St. Thomas University will continue its current course model for the winter semester, with a mix of in-person and online classes.
Jeffrey Carleton, vice-president of communications at STU, said it is prudent to continue with this model, even when 98 per cent of students, faculty and staff are fully-vaccinated.
“Even with the high vaccination rates and the safety and health protection measures in place, we determined [this decision] because of the high number of COVID cases and the fact that in the past [the cases] have gone down and then gone back up,” said Carleton.
STU surveyed professors to find out what their preferred teaching format for courses is, and the registrar is assigning the delivery model based on that information. Carleton said the year-long courses will have the same delivery model next semester.
“There’s a few more courses that are being taught remotely in the winter semester than were in the fall semester. But overall, the percentages are very close,” said Carleton.
As of now, about 65 per cent of courses in January will be in-person and 35 per cent will be online.
STU sent students an email to inform them that WebAdvisor is now updated with the delivery model for each course next semester. In-person courses list a room number as the location, while remote courses list online as the location.
“I spoke to students about this [and] they told me that they were not surprised with the decision,” said Carleton. “The only feedback that we’ve received is basically wanting to know about what will the rules be for accommodation for in-person courses.”
Thanaisri Ellamaran, a second-year student from Malaysia, said international students benefit the most from this model. Ellamaran is doing her coursework online from Malaysia.
“I know a lot of Canadian students do prefer having in-person courses, but I feel like for international students … it is helpful to have at least that option to have remote access or online courses,” she said.
Ellamaran hopes that full, in-person classes return soon so that students can interact with each other again. She said she’s missed out on a lot and doesn’t feel part of the community.
Carleton said the pandemic taught him not to make predictions longer than two weeks. He said it’s too early to discuss when the university will return to its pre-pandemic model with all courses being in-person.
Still, there are milestones in place for a progressive return to in-person. In January, STU will do the first in-person convocation in 20 months.
“It’s important for us to get back into that habit as long as it’s safe and as long as we can do them safely,” said Carleton.