This text is part of the special section Higher Education
After several weeks of uncertainty, the government is sticking to the course: the winter semester of 2022 will take place in college classes. The middle breathed a sigh of relief.
We bathed in confusion, but the government’s game plan is clearer, “said Caroline Quesnel, President of FNEEQ-CSN, at the end of the meeting with the Ministry of Education on January 12. This is indeed confirmed: from January 17, personal courses at CEGEP and the university are back.
The institutions also have some flexibility and can resume full-time teaching by 31 January. The research laboratories have been operational since the beginning of the pandemic (except for a few weeks in spring 2020), but many adjustments have been made: schedules to allow for spacers, masks N95. “Laboratory experiments must continue, otherwise master’s and doctoral projects could be jeopardized,” explains Hélène Belleau, director of the UCS center at INRS.
Live with risk
While distance learning would be the most stable and predictable solution, it was not the wish of the learning community, although some would prefer to stay at a distance. “For us, the ideal is in the present, or if not completely at a distance, but not to be in between,” explains M.yes Belleau. Most employees also want to return to classes in masks: “It’s easier, more human. The risk is worth it, “he believes.
We are torn apart, but presence is what is most desirable for student success and mental health
“There is no zero risk,” M also notesyes quesnel. Several factors support a return to class, in particular very high vaccinations in the area (93%) and the availability of a third dose for all, although according to unions, “there are still many questions about room security”. President. “We are torn, but presence is what is most desirable for student success and mental health,” he says.
The difficulty of the virtual
“The consequences of moving to a personal contact regime, as it differs from distance training, intended and as such proposed, are not negligible,” notes M.yes quesnel. High psychological distress among teachers, extra time and work to adjust lessons, blurring the boundaries between private life and work, not to mention the isolation and demotivation of students.
Delon Konan, a doctoral student at the INRS ETE Center and president of the INRS Student Federation, decided not to take classes this semester, too demotivated by online teaching. “In the first weeks it’s interesting, you can get up and start working right away. However, over time, concentration is difficult. It’s tiring and you lack motivation, “he says. The isolation of university graduates is emphasized. “In addition to courses, coming to university has a social aspect,” says Hélène Belleau.
Although the professors did everything they could to keep their classes interesting and to help their students stay in the mood, returning to class last fall helped energize students and professors and reunite education, says Caroline Quesnel. “One of the hard things for teachers is talking about black screens,” he adds. Delon Konan supports the idea: “Current feedback is really important. »
Despite returning to class in the coming weeks, everyone is holding their breath: it is really impossible to predict what the future will bring and whether the fifth wave will really slow down. “The autumn has gone well, there are few outbreaks in higher education, but we are currently facing a phenomenon of unprecedented scale,” she said.yes quesnel. How to handle the absence of students and teachers? The union president wants effective communication channels to be established with the government so that things are better planned in consultation with the field. “We need to provide the safest possible conditions, screening tools, vaccination clinics and be flexible,” she said.yes quesnel.
Last minute confirmations and multiple changes are exhausting for everyone and the worst case scenario would be a yoyo. “It’s stressful for everyone. But we must not sacrifice a generation of students, “the lady concludes.yes quesnel. “It is ideal to take the courses in person, but if the health situation requires distance courses, we will comply with the knowledge that we are thus contributing to the fight against the pandemic,” concludes Mr. Konan.