(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Students in Texas State Technical College’s Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Technology program in Harlingen are getting their first taste of performance-based education (PBE) this semester.
“It has been a learning experience with this new modality,” said Jorge Cabrera, lead instructor in TSTC’s HVAC Technology program. “But so far we are having smaller groups spread out through the day, and it makes it easier to explain or show them how to do a task.”
Tadeo Gracia, of Brownsville, is in his first semester of the HVAC Technology program and going for an associate degree. He worked on a copper-bending exercise during a recent lab.
“I have learned about new tools that I didn’t know existed,” he said.
Gracia said having flexibility with his learning enables him to work more with his father, who is a carpenter.
Adam Vega, of Harlingen, is in his first semester in the HVAC Technology program and working toward a certificate of completion. He is on campus in the mornings on Mondays to Thursdays and works on Fridays and weekends.
Vega is concentrating on three classes right now during the fall semester. In a recent lab, Vega learned how to connect and disconnect manifold gauges.
“I feel like I’m learning stuff,” Vega said. “The instructors do a good job of showing you the hands-on.”
Vega said his cousins and uncles influenced him in attending TSTC. He said he did not know anything about HVAC Technology when he chose the program to study, but he looks forward to working in the industry upon graduation.
“You can take it anywhere,” Vega said about the skills he is learning. “I do think I will stay in Texas. I want to work for a company.”
Students work with the program’s enrollment coach to develop a schedule in two-hour time blocks. Lectures, videos and other learning content is on Canvas, a learning management system. Instructors also do mini-lectures throughout the day as needed. Tests can be written, demonstration-based or online. Some students with professional experience can test out of some lessons.
“Overall, there is flexibility to some extent on completing coursework and labs because there is still a deadline for the semester,” Cabrera said. “In a way, this teaches the students time management, and they have to learn self-discipline from the start or they will have trouble completing assignments by the end of the semester.”
Students have five attempts to pass per assessment. Each time students do not succeed, they are required to meet with instructors and the program’s enrollment coach.
“Performance-based education is increasing the opportunities the students have with teachable moments in the lab, taking them from a traditional lecture format moving to online, which frees up the faculty members to spend that time in the labs working with the students,” said Gena Jean, TSTC’s performance-based education program manager.
Besides HVAC Technology, other programs that started using the performance-based learning format this fall include the online programs Business Management Technology, Computer Networking and Systems Administration, Cybersecurity, Digital Media Design, Web Design and Development, and first-year seminar, developmental education and general education classes.
More TSTC technical programs are scheduled to start using performance-based learning in 2022 and 2023.
For more information, go to tstc.edu.