UNB returned to in-person classes on February 7 and the attitude towards returning to campus is polarized.
Some students are excited to return to the classroom while others would prefer to finish the year online.
Rachel Lauder is a law student at UNB and has her reservations about returning to campus.
Some concerns stem from the all-time high case counts and COVID-19 hospitalizations in New Brunswick.
“This makes many people, including myself, incredibly nervous to return in-person where a large number of people from all different ‘bubbles’ are in the same indoor spaces for long periods of time,” said Lauder.
She thinks that the university needs to continue emphasizing COVID measures and clarifying the mask requirements.
“Many students are confused about what masks can be worn on campus in compliance with the measures.”
Lauder acknowledges that strict mask requirements could impose a financial burden on students.
“If the university decides that only N95 or KN95 masks are acceptable to combat the Omicron variant, there will need to be a discussion about affordability.”
Lauder has come to enjoy online learning and has no problem staying online. While she is not pleased with the decision to return to campus, her main concern is the lack of notice and accommodations provided to students.
“To me, it is unacceptable for UNB to send out an email three days before students are expecting to return in-person to say that only certain courses will be in-person.”
She says that many students wonder why they have to return to Fredericton when the majority of their classes are still online.
“Many fellow students have only one of five classes in-person, yet they had to pay to return to Fredericton and for accommodations in the city.”
Lauder would like to see professors empowered to create hybrid course models so students have flexibility to choose what works best for their learning style and COVID comfort levels.
Other students acknowledge the concerns around returning in-person but note the reasons for a return.
Hannah Deasy says that online school hinders the ability to engage, absorb information, and be an active student.
With online there is, “less structure, buy-in, and school feels like a chore. The engagement level with other students over Zoom is negligible.”
Deasy says most students keep cameras off and discussion is greatly reduced in comparison to in-person classes. While firm in her stance about the superiority of in-person learning, Deasy thinks a hybrid approach could be useful at this time.
“It would be more useful than an all-or-nothing approach. If it is a classroom capacity issue, why not allow them to elect or create a schedule to prevent the entire class from being online.”
Current COVID masking guidelines require a surgical, N95, or KN95 mask while in indoor campus spaces. Students may only remove the mask between sips and bites while seated in a designated area.