Teaching Machine Shop Online – the Covid Dilemma

We had just gone on Spring Break in mid March, heard some news stories , but never prepared for what was to happen. I usually attend Florida Spring Training Games and had also planned on attending the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. I went to 2 ball games Sunday and Monday and before you know it – all shut down.

I am teaching my 7th year of Precision & CNC Machining at Suncoast Technical College, Sarasota Florida. Manufacturing is very busy and I have about 3 jobs waiting for every graduate. We have a one year program with hands on and technical book/online training to work in the today’s Advanced Manufacturing. But now we had to stop the hands on training.

In 2013, my first year, I had to teach with NO machines from August – December. We used our new Immerse2Learn Online training system – did lecture and book work – wrote G Code programs that the CNC machines run on – but NO machining. So here I was again. The only difference was that we weren’t in the same room. A challenge.

https://youtu.be/kCF_MfiT8lc My YouTube talk about that First Year


So we used the same Immerse2learn system from home – we had used that way before as home work and for hybrid training night school. I added a Google Classroom to be the portal of communication and assignments. We also did some Zoom meetings to talk etc. I added on line assignments, like virtual field trips with YouTube and submit a report. Its had its ups and downs.

Our partner , CareerEdge, was able to step forward and link companies that still needed people to get them need hands on – on the job training and also help fund it.

That was a big help.


I had been heading towards more online content for various reasons. One would be weekly assignments could be delivered better. I could use google classroom to talk one on one on projects that were submitted that way.

We had ventured into Cad/Cam programming the year before using Autodesk Fusion 360. This is an online cloud based system that can be used in class or at home. In today’s world everything is designed on computer as a solid model. Plus to make the component you need to program a Computer controlled 3D Printer or CNC Machining Center. We used Titans of CNC Academy Projects

This can all be done virtually as you just use a computer. So we decided to dive deep into that area now. They also could share the digital file with me. I would review on my computer and record a video link that was sent back to them – one on one.


So I know we will catch up with the hands on stuff eventually but we can continue to learn. It can be daunting. Even for myself. To stay on a schedule , get work done, not get distracted. Its not a perfect system for sure – but we do the best we can. I have done some seminars on how I am teaching online and have a YouTube channel with my how to’s.

Our school teaches high school and adults in a Technical Vocational school. The HS students have just completed. Some of the young adults still have a month to go. We have decided to open up the labs for one day a week, using state and CDC guidelines. Generally speaking, Florida has been opening up sooner. So we can test the system to see if we can come back in August or post Labor Day.


I know myself and fellow instructors have used this time to develop and update curriculum. We meet online to chat, share best practices and more. We have some good talks. We show our dogs on Zoom or put up different backgrounds. Its all a learning experience.

About cncdude5x

Lead Instructor for Precision Machining & CNC Automation Educational Program at Suncoast Technical College -
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