The Culinary School by Laksamana College of Business (LCB) instructors are combining creativity with technology to ensure practical courses still continue amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

For the past three weeks, students from the school have attended on-screen cooking classes and watched their instructor master a Tarte Tatins from start to finish via the video-conferencing platform, Zoom.

Educational institutions nationwide are improvising ways to keep students engaged through digital platforms as classrooms remain closed. 

Image: Fazizul Haqimie

Through multiple platforms, the students would share their culinary progress while also receiving real-time feedback from their instructors.

Head of The Culinary School by Laksamana College of Business Luke Macann said that even though the online experience would not be able to perfectly replicate the experience of being in the kitchen, he wants to focus on the positive side.

He further praised how members of the faculty and students have adapted to these challenges.

Adding that teachers and students are coming together in finding new ways to utilise technology to make the most of these unprecedented times, not only in delivering online lessons but in helping each other get by.

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However, the challenge about online lessons is that there is no face-to-face interaction, he explains. 

It is a challenge to teach remotely and managing to teach students hands-on skills through hands-off methods, he said

He added that teaching and learning culinary online can lack the spontaneous and instantaneous exchange of ideas that you can only get in a physical classroom or kitchen.

“Cooking is all about senses, it would be difficult to taste or smell the end product through the screen,” he said.

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“For the practical lessons, I miss being able to see the subtle things from my students; the way someone is holding a knife or how they set up the kitchen,” he said.

“Those hours of seeing the action in the kitchen is an integral component that will help students develop self-discipline in the kitchen and expand their skills,” said Macann, who has 30 years of experience in the food industry.

“However, the overall student feedback has been quite positive,” he said.

Luke said that his department has been working extra hours each day researching how to better support their students through the transition.

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“It’s drawing us closer; we’re learning new stuff along the way.”

“Once this pandemic settles down, I think this experience will improve not just in our way of practice but hopefully it will install a new sense of confidence and ownership in our students,” he said.

For his part, Culinary Instructor Alif Zulfitri Hj Hassan has been teaching his students how to make a perfect tart shell from an empty kitchen at the college with two cameras pointing at him; one above the stove and the other one from his laptop.

“For my classes, I would give my students two options; to either cook along with me during the video-conferencing or replicate them on their own time,” he said.

Image: Fazizul Haqimie

Integrating practical lessons to online platforms, recording his cooking lessons and figuring out how to get 23 students into a video conference at the same time are just a few of the challenges Alif has tackled.

Alif is leaning heavily on technology like Zoom videos, Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom to maintain contact with his students.

“For the past three weeks, I have been recording video lessons with step-by-step instructions for my students that I would post on Google Docs and Youtube,” he said.

“This week I have taught my students how to segment an orange, how to perfect a tart shell, the tampering method and how to a make traditional custard all via Zoom,” he said.

The instructor also said that most of his students have no culinary background and he would need to assist them in every small detail.

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Every week, his students would individually pick up their ingredients for practical assessments at the college and do their work at home, documenting each step. 

Students are then asked to submit photos of their finished products displaying proper presentation and plate techniques. 

Although the teachers would not be able to taste or smell the finished product, the faculty has prepared an evaluation form for their students to complete.

“It’s hard to judge their dishes from afar, we can only rely on their family’ for feedback,” he explains. “Their family can also benefit from the well-prepared meals done at home.”

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When asked what he misses the most about being in class, Alif said that he missed his students and the connection that he made with them throughout the semester.

What’s a disadvantage to the teacher while teaching via Zoom is that he can never tell if the students are listening to him or not as some students would turn off their cameras and mute the video-conference.

However, the 27-year-old has been working hard each day utilising all the resources and technology he has to help his students continue to learn and grow.

Only being able to see his instructors and classmates through his computer or a mobile screen was not how student, Yii Hao Yuan imagined his semester at LCB would start.

“Normally, I would be in college from 5am to 5pm prepping meals for hotels and hospitals in the kitchen while also doing our practical. Now, we would have two to three classes a day on Zoom,” he explained.

From getting easily distracted to not having reliable internet, are among the challenges the first-year student faced.

He added that the absence of instantaneous feedback during digital learning takes some of the joy out of his work.

“I miss the face-to-face interactions with my teachers. Last week when I was baking the tart crust, it failed three times. Usually, I would have my teacher to guide me in the kitchen but now it is just going back and forth on Whatsapp,” he concluded.

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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