Tech Classes Move Online

By Dan Romanchik, KB6NU

I’ve been teaching ham classes for more than a dozen years now. My specialty has been the one-day Tech class. In this type of class, you review all of the questions in the question pool with the students over the course of six to eight hours, and then immediately give them the test before they can forget anything.

I would hold these classes three or four times a year and regularly have 20 – 30 students in each class. The pandemic, of course, has put the kibosh on these classes. The last one I taught was in January.

Frankly, I was wondering if I’d ever teach one again. A little over a month ago, however, I was approached by a fellow in Portland, Oregon about teaching an online class for some folks that he’d corralled there. After giving it some thought, I said yes.

So, now, in place of face-to-face classes, I’m teaching online Tech classes. There are plusses and minuses to this approach One negative is that I miss the face-to-face interaction with the students. On the plus side, teaching online allows me to offer classes more frequently. My first was in June. Last week, I completed the second class, and in August, I will teach a third class.

I have had to make some changes to the format. Making people sit in front of a computer for six hours or more seemed like cruel and unusual punishment. So, instead of a one-day class, the online class consists of four, two-hour sessions, spanning two weeks:

  • Session 1
    • Electrical Principles
    • Electronic Components and Circuit Diagrams
  • Session 2
    • Radio Wave Characteristics
    • Antennas and Feed Lines
  • Session 3
    • Amateur Radio Signals
    • Electrical Safety
    • Amateur Radio Practices and Station Setup
  • Sessions 4
    • Station Equipment
    • Operating Procedures
    • Rules and Regulations

This seems to be working out pretty well. I’m using Zoom, and most people have been able to attend without too much hassle. To simulate the whiteboard that I use extensively in the face-to-face class, I’m using the Autodesk Sketchbook program (https://www.sketchbook.com/) and sharing my screen with the Zoom meeting attendees. To write on the “whiteboard,” I’m using a Gaomon M10K2018 drawing tablet.

Sketchbook allows me to build up a document in layers, and the result is kind of a hybrid PowerPoint presentation and whiteboard. I can make layers appear when I start discussing a particular topic and then write over them. For example, when I go over the questions that use Ohm’s Law to calculate current in a circuit, I display the later with “E = I x R” and on a second layer, show how to calculate the answers to the questions

To take the test, students have to sign up for an online test session. Fortunately, several VE groups are offering online, remote testing. To sign up for one of these sessions, all students have to do is go to https://hamstudy.org/sessions. For the first two classes, the W5YI VEC scheduled a special test session.

I foresee teaching these classes monthly until the demand wanes. The next class will start on Monday, August 3. To register for the class, go to https://www.kb6nu.com/product/next-online-tech-class/. To find out when these classes will take place in the future, potential students can sign up for my mailing list by going to https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/m6l6t4.

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Dan Romanchik, KB6NU, is the author of the KB6NU amateur radio blog (KB6NU.Com), the “No Nonsense” amateur radio license study guides (KB6NU.Com/study-guides/), and often appears on the ICQPodcast (icqpodcast.com). When he’s not teaching ham radio classes, he likes to operate CW on the HF bands, go for long walks around Ann Arbor, MI, and volunteer for Rotary Club service projects.

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