Fourth-year STU student Olivia Finnamore said online learning is more work than in-person classes. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

After St. Thomas University announced classes will remain online for the winter semester, fourth-year student Olivia Finnamore said she knew it was coming but was still disappointed.

“As someone who is graduating in the spring, I’m really disappointed that I won’t be finishing the year with my friends or with my professors like I had hoped,” she said.

The announcement came out on Oct. 6. The university said in a statement the decision was made out of concern for student and faculty safety and to minimize disruption to current living and learning situations.

Jeffrey Carleton, STU’s associate vice-president communications, said the school watched the COVID-19 situation in New Brunswick and the rest of the country unfold while preparing to make their decision about the winter semester.

“We waited until faculty and students got settled into the new way of remote teaching and learning and then [we] went down and had a number of discussions,” he said.

After the decision was made, STU released a confidential survey to gather information about student experiences with online classes similar to the survey given out at the end of last year, said Carleton. The survey will provide information to the school which will allow them to make changes to remote teaching and learning.

“Every professor is making adjustments to their courses and learning as they go along just like every student is,” said Carleton.

Finnamore said online learning is more work than in-person classes. She said she’s talked to other students and professors and everyone seems to agree.

She said she and her friends are putting in 12-hour school days, seven days a week, something she said wouldn’t be happening if classes were in-person.

“I think we are, as students, becoming more exhausted and feeling burnt out more quickly than we typically would in the semester,” said Finnamore.

She said she always imagined having a normal graduation with her friends and an auditorium full of people, but she’s unsure what will happen with graduation now that classes are online for the winter semester.

Carleton said that special events for second semester, such as athletics, grad dinners and spring convocation are pending decision. The school is going to continue to monitor the situation and how things develop on campus, the province and the Maritimes before they make any decisions.

Sydney Shelley is another fourth-year student who was upset to hear second-semester classes would be online. She said she understands the importance of safety but can’t help but be a little sad.

“I’d love to get to hang out with my friends in class that I’ve been doing my major with since first year and see all my professors again,” said Shelley.

She said she was hoping for an announcement that would allow some smaller classes to operate in person. Shelley is a French major and said upper-year classes don’t usually have more than 15 people.

The University of New Brunswick announced a day prior to STU’s statement that they’d be continuing their blended learning model for the winter semester. This means some classes will be online and certain classes will be in person.

Shelley said UNB’s announcement surprised her since STU has a smaller population than UNB.

“I think [STU] could have probably made a little bit more effort in trying to do something like UNB, but the decision’s made and we can’t really change that.”