After a year of remote learning, students at the University of British Columbia are both excited to return to campus and concerned that they will lose the advantages of online classes.
“I mean, we’ve all been so lonely and so isolated for months that we all kind of can’t wait to see our friends. But I think we’ve also kind of gotten used to the way online classes function, and I think it’ll be a really big adjustment to kind of be back in a situation where you are surrounded by a lot of other students,” said Megan White, a fourth-year double major in English and chemistry.
White is cautiously optimistic about returning to campus but, despite the challenges online classes pose, there are certain aspects of them she thinks everyone will miss.
“Like, recorded lectures have been absolutely brilliant. So, I’m really hoping that if we do transition back to in person classes, we’ll be able to keep some of the things that really worked for online courses, such as still being able to record lectures.”
Other students are worried that accessibility features might be lost.
“I’m concerned that the accommodations that have been made to allow the abled majority to engage with UBC online during this pandemic will no longer be available or be significantly restricted for the disabled people that need or benefit greatly from them,” said Kip Chow, an English literature and psychology student.
Chow also wonders if UBC will be equipped to handle situations where students violate social-distancing guidelines.
“I don’t think UBC has done enough to crack down on the social-distancing violations and the like as is and don’t think they will be able to enforce any such guideline once there’s significantly more people on and around campus.”
Students question how social distancing will work with courses that have large class sizes, particularly for lectures that can have more than one hundred people in them.
“Realistically, how will they shove that many people into the classrooms?” said Pauline Helmke, a kinesiology student.
Laxness around social-distancing violations raises concerns about how UBC will make sure that every student is vaccinated before returning in September.
“Logistically speaking, I just feel like it’s not feasible,” Helmke said
According to Matthew Ramsey, a spokesperson with UBC media affairs, the university is still in the early stages of planning. It is too soon to know what this return to in-person classes will look like.
“This isn’t like flipping a switch. UBC is a very large institution with more than 65,000 students, 15,000 staff and faculty, and hundreds of physical facilities that reopening or returning to campus activity will need to address. It’s a big shift that takes a while to turn around.”
Online classes have been particularly tough on first-year students, who have not had an on-campus experience yet.
“I had envisioned loads of things I would have done normally on campus before the start of my uni journey way back in September of last year,” said Adwait Kulkarni, a first-year international student.
While Kulkarni is looking forward to having that on-campus experience, he is also concerned that there could be another wave of infections that causes UBC to shut down again.
“I don’t want to go to class on the first day and sit at home for the rest of the year just because of someone’s carelessness.”
Despite their concerns, many UBC students are excited for the return.
“I hope that when I get on campus, I will get to socialize and make the most of all that UBC has to provide, and finally get to live the university life that I have paid so much money for,” Kulkarni said.