By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
Lethbridge post-secondary institutions have made the decision to temporarily move classes online for the beginning of 2022. The move was announced right before Christmas, as the fall semester came to a close. The increased transmissibility of the fast-spreading Omicron COVID-19 variant forced both Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge to issue statements regarding the shift back to online learning.
A release from Lethbridge College said, “out of an abundance of caution and care for its entire campus community, Lethbridge College has decided to make changes to its program delivery for the start of the Winter 2022 semester in January.” The College is planning to move as many classes as possible back online or to alternative learning models from January 4-21, 2022, with the exception of apprenticeship classes, and in-person labs. The statement also revealed that on-campus events including orientation for new students will be postponed at Lethbridge College. Joining the temporary online learning model for the next few weeks is the University of Lethbridge. The president and vice-Chancellor of the University of Lethbridge, Mike Mahon, released a statement last week which said, “all classes on both University of Lethbridge campuses will be online until January 21, 2022.”
The back and forth between online and in-person learning has posed challenges for students, many of whom have struggled to delineate spatial boundaries while working or studying from home, have experienced isolation, or have struggled without the continuity of scheduled in-person learning.
“We know this pandemic has been tough on everyone and we wanted to announce this today to provide all of our community as much time as possible to prepare for the changing environment in January,” says Dr. Paula Burns, Lethbridge College President and CEO. “We are committed to returning to in-person delivery as soon as we can, but we feel these steps are the best way to do our part to once again support the health care system and the health and well-being of our entire community.”
Mahon added that, “The U of L will return to an in-person format as soon as it safe to do so. Students have been clear that face-to-face experiences inside and outside the classroom are important to their learning experiences and their mental health, so while courses will move online to start the term, faculty members and students should plan for a return to an in-person format once the Omicron threat has diminished.”
Mahon said that starting the spring 2022 semester online would provide time to assess the impact of omicron on the university community. As is the case with the Lethbridge College, the university campus will not shut down completely as it has previously during the pandemic. Mahon said, “the University is not closing its Lethbridge campus and student residences will remain open. Food services, sport facilities, the gym and library will remain open as long as doing so is in compliance with provincial health directive.”
The provincial government reported over 8000 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta between December 23-27. Premier Jason Kenney said during an update on December 28 that the positivity rate was up, “450 per cent higher than most of December” from 4 per cent to 22 per cent as of December 28. As of December 29, Alberta’s positivity rate was just shy of 30 per cent, province wide.