U of C students frustrated after classes suddenly switch online

Carol E. Corker

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After a year and a half of online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, University of Calgary student Orianne Aviv was eager to be back on campus this fall.

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But she was frustrated to discover earlier this week her entire slate of courses had been changed from in-person to virtual delivery, despite health measures announced at the U of C meant to facilitate a safe return to lecture halls, including mandated rapid testing for unvaccinated individuals.

“I had my entire schedule in-person, then I got an email that said, ‘One of your classes has moved online.’ And then I checked and saw it wasn’t just one of my classes, it was all of them,” said Aviv, a third-year English student.

“I already bought my parking pass. I already went back-to-school shopping. I spent all this money, and when I found out it was online, I cried all day about it.

“It’s my fifth semester online. It’s not even the school work that bothers me. I’ve spent the last year and a half not seeing any people. I’ve tried to be as safe as I could. Now I just feel punished for it.”

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Aviv said she is fully immunized against COVID-19 and was happy to wear a mask on campus if it meant being able to return to the classroom. She said none of the courses required for her degree are offered in-person, so she’s stuck learning at home for at least another semester.

She isn’t alone in her disappointment. On the /r/ucalgary community on Reddit, dozens of students posted about having their classes moved online, and the school’s students’ union said it received an “unprecedented” level of inquiries on the topic over the past several days.

According to the U of C, course professors and instructors were given until Aug. 20 to determine how they would deliver their classes in the fall semester, which begins Sept. 7. About 10 per cent of lectures, labs, seminars and tutorials were brought online this month as a fourth wave of COVID-19 surges in Alberta, the school said.

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“After changes, and accounting for previously increased demand for online offerings, 80% of students have schedules that are entirely in-person or have blended modes of delivery. 100% of campus is open to students, faculty and staff,” the U of C said in a statement. The university declined an interview request from Postmedia.

I’ve tried to be as safe as I could. Now I just feel punished for it.

Orianne Aviv

Students’ group says decision limits options

Nicole Schmidt is the president of the students’ union at the U of C. She said she is concerned about the “last-minute nature” of the decision to move classes online, saying students have already financially committed to travelling to Calgary, getting parking passes and living on campus.

She said the students’ group is calling on the university to honour the delivery method of classes that were originally promised, potentially by having dual in-person and online sections for popular courses.

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“We have a number of students who prefer online, and a number of students who prefer in-person, but unfortunately with the last-minute decision the university has made here, they’re not really affording students the ability to pick the delivery format that works best for them,” Schmidt said

The U of C said it will not charge campus or transit fees to students who have fully online schedules, but students may opt-in to fees necessary for using on-campus facilities. The university did not respond to an inquiry of whether students would be reimbursed for on-campus parking or housing costs, but said bursaries and financial supports have been established for those affected by the change.

Aviv is hoping to recoup some costs she’s incurred for the semester, but she said her biggest concern is that she feels robbed of some experiences that come with a post-secondary education.

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“I’m just really bummed that I’m stuck at home for another semester. It’s two years that I’m sitting here, learning in my room,” she said.

U of C gives details for rapid testing program as MRU introduces vaccine rules

In an email to students Friday evening, the U of C provided details of the implementation of its rapid-testing program.

Beginning Sept. 1, those who are not fully immunized against COVID-19 or do not want to disclose their vaccine status will be given antigen rapid tests at no cost to take at home, twice weekly. They must upload a photo of their negative test result to an online portal within three-and-a-half days of attending an in-person campus activity.

Students will self-declare their vaccination status, though the U of C warned proof of vaccination “may be required later as part of regular audits or as the program evolves.” They said lying about vaccine status is considered a serious misconduct that would result in discipline.

Elsewhere Friday, Mount Royal University announced it would implement a similar COVID-19 response, requiring “frequent” rapid testing for students, faculty and staff who are not fully immunized. Details of implementation were unavailable, but the school said it aimed to begin the program “as early as possible in the fall semester.”

Additionally, MRU is now requiring mask use in all indoor spaces; previously, this was only mandatory in labs and classrooms.

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Twitter: @jasonfherring

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