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Poor planning revealed in the abrupt shift to online learning

By Nimra Amir, September 16 2021—

I, like many other students, was disheartened to learn that most of my courses had been shifted last week from in-person to online. This change in delivery was a sudden decision made — without student input — after the set deadline for format changes had passed. 

Even though the carelessness of the University of Calgary in waiting until the last minute to implement such a decision has negatively affected all students who had been preparing for their fall semester on campus, it has particularly blindsided international students who made serious commitments — flights and accommodation among other things — to attend what they thought were in-person courses. Even now as courses are scheduled to start, several logistical questions remain unanswered, fostering a strong sense of unease about the return to campus. 

It was only at the beginning of August, the university stated that masking and vaccination were only recommended but not required. Meanwhile, Alberta’s United Conservative Party (UCP) was working towards removing the tracking of cases, contact tracing and isolation requirements,  leaving many staff members and students concerned that a safe return to campus was not feasible for the fall semester. In response, on Aug. 17 — a few days before the deadline for professors to finalize their course formats — the University at last announced mandatory masking and testing for those who are unvaccinated. 

The decision to protect staff and students was better late than never, but since the university had an 18-month window, it should have been accompanied by a fully developed plan.

As this was not the case, the university was unable to address many of the questions regarding the logistics of their Aug. 17 announcement. It appears as though the university solely made this decision to combat the backlash they received for not implementing greater protective measures against COVID-19 sooner. As a result, even though professors had until Aug. 20 to determine how they would deliver their classes, about ten per cent of lectures, labs, seminars and tutorials were brought online afterwards. 

Without a thorough plan to effectively handle the fourth wave of COVID-19, protection for students and staff was to be ensured instead through online learning. The university’s indecisiveness made an already complex situation considerably more difficult.

Nicole Schmidt, the president of the Students’ Union (SU), identified the lack of communication from the university as the larger issue at hand. She noted that the university needed to consult with students and the SU before decisions were made. If proper consultation was achieved, the university would have been able to develop a well-established plan to ensure the safety of staff and students a lot sooner. Even if there had been no plan at all, students would not have invested a significant amount of money on the premise that their fall semester will be held in person.

This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.

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