Fifty Minute Classroom

Jul 12, 2020, 21:35
Teaching Virtually
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Teaching Virtually

17 March 2020

10 projects and lessons instructors can implement online immediately.

By Adam Weiner, JD, CFSE

With many culinary schools canceling or postponing classes for days, weeks, or indefinitely, here are some suggestions on how to teach and assess students remotely. Don't worry, I am not a techie and these suggestions don't require you to be one either. Believe me, your students will know how to do everything and they can always guide you through it via email, text, or oh my gosh—on a phone call.

I know it may seem difficult to assess students’ work without seeing it in person. Relax and try these options:

  • As a practical matter, there are many things you don’t need to taste to know if it is good. You can look at a poached egg and know whether it is overcooked without tasting it.
  • Remember, Beethoven composed over half of his music when he was deaf. If he can write the 9th Symphony without hearing a note, then you can look at a picture of hollandaise and know if it has separated.
  • There are many job and life skills we need to teach that don’t require cooking. Skills such as food costs or the foodservice industry economics.
  • With your students’ grasp of modern technology, you can virtually (or remotely) review everything they do except for actual tasting. Let’s face it—and this is blasphemy—when they start working, the sous chef or chef will want your students to cook things the way they want them to taste. They need to know cooking principles and knife skills, but the actual taste profiles will be adjusted by the sous chef and chef. In other words, how food tastes is not the most important thing you are going to teach them. Yes, as stated above, I know that is blasphemy.
  • You can help maintain the students’ professionalism by requiring them to wear their classroom uniforms (if you have one) in all videos, virtual classes where they can be seen and submitted photos.
  • There are many great culinary arts Learning Management Systems. My favorite is KP Education Systems.

With the above in mind, here are 10 educational activities your students can do remotely and allow you to follow control and review as a culinary instructor. All the items below can be implemented expeditiously.

  1. Assign your students specific skills to practice at home, such as their knife cuts. Then, have them make a video demonstrating those cuts and send it to you.
  2. Since the best way to learn a subject is to teach it, assign different students different topics to teach. Then, assign a time to have them teach a video class for all the students.
  3. Have your students create a food-based podcast. They can either create one based on a personal area of interest, or you can assign one. Who knows, your class may be the next big thing on Spotify. See "Stirring the Pot with Chef Adam".
  4. In a high school context, there are many things difficult to do in one-hour segments. Although, I wrote an article on how to teach braising in 50 minutes, you could now use their at-home time to practice cooking skills and techniques (like braising) that usually take more than 50 minutes.
  5. Take a look at my article on teaching international cuisines and modify it to have students work individually and not in groups. Then each person must do a live video conference for the class, or post a video on an appropriate sharing site, for the class to review.
  6. Teach an online class on resume writing and have your students submit a resume.
  7. Teach an online class on interview skills and have your students practice interviews with you online.
  8. Follow up with your class on resume writing and interview skills by teaching how to find a job. I wrote a two-part article for your reference on this which you can find here: Part 1 and Part 2.
  9. Have your students work on collecting letters of reference.
  10. Finally, in March of 2019 I wrote an article on a multipart capstone project involving a role play catering assignment. It is set up as a team assignment which you could keep with the requirement they work together remotely. Or you could modify it to be done individually.

Ten more ideas will be posted in a few days. Remember, KEEP CALM AND WASH YOUR HANDS.


Adam Weiner, JD, CFSE, has been a culinary instructor in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 16 years.