When it launched in Fall 2019, with hundreds of students enrolled in its one-of-a-kind training program, there was no thought that the RV Technical Institute would soon have to react to a significant national health crisis. But in March 2020, the coronavirus began to sweep across the country, forcing major institutions, including educational establishments, to respond to students’ needs while observing safety and health guidelines.
In record time, the RV Technical Institute seized the challenge and went to work migrating its wildly popular Level One training course to an online setting. As a result of their efforts, the Level One course started accepting students on April 20, for the online Level One class, taught by top trainers, allowing RV technicians to continue training for the only industry-wide certification.
Several RV Industry Association inspectors participated in the first online Level One course. The inspectors are key members of the Standards Department responsible for conducting regular, periodic compliance audits of manufacturer member companies. These inspections involve monitoring compliance and providing education on thousands of RV requirements impacting electrical, plumbing, heating, fire and life safety systems, and construction. As experts on RV standards and how RVs are built, inspectors Kyle Van Tassel, Oliver Keultjes, and Nick Holobaugh offered their professional opinions on the online course.
“I thought it was a good review, and I also learned a lot,” noted Keultjes. “It went through the systems of a normal RV and taught an entry-level technician how to go about fixing, troubleshooting, and identifying things.”
For Holobaugh, the newest inspector among the three, it was reassuring to go over the things he’d been taught. “It was a nice tie-in to all the codes and standards that go along with this. I thought it gave a good overview of the propane and the electrical, the different systems that are in an RV, like appliances. It covered the information that you would need to do a pre-delivery inspection.”
Van Tassel also praised the useful, necessary information. “It’s a good outline of testing procedures and things you need to look at, specifically for inspections in your section. Super basic troubleshooting is good information for anybody to have, and it applies to many different scenarios. The testing procedures are essential for every aspect of the industry. On the production line, we witness a lot of tests and they may be reset afterward to make sure that they didn’t miss anything. As inspectors, those are the things we focus on. I think it’s good that they focus on that in the course as well.”
In addition to the information itself, each inspector shared their thoughts on the overall visual presentation from their experience. “I thought everything [visually] was done very well,” said Keultjes. “They used a lot of video and pictures, and the sound was very clear. It looked very professional.”
Van Tassel said he too liked the way the RV Technical Institute offered the Level One presentation. “They put a lot of time and effort into it, and good for the first-time learner. The way they set it up with one person presenting and another keeping track of the chat was helpful because if somebody did have a question, the other instructor could chime in. He could either answer the question or he and the other instructor could go over something that somebody missed or didn’t quite understand. So, you could get the commentary that you would get in a normal classroom, but online.”
Holobaugh was impressed with how the material was presented, and useful, too, for a regular RVer. “The course could be useful to RV users. It got into good information. It would depend on what they wanted to get out of the course. But it could give the average consumer a great insight into the workings of the system. I thought the online presentation was fine for the material. They presented the information well.”
Like Holobaugh, Van Tassel also thought the course would be useful for more than just technicians. “I know that the class is directed for those wanting to be technicians at a dealership, but I also think it would be good for more people, or even helpful for people wanting to get into the industry. There are people wanting to get on the line, so this type of knowledge before you even get on the line would be very helpful for future employers. It’s pretty versatile at Level One.”
Commenting on the performance tests after the course, Keultjes said he thought the tests were very well-constructed. “The first test is a written test based on the basic knowledge that you learned during the course. You need to get a certain score to pass. I thought it was a good reference because it was just difficult enough but not too difficult for a Level One technician getting ready to be a Level Two technician.” Keultjes added, “There’s another test that is a performance-based test that is like a lab practical. I thought it was a good measure of what a Level One technician would need. It was challenging, but not too challenging for someone just beginning. Level One is for verifying different components and checks and tests on various systems. They have it set up in steps, each of the levels will build on the one before. I’ve taken other online classes at the university level and it compares well to those. We weren’t just listening – it was interactive as well.”