Training & Education

By Lauren Duensing, Contributing Editor
Sawblade University moves the reference library to video
Cooperative Learning
Sawblade University moves the reference library to video

hile working, people often run into problems. And those problems need solutions. This basic concept is at the root of CEO Chris Luke’s new online manufacturing training library, Sawblade University. Luke says he began to assess the idea of a collection of educational videos when talking with students at trade shows. “They’re a pulse on what’s going to happen in the future.” was already producing videos for customers detailing how best to cut specific materials, Luke says. For instance, if an aerospace manufacturer showed interest in how to successfully cut a specific grade of titanium, “they send us a small piece, we put it on the saw and produce an entire video for that company—a video they can keep and review and show employees.

“We have so much footage where we explain to people how to do things that we decided to make it a school.”

At first, Luke envisioned the training site consisting of these “Tech Tips” plus a few additional lessons, but over the past two years, the project has grown to more than 300 video lessons covering precision metalworking topics from training in tool and die making to welding and sheet metal working. “It had a mind of its own,” he says.

Teaching tools
The team has always believed in listening to its customers because continuous dialogue leads to great ideas. Every Sawblade University online class has been reviewed and validated by industry experts, and every instructor-led class is delivered by experts that have been carefully vetted. And the site is continually being updated as companies, schools, teachers and students provide feedback. For example, teachers wanted to know if they would be able to monitor whether students completed assignments. In response, “we implemented supervisory roles where a supervisor or teacher can sign up students, and then when a student takes the test, the supervisor will get a course-completion notification with their scores,” Luke says. “Once they’ve taken the class, they can always log back in” for review.

Each video is a short (about a minute and one-half to two minutes long) “mini lecture” on the subject. For instance, in the category of safety, there will be about 16 video modules, including one on how to decipher earplug ratings. “The idea was to make it easy so people would want to watch it and absorb it,” Luke says.

“We’ve grouped classes together: quality overview, metal manufacturing, elements of the cutting process, introduction to metal, physical properties of metals, personal protection and safety, how to classify metals, and so forth. Each of these classes are clearly defined.

If you just want to know the characteristics of metal, you can go to Intro to Metals, which has 18 lessons, and select number four to view the information you need.”

Accessible education
Luke is planning for the site to be fully on the market in early June, and the pricing structure will accommodate trade schools with free memberships. Luke stresses that the lessons are for everyone. “We tried to develop a program that is conducive for all types of learning. The videos are configured so they will run on slower broadband speeds. Students can go to any public Wi-Fi and stream our classes.” He hopes Sawblade University will help schools provide interesting and engaging programs to their students. “We will consistently put a lot of effort into it and fix it as it goes along, listening to users’ constructive criticism. We have budgeted for these improvements.”

Digital communication and learning has grown and improved impressively over the last year, and Luke thinks the model is here to stay—after people have recovered from Zoom fatigue. “I think people are going to want to get off the screen for a little bit [post-pandemic]. But when the opportunity comes to go back to school, they know this works.”

Sawblade University,