Skip to main content

Decision to move some University of Calgary courses online at discretion of professors

Share
CALGARY -

The University of Calgary says the vast majority of its course offerings will involve in-person learning, despite the decision of some instructors to move classes online.

In a statement to CTV News sent Thursday, U of C officials said roughly 88 per cent of fall courses would be conducted in the traditional mode of instruction for students.

"As we approach fall 2021, the University of Calgary has remained focused on providing in-person experiential research and learning opportunities students, including for internships and student work placements," read the statement. "We’ve also heard from our students how vital being on campus is to their university experience. Our services, extra-curricular activities and in-person study opportunities are also available again.                                                                    

"The University of Calgary is committed to ensuring a safe return to campus this fall. We are launching a Rapid Testing and Vaccination Status prograam on Sept. 1 to facilitate our return to campus. We are also a highly vaccinated community, and we are dedicated to easing barriers to vaccination for our students, faculty, and staff." 

Faculty members were recently permitted to alter how courses would be offered ahead of the fall term, with consideration for requests of students seeking remote learning. Enrolled students were notified when courses were shifted online.

The university recently announced that COVID-19 vaccinations would not be mandated, but would be encouraged for the fall semester. On Aug. 17, the U of C mandated mask use in all public indoors areas on campus.

An opt-in survey of U of C students and staff conducted earlier this month garnered more than 11,400 responses with 92.8 per cent of staff and 84.8 per cent of students saying they are currently fully vaccinated.

'I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO' – STUDENTS REACT TO ONLINE COURSES

Abdalla Ali arrived in Calgary just two weeks ago from Qatar in the hopes of studying businesses at the University of Calgary.

“I chose Calgary because I read a lot of reviews online that it was a beautiful city, very welcoming and the people are very diverse so it was a great choice,” he said.

When Ali arrived, he was anticipating that only one of his courses would be online, but he learned earlier this week that wasn’t the case.

“Now I only have one class that is in-person so if I can terminate my residence agreement, then I will go back home because there will be no point of me staying in residence if all my classes are online.”

Ali spent thousands of dollars to learn in Calgary and is beginning to regret his decision to stay on campus as his residence deposit of $1,000 is non-refundable.

“I don’t know what to do or if I should stay here.”

Meanwhile, other exchange students like Oliver Moir from London, England are also frustrated that they will lose out on a true university experience.

“It’s expensive Netflix,” Moir jokes.

“I find it harder to engage with online courses, because obviously in-person you’re a bit more switched on. Also, it’s easier to separate between your home and your work.”

Third-year law student Dale Johnston agrees.

She’s finding it difficult to manage a new schedule of online and in-person learning.

“It’ll be a little bit weird,” she said. “I know I have one course that’s sandwiched in between two in-person courses so I’ll have to figure out how to do an online course I guess sitting in the library.”

FACULTY ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR STRICTER MEASURES

The University of Calgary Faculty Association (TUCFA) is pleased with the decision to allow professors to change the modality in which they teach due to COVID-related concerns.

TUCFA president and professor of political science David K. Stewart, says it’s the best possible solution at this moment.

“I fully recognize that this is only a partial solution and that any decision to switch modality is difficult and many of you would like a solution that would make the return to campus and teaching in person in the fall safer,” Stewart said in a statement to CTV News.

“Unfortunately, as of 3 p.m.. on Aug. 16, no additional measures have been announced. I am therefore now publicly calling for a mandatory vaccination policy, mandatory masking, an expansion of on campus testing, contact tracing and an unequivocal requirement that those who test positive for COVID must isolate.”

CTV News reached out to Alberta’s Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides for comment regarding the addition of stricter COVID measures on post-secondary campuses, and a spokesperson said the government expects "a full return to on-campus learning" for students next month.

However, it acknowledged that several institutions have already put in place their own health measures.

PROFESSORS OPT FOR ONLINE AND HYBRID TEACHING OPTIONS

Professors that spoke with CTV News agree that teaching in person creates a more favourable learning environment for students, but also recognize the need to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

Political science professor Melanee Thomas chose a hybrid/blended style of teaching as a result.

“I’m struggling with the lack of boundaries between work and home when we’re 100 per cent remote, and I know students are having a tough time, too,” Thomas said.

“My goal was to make sure that students could come to campus if they felt safe and healthy enough to do so, with public safety measures explicitly in place (masks, vaccines, ventilation, air purification), but if they needed to stay home due to COVID exposure or because they were sick, they would not be penalized.”

Thomas says this is a more flexible and generous approach than earlier in the pandemic and other teachers in the department like Jean Christophe Boucher agree.

Boucher is teaching one of his larger undergraduate lectures online because of its larger enrollment, but teaching a graduate seminar in person because it is a much smaller cohort.

“Odds are that there’s going to be a lot of disruption throughout the semester with people getting sick, maybe I’ll get sick and trying to manage this in person would make things complicated whereas if I do everything online people can jump in and jump out.”

Meanwhile, other professors like Lorian Hardcastle in the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Law are opting for online courses because of a lack of transparency or guidance given to instructors.

“As of yet we still have a number of unresolved questions, but I would hope we get answers because we still don’t know what the rapid testing program will look like, how frequently the tests will occur, and why the university opted for students, staff and faculty to test at home,” she said.

“There’s a lot of unknowns and it’s made it difficult and feel as though we have to opt for online courses because we have unanswered questions about being there in person.”

BLENDED LEARNING AT OTHER POST-SECONDARY INSTITUTIONS

CTV News reached out to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and Mount Royal University (MRU) for comment regarding their teaching options for the upcoming fall semester.

Both institutions confirmed masking is required indoors and that some courses will be taught completely in person, while others will take place online or in a mixed format.

SAIT was unable to give an exact percentage of courses that have shifted online, but Mount Royal University emphasized that 75 to 80 per cent of its classes will still be taking place in person.

In a statement, the institution says it encourages vaccination among the campus community because it is scientifically-based as the “best way to protect individuals and the community.”

“The university is working to have vaccination opportunities on campus early in the fall semester,” the statement read.

“There are many signs of change when it comes to requirements for people to disclose and/or be vaccinated. We are assessing opportunities for rapid testing, as well as other options like enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE)."

Correction

The original version of this story included a typo regarding the percentage of students who indicated they were fully vaccinated. 84.8 per cent of students said they were fully vaccinated not 24.8 per cent.

As of Aug. 17, masks must be worn in all public indoor areas on campus.

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

opinion

opinion Can you cut your monthly bills through negotiation?

If you feel like you're in over your head with monthly bills and subscription fees, personal finance contributor Christopher Liew has some tips and tricks on how to negotiate with certain companies to help cut your expenses and put money back in your pocket.

Stay Connected