Since March 2020, industries across the globe have had to change the way they do business.
The Virginia Education Center for Asphalt Technology (VECAT), like so many other entities, has had to adapt and change to a new way of operating. In-person classes were canceled, and testing was delayed until new processes and protocols could be implemented. Fortunately, VAA partner Germanna Community College (GCC) has been progressive in addressing the challenges created by the pandemic, and VECAT is poised to incorporate more changes for 2021.
Changes Since June
When the pandemic hit in March, all in-person activities were halted. This impacted in-person training, but it also affected in-person testing. Previously, students came to one of the numerous community college testing centers and were given a VECAT exam. Overall, this was an easy and straight forward process used by individuals taking VECAT classes online. However, once all centers were closed, hundreds of students had completed the classes but not taken the test required for VDOT certification. Once approval from VDOT was received, GCC went to work and moved many of the tests online using specialized software. However, three exams and two of the proficiency exams could not be provided virtually. This time, VAA took up the challenge of making the Asphalt Plant Level II and Asphalt Mix Design proficiency exams remote. By evaluating
the proficiency requirements and the process used with the existing virtual Asphalt Plant Level I proficiency, all proficiency exams were redesigned to be given safely in a virtual format. Even though in-person testing capacity was limited due to the need for social distancing and deep cleaning between groups of people, specific GCC locations and other sites around the state began reopening in late summer, and students started taking the class exams in person.
New for 2021
Recently, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) announced all colleges would be virtual for the remainder of the 2020-2021 calendar year ending in May 2021. With VECAT’s use of VCCS campuses around the state to host classes, new approaches will be employed for instruction. VECAT will continue to utilize the online class delivery through Canvas and is revising material for several classes to include new core presentations and subject matter expert presentations. In 2021, each course will include an online review session via Zoom. The review sessions will be held monthly hosted by VECAT instructors who will be available for questions, answers, and clarifications. Also, VECAT hopes to host one or more in-person classes for each of the VDOT asphalt-related credentials. These classes will be the “traditional” VECAT in-person style course. At this time, details are not available on exact dates and locations. It is anticipated these classes would be provided in March and April 2021.
Next year will be different for everyone. VECAT staff has spent the latter half of 2020 preparing for a “new normal.” While not every change implemented in 2020 has gone smoothly, the modifications have successfully built a foundation for VECAT 2021. Will 2022 look like 2021? Probably not! But remember, the only constant is change. Everyone must be flexible and ready to adapt, using the information at hand.