I am a service technician, C-20 HVAC contractor, and educator. I entered the air conditioning and refrigeration industry out of high school and began contracting on my own in my early 30s. Soon, I started teaching part time at the community college to supplement my business income and in 1992 I took a full time tenured position to teach the trade at Mt. San Antonio College.
I always knew that I wanted to be an educator, but the HVAC industry provided a consistent living wage that supported raising a family. With the encouragement and influence of my wife and family, I was well positioned to apply for that initial teaching position and I’ve never looked back.
In 27 years at the community college, I have written curriculum, developed countless lab projects, and enjoyed building a world class mechanical lab. I have consistently experimented with innovations that better prepare students for the workplace. My efforts have been to increase students’ exposure to the equipment and the daily procedures encountered in the industry. Although I explored many forms of learning software, I never assumed it would better prepare students for the workplace than working with equipment.
Then in late 2018, two experiences occurred. I met the owner of Interplay Learning, Doug Donavan, at the IHACI trade show in Pasadena. He was demonstrating Interplay’s learning software for HVAC that put students into a virtual environment to trouble shoot operational equipment. The steps and procedures were close to what my students were practicing in our mechanical lab, but in a virtual environment. Then in December, I was asked to serve on a technical advisory committee that explored Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) as a teaching tool in career and technical education.
The advisory committee’s work and research was funded by a Proposition 39 grant and hosted by the Los Angeles Community College District. The committee explored, experimented with, and developed various forms of virtual and augmented teaching methods and called them Immersive Learning. It included work by Interplay Learning and new innovations by Applied Learning Science.
The work turned out to be solid enough for Mt. San Antonio College to allow me to infuse Immersive Learning into one section of three Refrigeration Fundamentals courses offered this Spring, 2019. Funded by a Chancellor’s Office Strong Workforce grant, this one section will use Immersive Learning methods to prepare students for lab work, quizzes, and final performance exams with Immersive Learning methods taking the place of the text book students have been required to buy for 27 years.
The final performance exam requires that students be able to correctly accomplish two tasks:
- Safely recycle the refrigerant from an air conditioning or refrigeration system based on Section 608 standards of the Clean Air Act.
- Mechanically evaluate the operation of a 3-5 ton package air conditioning system by properly applying service gages, thermometers, and meters to read and interpret performance data.
Students’ performance on the final exam is the means to assess the student learning outcomes (SLOs) for all three sections of Refrigeration Fundamentals. Mt. San Antonio College and the Immersive Learning team will be paying close attention to the results of this section’s learning outcomes compared to the other two traditional sections.
More to come.