Since March last year, The Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS) has allowed REHIS course presenters to deliver the REHIS Elementary Cooking Skills course virtually, using platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Adapting training to a virtual platform is not without its challenges, so REHIS recently developed some additional guidance for its course presenters on how to do this. In this blog post, REHIS have helped us adapt this advice and this will be particularly useful for those planning ‘live’ cooking sessions and for those focused on developing and assessing skills and nutrition knowledge.
What has been successful?
REHIS Elementary Cooking skills course presenters have risen to the challenge of adapting their training methods and course materials to run virtual cooking sessions, so that participants are able to learn valuable cooking skills through making a variety of dishes in their own homes. These have proved to be a success – participants are still able to interact and chat with other group members as well as tasting and evaluating their finished dishes. REHIS Cooking Skills course presenters have shown that with careful planning and lots of enthusiasm it is possible to adapt and deliver worthwhile, quality practical training remotely.
So what do you need to consider when planning and assessing live online cooking skills courses?
CHEX has developed a useful guide for taking training online and has lots of practical advice on delivering training using Microsoft Teams and Zoom. (This is aimed at HIIC trainers, but is useful for others) You can find the guide here.
Equipment, facilities and recipes
What equipment and facilities participants have may dictate which recipes or dishes you plan to make, unless you are able to provide these for them.
When planning recipes, you will also need to consider how participants will get the ingredients they need. If participants are able to source these themselves you could use this to develop their confidence and skills and incorporate it into learning outcomes, i.e. working out what ingredients are needed, costing and sourcing ingredients, identifying suitable substitutions (if required) and storing and organising ingredients before cooking. This could also complement learning outcomes on healthy choices, budgeting, food labelling, etc.
You will also have to consider what format the recipes will be in and how participants will get access to these.
Safety and food hygiene
It is advisable to go over safety and food hygiene protocols at the start of each session as you would in a face-to-face session. This is obviously more difficult to do in a virtual session, but you should ensure that all participants are aware of and demonstrate the main principles of personal hygiene, food safety (during food preparation, cooking and storage) and the safe use of equipment.
The format of the session
- It’s a good idea to limit the number of participants attending each course – ideally no more than four participants.
- You may need to allocate time in your session plan to allow for late joiners, or people dropping in and out because of technology issues.
- Shorter sessions are advisable when running courses virtually, while also allowing time for sufficient screen breaks. It is also good to allow time for chat between the group at the start or end of the session – perhaps talking about the food they have made.
- You may wish to run the first session as a more informal introduction session to talk about the course and to meet each other. You could use this time to explain what to expect and to explore and discuss participants’ experiences of cooking.
- You may want to consider running more sessions than you might usually, as it is harder to cover as much in a virtual session compared with a face-to-face one.
- It can be useful to have a ‘helper’ for each session to assist with the technical aspects of running a session virtually. They can also help with observing how participants are getting on and assessing their skills.
- It is a good idea to mute participants at some points (to avoid sound interference) and then unmute them during discussions. You might also want to mute the sound when you are doing something noisy like blending.
- It is advisable to go through the recipes (ingredients, equipment and method) before beginning cooking so that participants know exactly what they are doing and what they will need.
- If you are demonstrating a dish, ensure that participants are able to see what you are doing clearly and that the camera is positioned close enough and at the right angle.
You may wish to include demonstrations of techniques, etc. while participants watch (remember to have the camera pointing at your hands to show what you are doing, not your face and to put it back to your face when you are talking). This can be done ‘live’ with the group watching or you could show pre-recorded videos within the session. This may be particularly useful in the first few sessions.
You could also cook alongside participants with everyone making the dish at the same time. However, this will make it less possible to observe participants cooking so if you aim to assess or evaluate participants’ skills, you could either do this in a separate session or have someone else observing participants while you cook.
You may also wish to show video recordings covering some topics to break up each session a bit, for example, you could show a video on food safety in the kitchen to introduce the topic or to reinforce prior learning.
Assessing skills, knowledge and the quality of the prepared recipe
As with a face-to-face session, it is possible to assess skills by observing participants’ cooking techniques during virtual sessions.
You will also be observing and checking they are using hygienic methods and suitable equipment and are able to follow the recipe and measure things out correctly.
You could also use practical activities, question and answer sessions or a quiz to assess participants’ knowledge and understanding throughout the course. These could also be a useful way to determine their understanding of cooking and food preparation terms and can be done verbally or by showing each question on screen and discussing the answers.
You could carry out more formal assessments as a group, in breakout rooms or by giving participants a time slot to do this on a one-to-one basis with you, or a combination of these.
Participants could record themselves. For example, they could remake a dish between sessions or try a new recipe which they could record. It is a good idea to encourage them to talk through what they are doing and why.
If you are assessing skills, make sure you give feedback to participants throughout the course so that they can work on the skills they wish to develop.
Participants could evaluate their own recipe by describing and rating their dish. Or, if they have someone else in the household, they could ask them to taste and rate the food in addition or instead. They could do this verbally or they could fill out a taste rating card. (You could also collect this and use this as part of any evaluation).
Participants could also take a picture of their finished dish.
You may wish to incorporate some interactive activities to supplement the practical cooking and to cover nutrition learning. These could also be used to assess participants’ knowledge and understanding.
How to use (interactive) training aids on a virtual platform
There are several ways you could do this:
1) Breakout rooms (remember if you have the activity on the screen, this can’t be seen once you go into a breakout room).
2) Links to activities/websites etc. in the chat box (though you can’t then see them doing it).
3) Share your screen while you do an activity or talk through it as a group
4) Send out a printed copy of an activity in the pre course information for use during the session.
Interactive aids and other resources
The resources below can be adapted to online activities:
Food Standards Scotland Interactive Eatwell guide:
Eatwell Challenge (aimed at children and young people)
The NHS choices Eatwell Guide and Eatwell pages are not interactive, but include a wide range of resources that could be adapted: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/
Food a Fact of Life interactive resources
These are aimed at children and young people and include a wide range of videos, quizzes and interactive games.
Food a Fact of Life Interactive resources
World Cancer Research Fund
Has a quiz about sugar: ‘Are you sugar savvy?’
Food Standards Scotland (FSS)
FSS has interactive resources aimed at young people in secondary school:
About the REHIS Elementary Cooking Skills course
The REHIS Elementary Cooking Skills course is a flexible, short course (min 6 hours) suitable for anyone with an interest in food and cooking with little or no cooking experience. It provides participants with basic cooking skills, increasing their confidence, skills and knowledge of basic food preparation, basic cooking and presentation, food safety and safe and hygienic practices. The course has been independently rated on the Scottish Credit Qualifications Framework (SCQF) at Level 4 with 1 credit.
The course syllabus can be found here.
For more information on Elementary Cooking Skills or for details of how to become a registered cooking skills centre, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org