After months of online learning, these Conestoga College students have to get back to campus and scramble

Some Ontario college students who have enrolled in programs because of the ease of distance learning, set up to continue their education amid COVID-19 lockdowns, are now being told they must return to classes in person – leaving them to scramble, including finding a spot near campus or daycare.

This is the case at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont., Where many students learned that after 19 months of mostly virtual classes, they had to be on campus for the winter term.

They told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo that they received emails on Nov. 8 and 17 announcing that most of the programming would be held on campus during the winter semester.

But they say they didn’t get enough notice to be on campus in January.

The move has left some students scrambling to find accommodation closer to the school, finding work around class or babysitting schedules, said Alissa Gee, a second-year communications student.

“A lot of the students in the program don’t even live nearby and some, like me, have small children at home,” she said. “That’s why I originally signed up for this program – because it was going to be mostly remote.”

Alissa Gee says distance learning enabled her to attend classes and care for her young child. (Submitted by Alissa Gee)

Gee said the distance learning option gives him flexibility; she could access a lesson after school time if she could not attend due to custody of her child.

“When they sent this email [about the change] it sent a bit of a panic, “she said.” I’m afraid there are some students who won’t be able to graduate. “

In a statement to CBC News, Conestoga College said it has been “advising students since the end of the summer that we will be returning to campus learning in January 2022, and that all students, employees and visitors will be required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. “

When asked for copies of the communication, the college said there was a notice on its website in August advising staff and students of the hope that vaccination rates and health restrictions public could allow a wider return to campus in winter.

Some laboratories and services are now available there.

What the college says

But the main communication from the school appears to have been the academic delivery plan released on October 28. He says “most students” will return to campus – but notes that the programs will be delivered in three formats: in-person, hybrid, or remote.

“Although the college has delivered many distance programs since March 2020 in response to pandemic restrictions, our intention to return to more learning and services on campus has been consistently and repeatedly shared with our students and the community. at large, ”the college said in its statement to CBC.

Tori Towriss, who is in Conestoga College’s Advertising and Marketing Communications program, lives in Elora and distance learning has landed her two jobs. (Submitted by Tori Towriss)

But Gee and his comrade Tori Towriss said the language around returning to campus was unclear.

“We always understood that things were still pending,” said Gee. “So when the email came out in November, it kind of solidified it for everyone.”

Towriss said he received emails in November informing him that the program would be offered in a hybrid model, meaning students would have to be in person for some courses and remotely for others.

This is a frustration for her, as she lives in Elora and distance learning has allowed her to land two jobs there.

“I kind of expected it, but I wasn’t happy that we didn’t have a choice to do it online.”

Concern raised by school

Alyssa Tavares, also a second year student in the program, said another concern is that students are still unsure which classes will be in-person and which will be online.

Delivery formats will be provided in student program schedules or scheduled to be available by mid-December, depending on the school.

“We do not know [where] classes will last until December… which may still change until our start date, ”Tavares said.

Tavares, Towriss and Gee say they hope the school will listen to their concerns and offer the option to complete their programs remotely.

Towriss said she and her classmates contacted their program coordinator and the college administration.

An online petition, which asks the school to continue offering distance education, has collected more than 100 signatures.


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