Hands-on Calgary degree programs to have some in-person exemptions for online classes

Application of learned skills the biggest challenge students say

University of Calgary will be implementing these protocols September 1. LIVEWIRE FILE PHOTO

Students in Calgary post-secondary programs like athletic therapy and nursing have expressed concerns over what will happen if they can’t continue in-person courses.

When Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced that post-secondary classes would move back online, many students in programs requiring hands-on classes were concerned. Earlier this year, Premier Kenney said students could expect a return to in-person classes later this fall.

Madison Powls is currently enrolled in UCalgary’s accelerated nursing program. She said it’s been a struggle because the program is generally quite hands-on.

“It’s very frustrating and it’s anxiety-provoking because you feel like you don’t know anything and you can’t practice. You can’t practice on your roommates, you have to essentially learn everything but not be able to apply it,” said Powls.

Jinan Daqqa is in her third year of Mount Royal University’s Athletic Therapy program. She said her classes were done before the latest mandate was announced. 

Throughout the year, Daqqa said it was a challenge to have limited practice time in classes that were in-person.

“We had only one tutorial in person for rehab class. So only one class in person where we were able to try out different rehab equipment and exercises,” said Daqqa.

Mount Royal University. ISAIAH LINDO / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY Students in a variety of programs will be facing a combination of in-person and online classes.

Powls also expressed concern about the connection between online lectures and practical applications. 

“You can understand something when someone lectures it to you and you can memorize all you want. But then once you actually have to apply it, it’s a completely different situation,” Powls said.

“They’ve supplied us with a kind of like a clinical program where you work with a virtual patient to do assessments, and that’s much better than a textbook. But it’s still learning how to interact with the patient and make them comfortable and it’s hard to do that over a virtual simulation,” she adds. 

Online learning silver lining

Daqqa said more online classes were an opportunity for less test-based grading, something she’s found beneficial in her program.

“It was nice in the sense that there weren’t as many exams and quizzes because it’s hard to facilitate that online. For my rehab class, for example, we had a lot more assignments. I think that helped immensely with my learning because you weren’t really focused on ‘I’m just going to memorize information and I need to do well on this test,’” Daqqa said.

“It boils down to, ‘I’m going to focus on the information that’s given to me in the lectures’ and then in our tutorials we kind of go over that in a more like application way.”

Daqqa said it’s harder to create a community with her classmates. She can only see a few of them each semester. 

“One of the beautiful things about AT is the things that you learn from others as well. So, sticking to the same five people throughout the whole semester limits you in that sense,” she said.

Despite the challenges that come along with online classes, neither Daqqa or Powls worry about the quality of their education. 

“Professionally I don’t think it’s going to have a huge effect, to be honest. I think that you get what you put in,” said Daqqa.

Exemptions on their way

Labs in Powls’ program at UofC are allowed to be held in-person, something that she’s very relieved about. 

For Mount Royal students, a statement issued on May 6 read:

“As a result of new COVID-19 health restrictions announced May 4 and information received from the government, Mount Royal University has assessed in-person courses for the spring semester, and have transitioned them to online delivery where possible. Where in-person delivery is still required, we have implemented enhanced safety protocols. 

Mount Royal remains committed to aligning with all provincial restrictions. Any changes to our spring courses will be communicated directly to those impacted. 

We will continue to follow the directions of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Ministry of Advanced Education and urge our campus community to get vaccinated when they are eligible.” 

An addition was later released reading:

“Nursing students will have some labs and simulation learning on campus, and there is a First Responder course for Athletic Therapy students in progress, in person.”

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