CEGEP students and teachers prepare to go back to school online and in person

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WATCH: CEGEPs are welcoming students back to class but online reserving visits to campus for labs, interactive classes and extracurricular activites. Olivia O'Malley has the story – Aug 20, 2020

On the first day of classes at John Abbott College, the front lawn at the West Island CEGEP would typically be filled with students, catching up, comparing class schedules and enjoying the summer weather.

But this year, it’s deserted.

The vast majority of students are taking online courses for the fall semester, a continuation of CEGEP’s adaptation of schooling offered during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

At John Abbott, a variety of classes that are more effective in person, like art, theatre and chemistry labs, will take place on campus.

But the CEGEP wants students to do the majority of their course load from home.

Read more: How to lessen anxiety, ease back-to-school transition for kids and parents during COVID-19

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“The idea is to minimize the amount of time that students have to be on campus for class, in order to be able to maximize the voluntary time they can be here whether its for clubs or for sports,” said John Abbott communications officer Debbie Cribb.

John Abbott is putting its focus on social activities, something one Collège Ahuntsic student says is missing from online learning.

“I came to learn and have new experiences,” said Collège Ahuntsic Student Marco Pereira. “So if I basically stay home and learn stuff, I might as well on YouTube.”

After a difficult spring semester, Pereira was dissapointed to learn he wouldn’t be returning to the classroom this fall.

“Problem is it’s online. You can’t really have that same feeling of genuine attention with the teacher, you don’t feel like you can look at him in the eye, and he doesn’t understand that you don’t understand,” he said.

Teachers acknowledge that online learning is more challenging for some students.

Read more: Back-to-school sparks anxiety for students who experience bullying, harassment

“There were definitely some students who took to it better than others,” said Dawson College physics teacher Jonathon Sumner.

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After jumping head first into online learning this past spring, instructors were able to adapt their teaching style to find innovative ways to educate students through the screen.

“Teachers are experimenting. We’re trying to figure out what works, learning from what does not work,” Sumner said.