Grenfell students generally welcome the transition to in-person classes, while some left online long to return to campus.
The start of the Fall 2021 semester saw some students returning to Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook. This was a welcome change for those who struggled with remote learning.
Kendall Hutchings, a history student and president of the Historical Studies Society at Grenfell Campus, found the transition back to in-person classes welcoming. Hutchings had done one semester online during the campus’s shutdown. She opted to wait until the campus re-opened to finish her degree.
“I found it pretty difficult to go completely online, personally,” Hutchings said. “It condensed a lot of my life into one room, which was very stressful for me. Being able to go back on campus and creating that sense of a workspace and a work life really helps a lot.”
In a conversation with Mary Feltham, the president of the Grenfell Campus Student Union, she explained that the Canadian Federation of Students – Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial student union, has advocated for transitioning towards a hybrid model.
The hybrid model allows students to choose classes taught online, in-person or a mix of both. Feltham said this allows those well-adapted to remote learning or cautious of COVID-19 to remain online.
Alicea Ball, a French student who is clueing up her minor, had similar issues as Hutchings with online courses. Due to the school still being in transition, she has to finish the courses she has left remotely.
“I’m the type of person that needs to be in a specific learning environment in order to fully pay attention and grasp the material,” Ball said. “It’s a lot more difficult for me to be doing it at home compared to in school for that reason.”
Some students, such as Hutchings, have classes that are partly remote and partly in-class. Their classics course schedules them to be in class for two days and learning remotely for one. Compared to another classics course delivered completely remotely, they found the former better for engagement.
“We found a big problem was the discussion. It was really hard to have that natural discussion with your peers when it’s all online and everything’s staggered, and you had to have that hesitation because of internet and things like that.”
Feltham echoed these sentiments, particularly on the separation of work and life.
“When you’re online, you don’t really get to make any connections. I’m in nursing, and I didn’t get to know basically any of my classmates. Especially for first-year students, that would definitely be challenging because first year is a great opportunity to make friends. So, I find that the people who are going into their second-year who had started online do not have those connections or supports that would’ve been there.”
Feltham stated there are services available for students having trouble adapting. This includes psychological services, tutoring and GCSU-sponsored activities.
Vaccine records required.
As part of re-opening the campus, MUN has implemented certain guidelines to help keep students safe. They require people to wear masks while in buildings, as well as a proof of vaccination prior to coming back in September. Accommodations could be made for those with vaccine exemptions. A list of MUN’s re-opening policies can be found here.
Feltham said she had witnessed minimal pushback on the mask mandate and the university’s request for a vaccination record. She received only two emails from people against revealing their vaccination records. Many more contacted her to see how the student union would advocate for vaccine records being a necessity.