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University of Regina faculty and students concerned for online fall semester

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WATCH: With Saskatchewan universities announcing fall semester classes will likely be held online, faculty and students are raising some concerns – May 13, 2020

With Saskatchewan universities announcing fall semester classes will likely be held online, faculty and students are raising some concerns.

The University of Regina Faculty Association (URFA) said all cases are different, but many faculty members have questioned how online teaching will be possible for them.

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How post-secondaries are preparing for fall semester – May 13, 2020

“We have many sessional instructors who work on contracts,” said URFA president Sylvain Rheault. “They might not necessarily have a good office space or appropriate equipment.”

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Rheault also worries remote learning will blur the lines between class time and personal time for instructors who may have families.

“When we move online, sometimes students feel that they can contact their instructor any time of day or even during weekends,” he explained. “We have to make sure that this is addressed properly.”

For students like Kayla Guerrette, the switch to online learning was not a surprise, but it was still disappointing.

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Guerrette is planning on moving to Regina from Sudbury, Ont. to study journalism in the fall.

“When I heard the news, it still came as a shock even thought I subconsciously knew it was an option,” Guerrette said.

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With knowing she wouldn’t be sitting in classroom, Guerrette initially reconsidered the impending move.

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“I would be lying if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind,” she said. “I thought, ‘Should I wait?’”

It’s because of situations like Guerrette’s that interim provost david Gregory said the university had to make a decision, allowing students and faculty time to make decisions.

“We need to pay attention to what is unfolding over time,” he said. “Students need time to plan their lives, in addition to the faculty.”

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He also believes remote learning and teaching — which will consist of both online and Zoom classes — is the safest way to proceed for the health and safety of all on campus.

“I think it’s the best that any university in Canada can do at this time,” said Gregory.

For the time being, Guerrette has decided to continue planning her move to Regina.

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“I think this is a good example of how life will throw you obstacles and you have to roll with them,” she said.

Still, she worries what the lab component of her classes will look like.

“Everything is important,” she said. “But the lab, that hands-on component for me is crucial.”

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This concern has been echoed by URFA.

Rheault feels this is not an evolution of education, but instead a revolution in which everything will look different.

“Instructors will have to be very creative,” Rheault said. “In some cases, maybe it won’t be able to be replicated.”

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However, Gregory said labs in the science department have been running smoothly via remote learning during the current spring/summer semester, and developments are still being considered.

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“Just to reassure everyone, planning is happening right now in terms of the fall semester and the labs are part of that plan.”

Despite concerns, both Gregory and Rheault agreed the focus in the fall will remain on providing a high quality of education for students, even while being delivered remotely.