining 2/3 have changed how they offer their internship programme.

Presenters and attendees identified the key hurdles and successes that institutions experienced in switching and/or adjusting placement programmes and practical courses:

  • Offering internships/placements and practical classes in an online environment, without sacrificing learning outcomes or student experience
  • Ensuring student access to resources off-campus
  • Leveraging existing partnerships and engaging all stakeholders
  • Benefits of virtual delivery of practical classes and placements

Within these areas, the following key takeaways were highlighted:

Offering internships/placements and practical classes in an online environment, without sacrificing learning outcomes or student experience

  • Institutions aim to achieve the same learning goals and outcomes for students with a virtual internship as they would for in-person placements: putting knowledge into practice; experiencing a real workplace and the intensity of a full working day; and networking with professionals and peers.
  • Students submitted photographs and videos of their skills for practical classes, completed weekly challenges, and received group and individual feedback.
  • Practical classes (such as culinary arts) could be pre-recorded in the chef’s kitchen and played back during a virtual class, allowing the instructor to pause and provide commentary on the techniques being demonstrated.
  • Simulation training and research-based internships were used to supplement individual internships where applicable, and students were mentored through the process by senior industry professionals. Virtual mentorship allowed students to engage with multiple industry professionals throughout their internship.

Ensuring student access to resources off-campus

  • Students’ access to resources when off-campus, including crucial technology for virtual learning such as laptops and a reliable internet connection, is impacted by their geographic location and socio-economic status, as well as local shutdowns and restrictions.
  • Institutions, often within narrow timeframes due to shutdowns, aimed to equip students with necessary software (e.g. simulation training software) and hardware (e.g. old institution laptops for students without computer access).
  • In the case of practical culinary classes, ingredient lists had to be provided well in advance due to restrictions on movement, including grocery shopping.
  • In seeking to cater for students with unreliable internet access, all sessions were recorded and could be accessed after the class was complete. In some institutions, this practice will continue with cameras installed in campus classrooms.

Leveraging existing partnerships and engaging all stakeholders

  • Engagement with and leveraging of existing relationships with industry partners and other stakeholders allowed institutions to create and customise mutually beneficial solutions, including guest speaker presentations, virtual mentoring, and online internships/placements.
  • Students, staff, and industry partners have been receptive to new ideas and approaches, so institutions should feel confident in reaching out to these stakeholders to propose new ways of learning, teaching, and collaborating.

Benefits of virtual delivery of practical classes and placements

  • Virtual delivery allows students to continue with presentation and roleplay assessments, and allows for closer classroom oversight and more equal opportunities in student participation.
  • Students gain competencies, particularly in online communication, that they would not have gained in a traditional classroom setting and which may assist them as these skills become more valuable to employers.
  • Feedback from employers and/or mentors could continue in the same way, delivered virtually, and allowing for more customised and one-on-one feedback in addition to group feedback.
  • Faculty could pop in virtually at any time during the internship, which was not possible when students were in placements off-campus, and this also allowed faculty to co-assess final assessments with the employer.
  • Students practiced their skills more, and achieved more learning through reflection and repetition, in order to submit their best work when practical assessments required submission of photographs or video footage.
  • The pandemic crisis has created opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship, with some students starting small businesses from home. Students should be encouraged to not only engage with the solutions that their institution offers, but to be part of those solutions and to create their own.

The recording of the webinar can be accessed here.

For information about upcoming webinars in THE-ICE COVID-19 webinar series, click here.