Back online: What does the winter semester hold for remote learning?

(Courtesy of Avel Chuklanov, Unsplash)

York has recently announced an updated version of its plan for the 2022 winter semester. This announcement was emailed to students on January 6, stating that the university will extend its remote learning format until January 31 to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. 

Parissa Safai, special advisor to the president for academic continuity planning and COVID-19 response, says that this decision was made “to reduce confusion around what restrictions apply to what areas and activities across our campuses, to align with the provincial guidelines, and then to provide a few extra days for community members to prepare for the return to in-person activities following the end of the Province’s restrictions.”

Upon opening campus, York has implemented, and will continue to enforce, its vaccination mandate policy, which states that all students attending campus during the winter semester must upload their proof of vaccination, unless they have received a medical exemption. 

York further announced that each student must complete York’s daily screening on YU Screen when on campus. All students need to be able to present their YU Screen’s green checkmark clearance in the classroom and any location where services are provided. 

This mandate also states that any student who is enrolled in all or some on-campus courses that have failed to upload their proof of vaccine or exemption will automatically be transferred to live online classes. 

When asked about what conditions would lead to York extending online-learning for the remainder of the winter semester, Safai states that the school will continue to monitor new information regarding the Omicron variant, as well as consult other universities, the Ontario government, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Toronto Public Health in their future decision.

Although online and hybrid-learning is viewed as an effective measure to keep staff and students safe from virus spread, it is still unsure what students view as their best option.

Pasquale Scola, a third-year law and society student, says they adjusted well to online learning because their classes were focused solely on reading and writing. However, they miss the attentive environment that was created through being surrounded by other students and hearing the professor speak in person, rather than watching a screen.

As Scola puts it, “Going to classes in person allows for the best learning experience for students of all different majors.”

Isabella Zompanti, a third-year biomedical science student, found online learning particularly beneficial as it allowed her to watch recorded lectures at her own pace and convenience. Differently from students who major in reading and writing based programs, Zompanti noted how online learning had a negative effect on her learning abilities. 

“During my second year my labs were fully online, and I don’t think I was learning as much as I should have. Collecting data in a laboratory setting is definitely needed to really make the most out of a lab and truly learn…a person needs to carry out the experiment themselves first-hand,” says Zompanti, who continues to say that hybrid-learning will definitely not help this problem.

Despite Scola and Zompanti’s desire to return to in-person learning, they also agree that York should only open campus when it is safe to do so. Students feel York must be aware of the possible benefits online learning has had on students, and whether these benefits are sufficient in allowing students to opt into full-time online learning. 

Julia Lisena, a third-year commerce student, says, “When dealing with my anxiety disorder, many factors come into play with in-person school that affect my learning. Things like finding a parking spot, being on time to class and not being late due to traffic, and finding a seat in a lecture hall all play a role.”

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By Julia Cesario


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