Since Mohawk College went online completely On March 17, 2020, the school has looked forward to welcoming students fully back to campus without restriction, but with COVID-19 persisting, students still haven’t been allowed back on campus.
While many students anticipate going back to campus for regular classes and the chance to socialize, other students prefer online learning from the comfort of their homes.
Mohawk College doesn’t make decisions alone when it comes to students returning to campus. The school has always included Hamilton’s public health department for advice as to what is best for students every semester.
“We reached out to public health guidelines and decision making,” explained Louisa Drost, the chief of Health, Wellness, Accessibility & Student Engagement at Mohawk College. “And so they helped us kind of frame our decisions around how do we manage all the students coming back on campus.”
During the pandemic, students have been getting more comfortable with online learning.
“I genuinely do miss online learning since I have more time to prepare my day and I can focus better when I’m alone,” said Crystal Eziokwu, McMaster University student who has returned to in-person lectures.
Drost explained the expectations Mohawk had in mind to welcome students back to campus before the change of plans this winter.
“12,000 students back on campus, full activities, lots of vibrancy, enjoying life, like the pandemic never happened,” she said. “Honestly, we got everything ready to go to bring our students back on campus and that was the hope, that students would return.”
But that wasn’t going to happen.
“We were extremely excited in November, December to start having the conversation about bringing our students back for January, and then Omicron happened,” Drost explained. “So we got a ministry directive that said, if you can, we want you to be moving back to a virtual setting for our students.”
Online learning has its downsides, like students sleeping in class and not concentrating, technical issues happening during class, and less communication between students and lecturers.
“Online learning made the tests and exams more unquestionably difficult than they would have been in person, particularly the timing they allocate us in order to avoid cheating, as well as the ability to speak with teachers and when [we were] assigned group work,” Eziokwu said.
Even though online learning can be challenging, some students say they have gained a lot from it.
“Building my technical skills, time management skills, and independent learning skills,” Salewa Badru, a student at Mohawk College, said. “The only benefit I can think of about going back to school is meeting people and engaging face-to-face.”
Drost says Mohawk College is moving toward a resumption of normal teaching as soon as possible.
“I do hope that by the spring-summer, we can trial additional students on campus, and by the fall, we have a full campus that’s booming with lots of students and lots of programming and activity like we that we used to have it,” Drost said.