Langley’s universities are going back to class this fall, this time with most students in class instead of learning through their laptops.
Advanced Education Minister Anne Kang told colleges across B.C. to prepare for on-campus learning this fall in a statement released on March 9.
Kang said that as the province and post-secondary institutions work together to bring back on-campus learning, safety will be top of mind.
Langley’s two main post-secondary institutions are Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Trinity Western University.
“We’re working on our plans as we speak,” said Sandy Vanderburgh, provost and vice president academic for KPU.
The key things are to make sure that the returning environment is safe for students and for staff, Venderburgh said.
“A lot is going to depend on where the province is with the vaccination roll out [in September],” he noted.
If targets are met, most people are vaccinated, and COVID numbers are very low, it will be a very different situation from the present.
The KPU campus in Langley – one of five – has been one of the busiest campuses, because several of its key programs, including brewing and horticulture, require a lot of hands-on, in-person work. Courses were modified with smaller labs with fewer people over the past year, and Vanderburgh said that proved very successful – there were no known COVID outbreaks among the students and staff of its in-person programs.
The huge experiment with remote learning might result in some changes for students, but exactly how is still being studied.
Students asked for more flexibility in a recent survey, and some classes could see a mix of in person and distance learning in the future.
“We’re looking at a lot of it as sort of piloting it,” said Vanderburgh.
TWU is also looking forward to opening, and could change some of its courses.
“With the B.C. government’s recently announced accelerated timeline for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and the Canadian approval of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose – in addition to AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Moderna – we are fully engaged in planning for a return to face-to-face instruction and activities this fall,” said TWU president Mark Husbands.
Husbands said TWU is taking its students’ needs into account.
“Accordingly, if a student is unable to begin classes face-to-face this fall, we remain committed to providing them with access to TWU’s high-quality education,” he said.
The way student receive their education is expected to be more flexible, and the online education program, TWU Access, was well received in 2020, Husbands said.
It doesn’t work for all students, but it has been a valuable tool for students to continue education during the pandemic, he said.
“As the university continues to enhance and build upon the established infrastructure and technology, we are seeking to give students a greater degree of flexibility in pursuing their education, regardless of time zone or location,” added Dr. Phil Laird, TWU’s vice president of Innovation, Global and Academic Partnerships.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was being consulted on the plan, Kang said.
“I also know some people will be feeling nervous,” Kang said. “Your safety is our top priority. At every step, we’re going to be working with Dr. Henry and all our partners to make sure the right measures are in place to keep people safe.”
By Labour Day, it’s expected that a significant number of British Columbians will have received at least one dose of a vaccine for COVID-19. There are three vaccines currently being distributed in B.C. and a fourth has been approved by Health Canada but has not yet arrived.
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