MRU prepares students for on-campus learning in Fall 2021
By Riggs Zyrille Vergara, Publishing Editor
With Alberta’s COVID-19 immunization program promising to have administered every adult with their first dose of vaccine by the end of June, Demetrios Nicolaides, the province’s minister of advanced education, is encouraging all post-secondary institutions to prepare for face-to-face classes in the fall.
“As we plan to transition back to in-person learning, the safety of students, staff and faculty will be our top priority. We will be working closely with Alberta Health and our chief medical officer of health, Dr. Hinshaw, to ensure a safe return to campus in September 2021,” read a statement from Nicolaides.
Following this, Mount Royal University (MRU) President Tim Rahilly decided that the university will be offering as many courses and services in person as possible within public health guidelines.
“Mount Royal prides itself on having a close-knit community that values face-to-face interaction. I look forward to welcoming as many people as possible to campus this fall,” Rahilly said.
Despite this goal, not all course offerings will be returning to campus by that date. In an email from Interim-Provost and Vice President Academic Elizabeth Evans, she said that MRU’s academic units are still exploring what offerings will remain available for remote learning in both the coming fall and winter semesters.
Included in Evans’ statement is a working plan on the fall reopening, which includes using technology that supports blended and remote delivery for students who are unable to return to campus. Other salient points of the plan are having safety protocols in place to keep MRU in line with public health directives and the collection of pandemic surveys from students to gauge their views on the ongoing procedures.
But even with these plans in place, the return to campus can shift at any time depending on the state of Alberta’s pandemic recovery in the coming months.
In preparation for this, Evans recommends that students register ahead of time for the upcoming academic year to ensure an optimal selection of courses and schedules, while still keeping in mind that the mode of delivery can change if needed.
“When final decisions about mode of delivery have been reached, all students will be notified. Wherever possible, the days and times of course sections listed in the current schedule will remain the same, regardless of the final decision that is reached.” Evans said.
Alex Luong, a second-year broadcasting student says that having face-to-face classes implemented soon at MRU is a great idea. He adds that he has missed out on many connections and new experiences by not going to campus.
“If MRU does its best to have in-person classes again, it’ll be nice to restart the university experience that the pandemic has stopped,” Luong says.
He also thinks that there are many ways in-person classes can motivate students, such that online learning never could, and while he has never appreciated it before, in-person classes affect the way he retains information from his courses.
During a ‘Tea with REC’ Instagram Live conversation, Shereen Samuels, director of student services for the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) said that they are preparing their services to meet the potential needs of students who will be on campus in the fall.
She added that SAMRU is now looking at a combination of the current accessible remote services that they currently offer and the ones they can offer once students return.
“There’s nothing that replaces that face-to-face [interaction]. That feeling of being physically present with one another is so powerful and there’s a kind of community and support that comes from that that no amount of online [interaction] can necessarily replace, and yet we need to be able to capture the ways in which we’ve grown and gotten better in what we do in the past year and keep that accessibility wherever possible,” Samuels said.