Instructors discuss the best, worst and future of online culinary instruction.
By Lisa Parrish, GMC Editor
Like a butterfly makes a cocoon, COVID-19 threw culinary instructors into their quarantine shells to work. An educational metamorphosis was taking place while they were closed inside. Instructors were teaching labs without students in kitchens. They generated class discussions with no students in the room. The world of online instruction opened and forced changes that were unthinkable just two months prior.
I would like to think this metamorphosis is complete, but it is not. It would be nice to emerge from this crisis and fly easily away into the summer term. But, like the butterfly claws and cracks its way out of the cocoon, culinary education must continue its own change process in our shut-down homes before we emerge into the light.
CAFÉ‘s goal has always been to assist culinary instructors educating the next generation of chefs. Over the past two months, instructors received four Gold Medal Classroom Special Editions highlighting ideas and resources for those beginning online instruction. We continue reaching toward our goal with this article - an evaluation of online education over the last three months.
Several instructors shared their online education successes, challenges and future plans with the Gold Medal Classroom. Here is what they had to say:
The best of online instruction
All responding instructors resoundingly agreed on three points. The first being online lecture classes with no hands-on components not only worked but worked well. Lower-level classes with no applied training easily flowed into an online setting. In fact, several respondents already had these classes in place. Interestingly, instructors reported both synchronous and asynchronous lecture classes as successful. Stay tuned for the next two items which received nearly 100 percent agreement.
The Zoom world
When you hear the word zoom, you no longer think of a child with a toy making noises as the craft flies through the air. Now, a version of George Jetson’s world comes to mind with real time, interactive video conferencing. Did you acquire something like Jane Jetson’s morning mask for early meetings?
Most instructors raved about the Zoom platform. One instructor commented that she could better see all her students on a Zoom call while another said the system was an improvement for quieter students who were not usually participatory. Another instructor reported that guest speakers were thrilled to join Zoom calls.
A few instructors excelled at using the system’s more advanced features. Zoom’s split screen ability allows students to see two windows at the same time. This was useful to one instructor who showed her Power Point presentation on one screen and her thorough notes on the other. Also, Zoom Rooms, a feature that allows a few class participants to leave the larger class and view each other’s screens to hold their own discussions, worked to generate greater class discussions and small-group work.
For as wildly popular as Zoom has become, there is also another force at work tamping down its potential success in online education. Click here to read one instructor’s experience with Zoom fatigue in both her students and colleagues.
The hardest online class to teach
The second point with nearly 100 percent agreement: Labs with hands-on work were the most challenging to teach in an online environment. The biggest obstacle for instructors was assessing doneness and taste in prepared foods.
Students faced their own challenges with taking online kitchen lab classes that were unique to COVID-19 quarantine: cooking in their homes with personal equipment and ingredients. Many students could not travel to grocery stores because of stay-in-place orders and were forced to use on-hand ingredients. And, once they did go out, many grocery store shelves were bare of essential items such as milk, flour and eggs. Instructors responded with changing lab recipes that allowed for generous ingredient substitutions.
During the first few shut-down weeks, many instructors created mise-in-place bags for students to pick up. This was a way to move perishable supplies from schools’ kitchens and provide students the required ingredients. However, that tactic was short lived as the quarantine wore on. Lab fees have become a hot topic for many students who requested the money be returned.
Applied learning also occurs in capstone classes with several instructors indicating that teaching topics such as front of the house skills and developing a passion for success was difficult online.
The lab-class conundrum was solved in a number of ways. Several instructors did their best to evaluate student-created products. Some schools rescheduled labs for the fall semester while others gave students incomplete grades until a hands-on lab could be scheduled during the summer. Many respondents indicated the skills taught in these classes were so valuable that in-person assessment is critical.
Plans for fall
This summer will find instructors reimagining fall classes with an eye toward online education. With so many unanswered questions – will students return to classrooms as the largest among these – instructors are planning for many scenarios.
Most respondents said they were hoping for some in-person lab instruction allowing for increased sanitizing and social distancing requirements that will surely be in place for the foreseeable future. Here are lab tactics instructors are considering:
- cohorting students
- configuring lab space so each area has its own entry and exit limiting comingling
- staggering class start times throughout the year without being bound to usual term schedules
- shortening actual lab times while still teaching essential skills but increasing the number of labs
- sending students lab assignments early with video demonstrations and questions so when they enter the lab they immediately begin
Many instructors said they will be using the summer months to produce videos and find additional resources to create more robust LMS offerings. Many are using their experiences this spring to retool their assignments to better engage students amid online classes.
Instructor Paul Carrier from Milwaukee Area Technical College said he was developing a new course for the fall 2020 semester. “It’s a hybrid mise-en-place "Live" Culinary Kitchen Lab class from my home for teaching knife skills and breakfast and egg cookery,” he said. He is also taking several online cooking courses this summer to learn new ideas to make online cooking classes exciting for his students.
New Mexico State University’s Director and Professor of School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management Jean Hertzman will be busy developing alternatives for missed summer internship hours. “I am developing a brand-new course that will incorporate industry speakers, e-books and certifications, and other projects to provide some of the same competencies and knowledge students would gain on the job,” she said.
The long-term future of culinary online education
The last point that was 100 percent agreed to by all educators responding to the questions was that hybrid classes – those taught both in-person and online – were the wave of culinary education’s future. One instructor said, “The genie isn’t going back in the bottle.”
A key to making this type of instruction successful rests in an instructor’s ability to make educating students in both environments seamless and cohesive.
However, students’ connectivity remains a large obstacle for schools endeavoring down this path.
You might also be interested in these stories about culinary instructors online teaching experiences during the past few months.
Click here to read the story “Online education’s remarkable moments.”
Click here to read how culinary student Clare Ward started her own food cooking and delivery business when her classes and internship were cancelled.
Click here to read one instructor's experience with Zoom fatigue in both her students and colleagues.
Click here to read “Teaching Online: The Good and The Ugly.”