Ottawa college and university students still doing most courses online

OTTAWA — College and university students in Ottawa are still doing mostly virtual learning, while at the same time, thousands of high school and unvaccinated elementary students are going to class in person.

Now, some students and parents are looking for answers. 

Carleton student, Joseph Penman spends most of his time in his dorm room this semester.

“I find it pretty easy to keep track of all my courses and get the work done,” says Penman.

He’s in his first year of biomedical mechanical engineering. So far, he’s had a total of two in-person labs for the entire year, and he doesn’t understand why.

“Vaccines work,” says Penman. “Even if there are cases of COVID, it’s not going to spread throughout campus because we are all vaccinated.” 

He describes COVID rules on campus that just don’t make sense.

“We can have a bunch of people in the cafeteria eating, we go with groups of almost 20 people and all sitting at the same table eating together,” says Penman. “But then we go into a study room and we can’t have four people with masks off.”

Joseph’s dad Chris wonders if staying at home in Oakville to do his classes would have been easier than moving five hours away to do the same, in a small dorm room. 

“It’s a lot of money to go to university these days,” says Chris. “And to think that you’re doing it all online, I mean, that’s disappointing.”

Steven Reid, Media Relations Officer for Carleton University says, “As we are situated in the fourth wave of the pandemic, at Carleton all return-to-campus decisions are made with the health and wellness of students, faculty and staff as our top priority.”

However, Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches suggests the universities should be moving to more in-person learning.

“With people having to be vaccinated on campus, this does create a much safer environment where it is possible to return to more in-person learning,” says Etches. 

Some other Ottawa doctors agree. 

“Community spread is low,” says ICU physician Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng. “We’ve had vaccine mandates for those attending colleges and universities. I think the demographic of college students and their risk of getting ill from COVID is low. Which is something that needs to be emphasized.”

Engineering can be a challenge at the best of times. Online only, especially.

“Being online, you have a lot less support from everyone,” says Joseph. “It’s kind of just, figure it out.”

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