Students at the University of Calgary protested the school’s decision to allow online courses which student body members said came with little consultation or consideration for their needs.
Students gathered at MacEwan Hall at 11 a.m. on Tuesday with the aim, they said, of asking the university to report on the transition from classes to online classes two weeks before classes start.
Organizer John Rawlek wants the university to “live up to its commitment to provide courses to students four months ago, or take responsibility for the thousands of dollars in fees that their last-minute decision cost students.”
Rawlek said virtual learning cannot replace the experience of classroom learning.
“A web camera can’t capture the beauty of that human experience where you’re sitting next to people you don’t even know, physically interacting with them,” he said.
The decision to opt for online education was left to individual instructors. University of California political scientist Melanee Thomas believes the province is to blame for the last-minute nature of the switch to online courses.
“It hit us like a hammer,” Thomas said. “
It is not the fault of the university, and it is not the fault of the instructors. People are scrambling to find the best way to keep people safe …. But the responsibility rests with the provincial government and the Chief Medical Officer of Health. “
Students CTV News spoke to were more excited about being able to return to campus than concerned about COVID-19.
University of California student Juan Cruz didn’t have any out of place online classes and was delighted.
“I am very happy that all of my classes are held in person,” said Cruz. “Last year when I had classes they were all online and after a while it got pretty depressing to be in my room so I can certainly understand their frustration.”
These feelings were echoed by student Takumi Rodgers. “I’m excited, I missed my first year more or less because of it,” Rodgers said.
Meanwhile, student Callen Armstrong discovered a combination of online and in-person classes and felt good about it.
“I have three in-person and two online classes, which is my perfect combination I think,” Armstrong said.
U OF C RESPONSE
The University of Calgary has said the vast majority of its course offerings will involve in-person learning, despite the decision by some instructors to move the courses online.
School officials released the following statement to CTV News Tuesday evening in response to the rally.
The top priority of the University of Calgary is the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff.
The environment continues to change rapidly. The pandemic has forced many post-secondary institutions, including the University of Calgary, to make tough decisions in a short period of time in order to keep our campus safe for students, faculty and staff. These are not decisions we take lightly.
The university is actively working with and supporting students who have been affected by the modalities changes. This includes:
- Help in finding courses with the course delivery method they prefer through their pedagogical advisers;
- Facilitation of study groups in person via the Student Success Center for certain online courses;
- Spaces dedicated to students to participate in online courses with their peers;
- Scholarships to compensate for financial difficulties;
- Elimination of leisure and transportation costs on campus for those whose schedules are entirely online (with the option of opting for those who wish to use campus facilities);
- Continue to provide students with experiential research and in-person learning opportunities, including internships and work placements; and
- In-person student services and extracurricular activities.
In making our decisions, we have been guided by provincial recommendations, scientific evidence (supported by the Center for Health Informatics Tracker at the University of Calgary), and feedback from students, faculty and staff.
Our commitment to all parties has been to carefully monitor the situation and make the changes necessary to keep our community safe, safe and open for the fall.
School officials said in August that about 80 percent of fall classes would be taught through traditional instruction.