Tuesday, January 25, 2022 | Category: Eduvation Insider
Good morning, and happy “Opposite Day” (I guess?) to all you contrarians and logicians out there!
Yesterday I shared with you, in likely way too much detail, the way in which 160 CdnPSEs have been coping with their frustrated desire to return to campus this month. (See “Disappointed Groundhogs.”)
I tried to simplify everything with a colour-coded Google spreadsheet, which you might want handy for reference today. (Or maybe you’ll wind up as far down the rabbit-hole as I am…) This is part 2 of the discussion, so you might want to read yesterday’s issue before proceeding…
Apologies in advance to the 200 institutions NOT on my list (which has accumulated by happenstance for a lot of reasons) and for being one day behind on any late-breaking news. (I was having too much fun at Kwantlen yesterday!)
As provincial ministries and PHOs have alternated pushed CdnPSE back to campus or forced them back online, institutions and administrations have certainly been frustrated in their planning for the Winter 2022 term.
But today, we turn from institutional frustration to that of the students, none of whom seem pleased right now…
Students were particularly outspoken in the media about institutional plans that seemed continually in flux – largely because administrations wanted to minimize their concessions to an unpredictable pandemic by making changes in 2-week increments. (Even worse was getting insufficient notice.) About 50 CdnPSEs on my list had to backpedal and extend virtual or blended learning plans at least once…
Setbacks in Ontario
In Ontario, 21 institutions (mostly universities) had to rejig their plans in January. McMaster and Trent had ambitiously hoped to get by with just one virtual week, but that was clearly impossible. Carleton delayed their return by a week, to better assess the impact of K-12 schools reopening Jan 17. St Clair postponed its return due to high spread of the Omicron variant in the Windsor region. Cambrian extended online delivery of theory courses from Jan 28 until the end of term.
“Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires us all to be open to changing information and to be flexible and empathetic in decision-making. Together, we will navigate the shifting sand that I sincerely hope is the tail end of the pandemic.” – Florentine Strzelczyk, provost, Memorial U
Upset in Nova Scotia
Still reeling from the aftermath of the StFX X-Ring outbreaks, Dalhousie (and uKing’s College), Saint Mary’s U and NSCC announced in mid-Dec that they would start 2022 with 2 weeks of virtual delivery. A week later, Dal extended that “at least” through the end of the month, and in mid-January NSCC extended that until Feb 6. (Although some NS universities closed their residences for the month too, “emergency exceptions” were made for out-of-province or international students.) uSte Anne, which had planned for only 2 weeks of hybrid in January before a complete return to campus, outraged many students when it reversed course entirely just days into January, announcing an end to in-person learning for the whole term.
Omicron in Alberta
This month, as COVID19 hospitalizations in Alberta continue to rise, 11 ABpses have extended online or blended instruction throughout the entire month of February, including 6 colleges (RDC, SAIT, NAIT, and Olds) and 5 universities (including MacEwan, uAlberta, uCalgary, and uLethbridge. (I confess, I’m not quite clear whether Portage College is still online this week or not.)
“This year has started differently than anyone could have hoped… Unfortunately, the Omicron variant continues to spread aggressively across the country and new data forecasts the peak in Alberta for late January or early February.” – Bill Flanagan, president, uAlberta
Shut Out in New Brunswick
Last week, all 6 New Brunswick institutions on my list had to rejig their plans when the province moved back to “level 3” for the latter half of January. Instead of 2 virtual weeks, as most announced in December, Mount Allison added a 3rd, while most universities added 2 additional weeks, and NBCC added 4 weeks.
Constant Change in PEI
In PEI, K-12 classes have been online until at least yesterday. UPEI announced in late Dec that it would begin with at least 1 week online (with some exceptions). On Jan 7 that was extended until “at least Jan 30,” and on Jan 14 new provincial guidance required a return to 2020-21 physical distancing rules for labs still delivered F2F.
