The Alberta University of the Arts reluctantly switches to online class delivery

AUArts joins SAIT as Calgary hands-on post-secondary schools convert to online course instruction

Alberta University of the Arts will be switching to blended delivery for the fall 2020 semester. Photo by AU Arts - Scott Cressman

Calgary arts students, in a typically hands-on field, will join other Alberta post-secondary learners with upcoming classes delivered online.

Again, however, students are left wondering how this will affect the cost and requisite studio time.

Most major Alberta universities have made the switch to online course delivery for this fall.

On May 29, the Alberta University of the Arts announced it will be switching to a “modified mode of remote instruction with limited access to campus studio facilities and equipment.”

Students may have access to studios depending on the course.

This move wasn’t ideal for the university as it’s a studio-based, hands-on school. This switch impacts students’ access to much-needed equipment and supplies.

Jamie Leong-Huxley, Vice President of Advancement at AU Arts, said that if it wasn’t for Alberta Health Services, this decision wouldn’t have come from the university.

“It’s not our choice to do this. There’s been some misinformation, not just for our institution, but that we somehow have decided to go to with this model,” she said.

She also said this type of learning isn’t ideal for the university’s in-studio approach to education.

“We definitely feel students’ concerns. We’re a studio-based institution so we know this kind of learning is not conducive to an art studio-based learning,” she said.

“We wish we could do something different but it’s what we’re looking at for this fall.”

SAIT, another post-secondary with practical training programs that require in-class instruction, also went to online delivery.

When we spoke to them, they didn’t know how they would accommodate some of these apprenticeship/industry training classes.

Tuition won’t drop but fees will for the fall semester

At AU Arts the tuition structure is dependent on a student’s four-year program. In general, students can expect to pay $15,625 per year. This won’t change in the new online delivery come this fall.

Leong-Huxley said that the university is looking at reducing fees like the mandatory $155 Calgary Transit Upass and $40 fitness membership.

However, as a studio-based school, there are more fees associated with a student’s education that they would have to cover.

Depending on the program and the year, students could pay anywhere between $500 to $1,000 per year in fees. The difference lies with studio and material fees.

Glass blowing is more hands-on and requires students to pay for both studio time and glass material. A fourth-year student might have to pay a combined $300 in additional fees per term.

It’s uncertain how the university will address this fee difference and how the new online delivery model will apply to the in-studio courses.

‘We shouldn’t have a studio fee.’

Fourth-year graphic design student Emily Biagi hopes the university will adjust fees due to the switch to online delivery.

“I do feel like there should be some adjustments because at AU Arts we pay for in-class studio fees. With physical distancing and not using studio spaces the same way, we shouldn’t have a studio fee,” she said.

Biagi said some of the overarching rules that AU Arts will apply won’t impact her as much as a first or second-year student.

She said the university should have scenarios for what students will get if things go back to normal and a scenario for if the school has to keep this setting for longer then expected.

“I understand that we are still in phase two of the pandemic and it’s not like the doors have completely opened yet,” she said.

“But I think the university should have a plan A and plan B set up for when phase three opens up.”

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