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Online teaching brings new challenges for EN employees at CBC

For almost a decade, Energy Northwest employees have been helping to shape the nuclear industry workforce as instructors in the nuclear technology program at Columbia Basin College (CBC).

For fall quarter, three EN employees are working as adjunct instructors, and two as substitutes. These positions are held apart from their jobs at EN, and they are hired and paid by CBC. At least 11 graduates of the program are currently employed at Columbia Generating Station.

Jason Stone, Training Operations, first started teaching in the program in spring 2019. He teaches a rotating schedule that includes classes in mechanical and fluid power transmission; reactor safety, theory and operation; plant operations; and operational systems. 

Stone transitioned his courses to an online format this fall. CBC moved all its courses online for the 2020-21 academic year, with some exceptions for lab classes, in response to COVID-19. Moving courses online was challenging for many instructors.

“I met those challenges head-on, as I enjoy using technology and like finding new ways to engage students,” Stone said. “What I’ve learned in the months since COVID-19 began is that there is not one right way to teach all the classes. I’ve had to adapt a bit for each class.”

A U.S. Navy veteran, Stone has held a passion for teaching his entire life. He previously held a position as an instructor at Monticello Nuclear Power Plant.

“Teaching in the nuclear power world is quite different than teaching online courses at the college,” he said. “However, I find that I’m able to bring my operational experience, nuclear training experience, and my love for online teaching together for the benefit of the students.”

He adjusts his presentations and materials to fit the needs of students in each class, including adding live Zoom sessions, recorded videos and online discussions. He also taps into the knowledge of his EN colleagues and brings them on as guest lecturers.

“The students appreciate the different teaching styles, and they feel like more effort is being put into their class, which then drives them to put more effort into the class,” Stone said. 

Teaching online requires more time from him, Stone said, but he also sees greater engagement from his students, and he enjoys being able to think creatively about how to teach the subject.

“I’m engaging the students in new and creative ways each week and each class and am better able to reach all different learning styles by using a multi-theory approach that includes self-discovery, instructor-led, peer-review and group learning,” he said.

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