“I realize that the only constant in our lives right now seems to be change. We are all growing weary with the many updates to protocols and the uncertainty that comes along with our evolving environment.” – Greg Keefe, interim president, UPEI
Long View in Manitoba
On the prairies, you can see a long way to the horizon. Which means my grandparents thought nothing of driving 3 hours to get groceries, and may explain why some folks take the long view in planning, too. In Manitoba, unlike NB, none of the institutions have had to juggle plans, because their initial announcements were among the most conservative in the country. The colleges eased up on F2F learning back in December: RRC Polytechnic would continue in blended mode, while Assiniboine CC would shift some programs online for Jan 5-14. Smaller rural universities (Brandon U, Providence UC and Canadian Mennonite U) eventually announced 2-week pivots before a return to F2F (including mandatory 3rd doses and twice-weekly rapid testing at CMU). The Winnipeg universities were even more conservative: back in December, uWinnipeg, uManitoba and U St-Boniface all announced they would be staying mostly virtual through most of February too. In smaller northern communities, UC of the North would be mostly online, possibly for the entire term. And in January, Booth UC announced it would stay virtual until at least Reading Week (Feb 15).
“We know that remote learning is not the best for our students’ academic success or mental health. However, remote learning is the responsible option we have before us given the circumstances.” – Dan Smith, VP Academic and Research, UC of the North
If there’s one thing this pandemic has taught us (oh right, besides “flexibility” and “resilience”), it’s that you just can’t please everybody. (And some days, ANYbody.) With announcements of plans for January classes, as with December exams last month, faculty and students have been protesting on BOTH sides, and administrations simply can’t side with the majority without incurring the wrath of a vocal minority…
Don’t Vax on Us!
Naturally there are still plenty of protests against vaccine mandates in CdnPSE, as a convoy of truckers makes its way to Ottawa. One “fifth-year” student-athlete filed a human rights lawsuit against uLethbridge in early December, based on the Alberta decision to remove testing as an option in mid-September. (She could not obtain a “religious” exemption.) This month, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has launched legal action against Seneca College on behalf of 4 students not permitted to return to campus unless vaxxed, alleging breach of contract, discrimination and violation of human rights. Three unvaxxed uWinnipeg Collegiate instructors are suing the University and the province for $2M after being placed on unpaid leave in September, claiming they are facing discrimination and “vilification.” (Pitchforks and torches, people!) Their lawsuit claims permanent psychological trauma, PTSD, and that the vax policy amounts to “a conspiracy to commit assault.”
Bring Us On-Campus!
Of course, if you’ve been reading the polls and surveys, you know that most traditional undergraduate students desperately want to be back on campus, so it’s no surprise some were upset about even temporary pivots back online for January. As I said, students at U Ste-Anne are particularly upset about the abrupt decision to stay online all term, instead of coming back F2F as promised just weeks ago. Student athletes in Ontario have been protesting the province’s decision to ban indoor sports activities for the month of January. (The exemption for “elite amateur” athletes excluded OUA.)
Treat Us the Same!
In mid-January, Western U decided to manage campus density by bringing upper-year students back to campus for February, but making first-year students wait until March – outraging folks on both sides of the debate. (Frosh can’t even move back into residence rooms in the meantime.) Two opposing petitions have roughly equal support, to stay online so students don’t have to move mid-term, or to bring first-years back to campus with everyone else. (The affiliated colleges, on the other hand, are bringing first-year students back Jan 31 too. They have smaller residences and are confident they can manage the density.)
“There are a lot of angry first-year students. Although we were aware that, at any given moment, school could go online, we weren’t aware that residence would also be taken away from us.” – Chloe Vanderlugt, first-year student, Western U
Keep Us Online!
The vocal minority this month, though, are students with at-risk family members or work responsibilities that make them more anxious to avoid exposure to COVID19, or disabilities that make in-person classes painful or impossible. This month, 740 Memorial U students signed a petition calling for in-person labs to pivot back online (along with most lecture classes), out of concern for their own personal safety. The uOttawa students union is concerned about students who gave up their rental housing and returned home (although their student survey found a 50/50 divide between students who want to return to campus, and those who don’t.) Some 2,000 students at uLethbridge are objecting to staying online until Feb 28, and returning for just 5 weeks of in-person instruction for the semester. 2,400 Douglas College students petitioned (unsuccessfully) against a Jan 10th return to campus, as did 3,500 BCIT students and 1,300 Langara College Nursing students. More than 4,300 SFU students are petitioning for more remote options, “scared and uneasy” and anxious about returning to classrooms Jan 24.
