Why aren't more university students returning to in-person classes?
OTTAWA -- Post-secondary students who say they were promised more in-person classes are protesting Carleton University’s winter schedule.
For some, it has moved completely online and it’s causing frustration for both students and parents who are paying thousands of dollars in tuition.
Lydia Wilson knew that the start of the school year would be predominantly online. She is in her first of commerce at Carleton University.
“I live in residence and the only reason why I decided to come here is because they told us winter would be in-person,” says Wilson. “But when we checked our timetables on Monday, everything was online instead.”
Wilson previously had one lecture in-person. Now there are none, and she’s not alone. Many other programs seem to have closed the door on classrooms too.
“I wouldn’t have gone through all these online classes if I didn’t know that I was going to be getting in-person classes on the back end,” says Espen Swift, who moved from British Columbia to attend and aerospace engineering program.
“It’s crazy that I could have gone close to home and done in-person classes but I chose to come here and because I chose that, now I’m getting pretty much a worse education because it’s all online and because half the time I feel like I’m ending up using YouTube videos.”
Other students have similar sentiments and say that not only are the courses online, the content is pre-recorded material. In some cases more than a year old.
“I just had one that was recorded last year and it was about two hours long,” says Justin Morris, a first year business student. “There are no external learning resources or anything just a video and a slide show … I have no connections with anyone and if I want a response from my teacher I have to wait at least four hours.”
A spokesperson with Carleton University says all return-to-campus decisions are made with the health and wellness of students, faculty and staff as the top priority.
“For the winter 2022 term we are offering more in-person courses than the fall (about 50% of courses), across all departments, with online courses also available to maximize flexibility for students,” Steven Reid said.
“Recent changes to capacity limits mean that more students will be returning to campus for the winter term, and our teaching spaces will be able to accommodate more students. Changes to the winter 2022 course schedules are continuing this week and students are encouraged to review the course schedule as we further increase in-person sections due to demand.”
But international student Yash Gandhi, in third-year commerce and paying about $40,000 per year in tuition, not including residence, says his schedule does not reflect what the school is saying.
“One tutorial in-person, that’s it,” he says. “I am a cash cow for the university literally and with COVID it has hit international students the highest. I chose Canada for a better education. I’m not getting that and I don’t know what I have come here for.
“I am paying $150,000 for four years and the interaction level which it was before COVID it’s not the same… it’s getting frustrating.”
And for parent Sarah Ciss, it’s not just about the cost, it’s about the mental health and well-being of the students who want a proper post-secondary education.
“They don’t need to be sitting in a seven-by-ten room looking at a screen any longer. It’s enough,” says Ciss, who’s daughter’s forensic psychology courses at Carleton have been moved online. “It’s horribly unfair to these kids, and they are still kids … and I believe somebody has to mandate these professors and these administrators back into the classroom.”
A spokesperson with the Ministry of Colleges and Universities says in-person instruction and participation in on-campus activities is critical to the mental health, well-being and academic success and that Ontario provided opportunities for the safe return to in-person teaching, learning, and on-campus residences and activities in fall 2021.
“Postsecondary institutions are autonomous entities and continue to have flexibility to offer both in-person and virtual options for teaching and learning to best suit the needs of students and institutions.”
For Wilson, she simply wants what was promised.
“We have friends at Western and they said that this term their midterms were in person,” says Wilson. “I don’t get why it has to be different here.”