Home renovations give construction students ‘live’ online lessons

Alan Burgess, Havering Colleges

A Havering Colleges construction teacher is renovating his bungalow during the Coronavirus lockdown in order to give his students live and interactive lessons online.

Alan Burgess has turned his home into a construction site as he undertakes structural, flooring, roofing and plumbing work as the students, studying Construction & The Built Environment at the colleges’ Rainham campus, have been watching, answering questions and offering solutions to him via laptop video links.

Alan, who is the Senior Curriculum Manager for Construction, said: “I was going to refurbish our home anyway, but I have brought it all forward so that I could give the students the chance to see work in progress while they can’t get into college. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss.

“I have been removing walls, the odd structural support and ceilings, as well as carrying out electrical and plumbing work, and the students have been able to see it all from their homes.”

He added: “They have been able to learn about real-life unexpected problems and we are able to talk through as a class how these issues can be solved. They risk-assess the work due to take place and then come back online the following day to see the work happening according to their instructions. I have had excellent attendance from the students and they are really engaging with the sessions.

“With the improvements in mobile and online technology, students can be remote but at the same time up close and connected with each other and the tutor. We have to think of the positives in situations like this and thankfully I have a very understanding partner who was happy for me to knock down walls in our home during the lockdown!”

Student Dominykas Gzimaila said: “This online learning has kept us all focussed and Alan offers support whenever we need it. It’s crazy what he has done to his house for us, but it’s only what we would expect from him. The examples we are getting are ‘real’ and it shows us what is possible.

“Before lockdown we had never had distanced online teaching and learning, but it was all set up so quickly and now it has become normal. We are able to ask questions and chat with each other and in some ways we are becoming better listeners.”

Alan, who lives in Braintree, has even had a mention in the Mayor of London’s Construction Academy newsletter for his innovative approach in delivering practical lessons online.