Algonquin College students protest continued online learning, eager to resume in-person classes

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A group of outdoor adventure students from the Algonquin College Pembroke campus are fed up with online learning.

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To express their displeasure with the current situation, which includes the continuation of virtual learning for some classes until the first week of March, students staged a protest outside the college earlier this week. The students, who started college in September 2020, spent much of the time in the program taking classes via Zoom. Protest organizer Cailan Robinson noted that 33 students were originally enrolled in the program and half have now dropped out.

“With our program, we’re still able to do in-person and off-site skills classes, but we have a lot of classes and doing those classes online over Zoom is so difficult for a lot of us,” said he declared during the demonstration. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t these skills courses that turned people off and made them quit; it’s those online Zoom courses. We can’t learn sitting in front of a screen and that’s not why we came here. Sadly, some people aren’t able to do this, so it’s time we could come back in person and get what we pay for.

Besides the isolation of online classes, Robinson is also concerned that tuition fees have not been adjusted or returned to reflect the number of in-person activities that have been missed.

“Where is this money going? We don’t know, but we’re asking for three simple things right now: an immediate return to in-person classes, compensation for the money we pay for activities we don’t receive, and when we return in person, we want a in-person support system for students who have struggled with online learning. Many of our friends have given up. A lot of people who are here in college are here because they want to learn through hands-on experiences. »

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Robinson acknowledges that the shift to virtual learning was necessary at the start of the pandemic, but students were optimistic that in-person learning would resume in January.

“Other colleges and universities are opening up and here in Renfrew County, with one of the lowest case counts in Ontario, the college is still telling students we need to stay online,” he said. he declares. “Every year, hundreds of tuition dollars are spent on in-person activities that we haven’t seen. We are asking for compensation. If they force us to go online, there should be some kind of compensation for the fact that we don’t get the same experience that we are paying for, the one we were promised.

During the protest, passing vehicles on Lake Street honked their horns in support, which Robinson said made the group feel heard.

“After countless emails and struggles with the college, we feel we’ve received so many bureaucratic responses, so it’s nice that other people are showing their support and acknowledging that what’s happening to us is what we consider to be theft. because we are paying for a service that we are not getting from college, but we could be getting from college.We are voicing our struggles right now.

When asked to comment on the student protest, Algonquin College’s communications department provided a response from Christopher Janzen, Senior Vice President Academic, who said the college continues to make learners safe. and employees its top priority. He added that the timetable for lifting restrictions announced by the Ontario government aligns with the college’s own plan to offer university programs in a hybrid mode of delivery until March 6.

“Currently, most academic courses are delivered virtually, while applied learning activities continue on our campuses,” Janzen said. “The college continues to analyze the current situation, including reviewing recommendations from public health organizations to guide its planning.”

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