Online ITI Courses Make Learning Easier

Published: March 16, 2016

Not long ago, the idea of online learning for sheet metal workers seemed unworkable. With hands-on skill at the heart of the trade, how could apprentices and journeymen learn without materials and an instructor in a live environment?

Yet the International Training Institute (ITI) has such a system, with numerous courses—and more in the works—available to any member in good standing. The site is a “Moodle,” short for Modular object-oriented dynamic learning environment.

The name is lengthy, but the idea is simple. “It’s just about workers going in and trying to bone up on their skills,” said Larry Lawrence, field representative for the ITI. “It’s also good for those who are in more rural areas.”

Simple, self-paced

Above all, Moodle is designed for ease of use. Members start by creating a member profile on the ITI website, sheetmetal-iti.org.

The portal brings original ITI courses directly to students and is free for all members in good standing. It runs on any operating system and web browser, including mobile devices.

Most important, it enables self-paced learning. Lecture-based classes work well in Moodle, allowing students to take section tests as often as it takes to pass them, Lawrence said.

“If we develop the courses, they’ll be free to our members and available anytime,” said Mike Harris, ITI Program Administrator.

“If a journeyman wants to take the foreman training course and doesn’t want to go to the training center, they can take it on Moodle,” Harris added.

Courses grow by demand

Moodle classes have included supervisor training, Fire Life Safety Level I and Level II Technician, foreman training, AutoCAD exercise, and safety classes such as residential safety, electrical safety and the Big 4 + 2.

Additional courses are in the works for 2016, Harris added. “We can put any type of class on there, as simple as video of a speech or lecture or as complex as you want it to be. It’s a pretty flexible system.”

Welding courses are already on the horizon, as well, including those to help certified welding inspectors (CWI) maintain their ratings.

“When you become a CWI, every nine years you have to have continuing education units—at least 20 units in the last three-year period,” Harris said. “We plan to put at least the last 20 units on the Moodle to help CWIs achieve that milestone.”

Once a course is finished, it’s up to the student to report it to their local’s training center coordinator to note it and record any continuing education units earned.

Member interest in online learning led to ITI’s use of the Moodle; demand also will dictate which and how many additional classes will be made available online.

“Now we’re seeing more need in this direction, and I think we’re going to push for it,” Harris said. “It’s being used in different ways. The more classes we get on the Moodle, the more people will use it that way.”