“Amongst our student body we know that there are a very wide range of opinions and also preferences. We are guided in our decision by public health expertise, our own data on student impact, and [the BC CDC study] on mental health impacts for young people.” – Simon Fraser U
As usual, things are particularly contentious en Québec. Quebec students are protesting the enforced return to campus at McGill, Concordia, and some CEGEPs. Although McGill’s school of social work planned to continue online learning until Feb 25, it was overruled by the administration – prompting a “strike vote” from students. The Concordia U student union is condemning the plan to return to campus Feb 4, urging a “fully online or at the very least hybrid semester.” Other students call the return to campus amidst an Omicron wave “reckless.”
“McGill wants us to be in person at possible super-spreader events for several days of the week, and they send us to vulnerable communities… Are we really doing the best we can to do no harm to our clients?” – Jo Roy, social work student, McGill U
Give Us Options!
What students can all agree on, it seems, is that they want to be able to choose how to attend their classes (and that attitude may persist long past the pandemic). A student senator at Laurentian argues that all classes should be offered in a choice of modes. Some 3,500 students at uToronto Mississauga have been lobbying for a hybrid semester since October, concerned about transportation, housing and safety should classes return to campus. About 3,500 Western U students are petitioning for a hybrid model that would give them the option to remain online. (Another 2,700 are petitioning for the right to move into residence early.) Similarly, about 1,500 students at St Clair College are petitioning for “a choice for every student to have either in-person or online” after F2F classes resume Jan 24.
“If nobody advocates for the students — if nobody’s here to bring up these concerns — then nothing will change. Bring on the conflict!” – Shen Fernando, 3rd year political science student, uToronto Mississauga
The Right Answer is BOTH
If there’s going to be a lasting effect of the pandemic pivot to remote work and study, it will be to reinforce thousands of pre-existing studies that found blended delivery achieved better learning outcomes than eitheronline or on-campus classes. During the pandemic, scores of student surveys have concluded that about 60% of them want the flexibility to choose whether to attend classes online or in-person. And likewise, a globalsurvey of employees last year found that 65% of remote workers want to stay that way, while another 33% of them want a hybrid model that gives them choice.
The pandemic has made us all comfortable with the idea that we can sign a mortgage, close a contract, conduct a meeting or attend a lecture online at our convenience. Retailers have moved to omnichannel models that allow us to research, buy, and return products at a digital or physical store, however we prefer.
CdnPSE will face growing pressure from traditional online and on-campus students alike (and employees) to introduce substantially more flexibility into modes of work and study. This spring is just a pandemic dress rehearsal…
You may recall that last week I shared the Psychology Quips video series, published on Instagram by MSVU profs Will Shead and Derek Fisher. Here’s another offbeat example…
Royal Roads U prof George Veletsianos (who is also a CRC in Innovative Learning & Technology, and Commonwealth of Learning Chair in Flexible Education) and his RAs produce a YouTube channel with 40 animated “Research Shorts” (most about 3min in length) that have hit a quarter-million views over the past 5 years. If you’re interested, or even curious, in edtech, online learning, or learning science you should check it out. By far the most popular is one on “Conducting a Systematic Literature Review,” but there are also vids on OER effectiveness, MOOC research, perceptions of online ed quality, and the use of Twitter (and Twitter, oh and more Twitter – actually there are even more). Since the pandemic began the animation style has evolved, for topics like “7 Elements of a Good Online Course,” and most recently, “How Cognitive Shortcuts affect people’s Openness to Changing COVID19 Information.” Personally, I enjoyed the longest of the “shorts,” a 14-min keynote by Veletsianos himself, responding to the prompt, “the digital revolution is over,” and reflecting on the post-pandemic (and perhaps post-digital) era. Research Shorts
So I ask again: any other examples out there of profs producing watchable, cool (and brief) videos for broad audiences? Let me know!
As always, thanks for reading!
Tomorrow – I’m excited to share with you some insights from analyzing in-depth the latest statistics on Ontario university applications – and contrasting them with the pre-pandemic ones. Stay tuned!
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