Ottawa college and college students still do most courses online

OTTAWA – University and college students in Ottawa still do mostly virtual learning, while thousands of high school and unvaccinated elementary school students go to class in person at the same time.

Now some students and parents are looking for answers.

Carleton student Joseph Penman spends most of his time in his dorm room this semester.

“I think it’s pretty easy to keep track of all my courses and get the job done,” Penman says.

He is in his first year of biomedical mechanical engineering. So far, he has had a total of two physical labs throughout the year, and he does not understand why.

“Vaccines work,” Penman says. “Even if there is a case of COVID, it will not spread across campus because we are all vaccinated.”

He describes COVID rules on campus that just don’t make sense.

“We can have a bunch of people in the cafeteria to eat, we go with groups of almost 20 people and everyone sits at the same table and eats together,” Penman says. “But then we go into a study room and we can not have four people with masks off.”

Joseph’s father Chris wonders if it would have been easier to stay home in Oakville to keep his hours than to move five hours away to do the same in a small dorm room.

“It’s a lot of money to go to university these days,” says Chris. “And to think you’re doing it all online, I mean, it’s disappointing.”

Steven Reid, media manager at Carleton University, says: “As we are in the fourth wave of the pandemic, all decisions about returning to campus at Carleton are made with health and well-being for students, faculty and staff as our top priority.”

Ottawa’s health worker, Dr. Vera Etches, however, suggests that universities should move to more personal learning.

“With people having to be vaccinated on campus, this creates a much safer environment where it is possible to return to more personal learning,” says Etches.

Some other Ottawa doctors agree.

“The spread in society is low,” says ICU doctor Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng. “We have had vaccine mandates for those who go to colleges and universities. I think the demographic of college students and their risk of getting sick from COVID is low. Which is something that needs to be emphasized.”

Engineering can be a challenge in the best of times. Especially only online.

“When you’re online, you have a lot less support from everyone,” Joseph says. “It’s kind of just figuring it out.”

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