Online Learning: Brockville, Ont. student says university should keep classes online

BROCKVILLE, ONT. — As colleges and universities plan to welcome face-to-face learning again, some students completing their final semester say it simply isn’t necessary and they should be able to complete their course online.

St. Lawrence student Kellie Gauthier says going back to campus just doesn’t make sense for her class.

“I think they should just leave us at home for the next two and a half months,” Gauthier said outside the Brockville campus on Tuesday.

Gauthier is in her final year of the Mental Wellbeing and Addiction Program and has completed the course online.

In January, the college plans to return to face-to-face learning, aiming to deliver 80 percent of its programs on campus.

But students in her class are enrolled and studying from all over the country.

“We have students in Kingston, Cornwall, in the west; they’ve been online and now trying to find an apartment is just absurd,” Gauthier said.

Some of the students in her program never moved to the area when the course went online in the fall of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as they stayed in their hometowns, were able to continue working or care for sick relatives.

She says that with the announcement of personal learning, discussions have arisen about some students not even completing the program.

“Why should they stop studying for two and a half months?” said Gauthier. “We’ve been online and accommodating since day one.”

Glenn Vollebregt, president and CEO of St. Lawrence College, says communications were sent months in advance about the return to personal learning at all three college facilities along the seaway.

“The information we communicated was there in the summer, it was there in the fall, and it was communicated again in early November,” Vollebregt said.

“We did this in early November to give students a few months to make appointments, etc. We’re working with our community groups in all three of our communities to make sure our students have housing, to make sure our students are supported,” he added.

Vollebregt says any student unable to make the transition to on-campus apprenticeships should reach out.

“We are definitely going to work with them. Our goal is to help our students cross the finish line. I would encourage those students to contact their faculty, get in touch with their program coordinator and let’s talk about the situation and how we can help them be successful,” he said.

“I can tell you that the response has been overwhelmingly positive in terms of more personal time on campus, but for some it’s clearly not what they want. We try to work that with all of our students in all our programs to strike that fine balance. between face-to-face and making sure they have flexible arrangements.”

Gauthier said students surveyed in her class prefer to take the course online, and while she says she can make the transition in January, others can’t.

“To travel here is just not worth it,” Gauthier said. “I don’t think the dean is taking that into account at the moment. We are only asking for two and a half months to stay online and we are in a 40-hour internship in March. Looking at such a short time, it is it really isn’t worth it for all of us to have to rearrange our life schedules to finish our education.”

“Our goal is that virtually every student should have the opportunity to get some on-campus experience and some of that applied experiential learning that colleges are so renowned for,” added Vollebregt.

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