On-campus learning returns but Lethbridge post-secondary schools prepared to pivot

LETHBRIDGE — Both Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge are preparing to return to on-campus learning this fall, although with COVID-19 numbers rising, the schools are prepared to pivot if necessary.

Fourth-year automotive student Phoenix Cant was among hundreds who were back on campus at Lethbridge College on Monday.

Cant said it felt good to be back after taking her second and third-year courses online due to COVID-19.

“It’s phenomenally better to be back in the classroom,” said Cant.

“It’s a little bit easier for communication with the teachers.”

Students in the Trades, Technology and Innovation Facility were the first to return to school, with most other programs resuming next week.

The University of Lethbridge is also preparing to return to in-class learning after switching to a mostly online delivery model last fall. 

“We anticipate 90 per cent of classes will be face-to-face,” said U of L president Mike Mahon.

The University of Calgary allowed professors to move courses online as recently as Aug. 20, raising concerns from the U of C Students Union.

In a news release, the University of Calgary Students Union said the sudden course changes had “pulled the rug out” from under thousands of students.

With less than two weeks until the start of the fall semester, many students, especially international students, had spent money on flights, housing and parking spaces, to find out their in-person classes had moved online.

In February, the University of Lethbridge announced that students should prepare to be back on campus in the fall.

Mahon said that continues to be their goal.

We know our students want to be face-to-face,” said Mahon. “We’re a destination university, and so many of students come from away.”

At the same time, the university will continue to monitor what is happening in the province and region from a health and safety perspective.

“We hope we don’t have to do any pivoting, but we pivoted a year and a half ago, and we’re prepared if need be to move some courses online.,” said Mahon.

While many Albertans were hoping for things to be closer to normal this fall, COVID-19 variants have recently led to an increase in cases.

The university had previously announced that there would be mandatory masking on campus and stipulated those who were not vaccinated would have to undergo regular rapid testing.

Discussions around COVID-19 protocols are continuing, and the U of L said the final plan would be announced prior to classes resuming next week.

Since the start of the pandemic Lethbridge College has changed or updated its COVID-19 guidelines nine times. Lethbridge College president Paula Burns said institutions would have to remain flexible as they determine how to offer as many course experiences on campus as possible, while ensuring the health of its students, faculty and staff.

Now into her final year of schooling, Cant is hoping she can finish her automotive course in the classroom.

“It’s a very hands-on industry,” she added.

“So it is a lot nicer to be physically here, to see how things are going and be able to do it yourself as well.”

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