By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As schools have scrambled to go virtual, technical colleges have faced even more challenges. But a hands-on learning model is still moving forward at Dunwoody College despite the pandemic.

Stella Robinson and Maverick Patterson will graduate this spring from Dunwoody’s electrical construction program.

“We’ve come up with our own solutions to problems that no one would have predicted would have come up,” Robinson said.

Once unsure of their futures here, they’ve been back to school since August.

“Oh I’m happy to be back. I’m definitely happy to be back,” Patterson said.

As an associate professor, Polly Friendshuh and her team thought outside the box to make that possible.

“I can tell you right now 90-plus-percent of my students learn by doing,” Friendshuh said.

They came up with an electrical learning box, a portable learning lab to replicate the commercial and residential wiring, available to each student and on demand should anyone be quarantined.

“I drive stuff over to their house, leave it on their step — contactless dropping off — because they have to learn,” Friendshuh said.

Dunwoody’s lab sizes have been cut in half. Everyone has their own equipment, wears gloves and masks and works in their own space.

Dunwoody went from having 1,000 students a day on campus now to just a few hundred. They’ve implemented staggered start times and made sure students only take breaks one at a time. All to keep the school open which so far, seems to be working.

Currently, Dunwoody College has three positive COVID-19 cases. They’ve had a few here and there over several months but nothing that has lead to a major shutdown or canceled classes.

Liz Collin