How Maptek and the University of British Columbia developed a blended training program for 73 students during a pandemic

Higher education worldwide was massively affected by COVID-19 with over 169 countries closing schools and universities at the end of March 2020 in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. This resulted in major consequences for places of higher education, such as reduced enrolment, halted research, and many jobs lost. But how has the situation continued to unfold now that it’s March of 2021? Some countries are now partially opening their universities and have started to seriously invest in blended learning. This type of learning combines on-campus learning with online education so that students benefit from the ideal combination of the two learning styles. However, achieving this ideal is not always easy.

Student success and engagement must be the priority of any quality education, but this can be challenging to achieve in a virtual setting. This is especially true when many instructors are still inexperienced with distance learning. Although learning from a distance is not a brand new concept, it is taking some time to gain momentum in higher education. According to Inside Higher Ed, only 46% of American faculty members taught an online course in 2019. 

With numbers like this, how can universities and professors ensure that they deliver the blended education students need to succeed in the workplace today? One way to ensure this is to rely on outside partners for their unique expertise and knowledge regarding distance learning. This is exactly what took place when a professor from the University of British Columbia (UBC) approached Maptek in August 2020. Since then, UBC and Maptek have created a successful blended training program for 73 students in the mining and geology departments. 

A history of prioritizing student success

UBC reached out to Maptek due to shared history. In the past, Maptek and UBC have worked together during the Canadian Mining Games to bring rewarding and fun learning experiences to the competing students. 

After the pandemic hit and interrupted learning for many, it was clear that developing a new blended training program would be necessary for a number of the mining and geology students at UBC. With very little time to develop a new design for the class, Maptek was the perfect partner to approach for help due to familiarity with the University, the professors, and the department. But perhaps the most important thing Maptek brought to the partnership was experienced instructors. Each Maptek instructor has experience with distance learning and catering the delivery of lessons to different learning styles. Drawing on this experience allowed Maptek instructors to easily develop a blended program for 73 students while prioritizing their success and safety.

A blended training program developed with success and safety in mind

The first step in creating this new program was to understand the typical course and how it was conducted before the year 2020. This started with a dialogue between the Maptek instructors and the professor in charge. The professor provided important information such as their philosophy for teaching, the goals they wanted to accomplish, and the typical resources used during the course. For example, a professor typically shares the course syllabus and textbooks along with any important industry trends they want to communicate to their students.

Once the relevant information is gathered, Maptek instructors begin incorporating it into the new blended training program.

Supporting the program with industry-standard technology

One key part of the initial dialogue is technology. In this particular case, the students were part of the mining or geology department, and the main takeaways from the course were the following: 

  • QA/QC and Data Validation 
  • How to generate block models
  • How to perform pit optimization
  • How to design a pit
  • How to review geotechnical parameters

Technology, like industry-standard general mining packages, plays a huge role in accomplishing any of these tasks. If the students are to succeed at using these technologies in class, it’s important to first understand their familiarity and interest with them. Are they passionate about using technology, or are they resistant to it? Have they been exposed to these technologies before, or will this be their first time? Does the professor have any concerns about integrating technology into the curriculum?

If a professor does have concerns, Maptek instructors listen and respond appropriately with the right solution. For example, Maptek provided special access to our Online Training portal for 1 professor and 36 students when it was clear they were having some challenges retaining the material. With this access, the students could reinforce the class material with relevant online courses such as Vulcan Essentials, Design Data, Drillholes and Databases, and Orebody Modelling. Providing this solution alleviated the professors’ concerns and stresses while also being well-received by the students as a fun, easy, and convenient way to learn.

Partners with real value

The Maptek team takes educational partnerships with universities seriously. All too often, partnerships are one-sided, with companies bringing very little value to the partnership. So what real value does Maptek bring to the partnership with UBC?

Aside from providing case-by-case access to the online training portal for students, professors, and teaching assistants, students also receive industry-focused mentorship from their Maptek instructor. This is invaluable as they navigate the curriculum before joining the workforce as mining industry professionals. If a student has a question about their future in mining, they have a dedicated Maptek contact with years of industry experience for support and knowledge. 

In addition to this mentorship, students, professors, and teaching assistants can access the world’s leading mining software solutions. In the case of the UBC partnership, Maptek provided free educational licensing for Vulcan and PointStudio products which gave students real experience using some of the most popular software in the industry for geological modelling, mine design, mine planning, mine scheduling, point cloud modelling, and point cloud analysis. These skills translate to success in a future role and also provide students with an advantage when job-searching.

Advancing the industry and making the world a better place. One student at a time.

The Maptek team understands that a student who receives a quality education can change the industry and even the world we live in for the better. From an ethical standpoint, the team also feels that investing in University partnerships, especially during this time of interrupted learning due to the pandemic, is the proper thing to do. It is for these reasons, the team is dedicated to nurturing current university partnerships and exploring opportunities with other institutions. Institutions must look to corporate partners that provide real value as a way to drive student success and keep the mining industry moving forward. 

Interested in learning more about Maptek University partnerships for your class or university? Send a message to Senior Geologist & Training Program Lead, Maureen Moore. 


Maureen Moore
Technical Services Manager & Training Program Lead
March 20, 2021

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