VIRTUAL TECHNICAL VISITS TO COMPANIES

Technical visits to companies are an effective way to achieve meaningful learning in university studies. By visiting a company, students can understand the installations, infrastructures, and processes. They can also put into context aspects such as the managements systems, the environmental protection protocols, the safety measurements, and the working conditions. Getting to know professionals in their field increases the student’s motivation on learning the content of their courses. After the visits, students return to the classroom with more confidence on their learning process. On the other hand, local companies also benefit from the students visit. For example, the corporative image is uplifted. In certain occasions, the visits can create bridges for collaborations with the universities. For example, through internships training programs with students, or through knowledge transfer research projects. Furthermore, companies could even use the visits to identify promising talented employees.

Modern companies are looking for professionals prepared for their changing needs, with a high number of qualifications and skills. Technical visits facilitate a complex education attuned to the labor market need s. However, due to the COVID-19 crisis, technical visits to companies have been restricted and/or cancelled since the beginning of 2020, adding additional limitations to the learning of the students, who have been forced to adapt rapidly to the new online learning mechanism.

In this paper, we present a practical case of using new technologies for information and communications to simulate technical visits to a company. The application of this methodology was carried out in the course “Integrated Management Systems” in the 3rd academic year of the bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. The students virtually-visited the Victoria beer Factory, in Malaga (Spain). During a two hours videocall class session, the students used Google Earth to travel to the facilities of the company. Thereafter, they were introduced to a summary of the company history, the description of the brewing process, and the market strategies of the company. The teachers used videos, photographs, and other material available online to prepare the session and related it to the aspects learned through the course. The activity ended with an online Victoria beer tasting session, where students (at home) were prompted to evaluate colour, smell, and taste to appreciate the appearance, aroma, flavour, bitterness, mouthfeel, and aftertaste.

Through this activity, the teachers team identified a drastic increased of student’s satisfaction and motivation on the course content. The results of a post-activity survey indicated strong agreement of the usefulness of the activity.