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Excitement and trepidation as some of Edmonton’s post-secondary schools prepare for fall

Click to play video: 'What to expect at Alberta post-secondary campuses in a pandemic' What to expect at Alberta post-secondary campuses in a pandemic
The majority on post-secondary classes this fall will be conducted virtually – but some things can’t be learned over a computer. Sarah Ryan takes a look at what students in hands-on programs at schools like NAIT can expect on campus – Jul 20, 2020

Two of Edmonton’s post-secondary institutions are giving students a better idea of what classes will look like when they return in the fall.

NAIT

Hands-on learning will return to NAIT with significant changes for students and staff.

NAIT will offer both online and on-campus portions of programming for almost all of its programs, with the exception of its business school.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Alberta universities look to mostly online courses for fall semester

“There’s a lot changing, but there’s a lot staying the same,” said Sue Fitzsimmons, the school’s vice-president, academic.

“We are really committed, as we always have been, to providing students the opportunities to learn so they can gain the skills they need so they can get out into their careers and make an immediate impact.”

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The school is well-known for having much of its programming is hands-on. Nearly 40,000 students are enrolled per year.

READ MORE: NAIT to cut up to 240 jobs in wake of Alberta post-secondary funding reduction

Come autumn, the number of students in learning spaces will be limited based on how large classroom spaces are and what work students are doing. There will also be increased cleaning protocols by both cleaning staff and students.

Fitzsimmons called it another chance to teach the responsibilities of the real world when it comes to health and safety protocols.

“It’s just another opportunity to teach students about best practices in industry,” Fitzsimmons said.

Masks will also be required in common areas where keeping a two-metre distance cannot be maintained.

“We’ve made a decision that when you’re in public spaces on campus, we do expect students, staff, contractors and visitors to wear [face coverings],” Fitzsimmons said.

Those on campus will be encouraged to download Alberta’s COVID-19 contact-tracing app and will be required to fill out forms while they are on campus so officials will be able to track who was there if someone on campus contracts the virus.

Programs that require work-integrated learning, where a student is placed in the community, will also continue in the fall. The school’s recreation facilities will be closed to the general population with the exception of those who need the spaces for learning.

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READ MORE: Alberta launches ABTraceTogether app to improve contact tracing, fight COVID-19 spread

The school has also sent some of its hands-on equipment home with students. For example, in the computer engineering program, those enrolled will be able to rent some of the equipment they require so they can follow along with instructors while they are at home.

“The pandemic has really accelerated some of that innovation for us,” Fitzsimmons said.

At NAIT, some students are back this summer to finish up on learning they missed out on because of the pandemic and the school is looking forward to welcoming back more people.

“We are really confident about the kind of education these students will receive this year,” said Fitzsimmons.

NorQuest College

At NorQuest College, a significant number of classes also require hands-on learning. New protocols are in place to keep students and staff safe, according to officials.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario’s post-secondary schools set to reopen in July

The school registrar’s office has been very busy fielding questions from students.

NorQuest president and CEO Carolyn Campbell said most of the school’s programming will be online in the fall and those on campus will be required to wear masks.

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READ MORE: Face masks continue to be ‘strongly recommended,’ not mandatory in Edmonton

“I think from what I’m hearing, people are feeling comfortable about the places where they do come back to class and believing that it’s sensible,” said Campbell, adding many of the things students will be required to do in the classroom to stay safe is what they will face in their jobs.

“Things like learning how to put in IVs and very specific medical procedures, for which the students and staff are all suited up in their personal protective equipment as they would be at work,” she said.

READ MORE: Alberta aiming to get students back in classroom by Fall 2020

Although the regular school year is still weeks away, many of the protocols are being put in place now.

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