Calgary

U of C student says her fall semester was sullied by bad communication and constant changes

A University of Calgary student says the fall semester has been nothing like what she thought or was promised last summer. Now, it has her worried about what to expect in January.

The university says COVID-19 caused changes in course delivery and the cancellation of student transit passes

A University of Calgary student says this semester has been nothing like what she thought, and it has her worried about what to expect in the New Year. (Riley Brandt)

A University of Calgary student says the fall semester has been nothing like what she thought or was promised last summer. Now, it has her worried about what to expect in January.

Like most U of C students, Kirsten Young was upset when all her classes moved online in late August, just days after she moved into residence, but she rolled with the punches.

"I was very disappointed, especially because I had moved before all that, and I did actually take a gap year the year before in order to hopefully ensure that I have at least one or two in-person classes," she said.

Asynchronous courses

Young said one of her courses even went from being in-person to asynchronous — meaning classes are delivered as pre-recorded videos. 

"Which I think personally is kind of a joke because we are paying thousands of dollars for these courses. And I have yet to see or hear my teachers or professors speak even over Zoom call because all they do is recorded lectures," she said.

In a statement, the university said asynchronous delivery enables students to review the lecture at a time and pace that suits them.

"This is a helpful option for students living in different time zones," read the statement. "In this learning model, students do have the opportunity to form study groups and interact with professors, instructors and teaching assistants during office hours and can ask questions through email."

The institution said prior to the spring of 2020, and the onset of the pandemic, University of Calgary did not ask faculties to document synchronous versus asynchronous course delivery.

"While we know asynchronous learning options have been offered for some time, we cannot accurately say for how long."

UPass cancelled

In October, halfway through the semester, Young and other students were dealt another blow when U of C took away their transit UPass.

"That's my only mode of transportation here. For me to get a student pass is only, I think, like $200 or $250 a semester versus for me to pay every trip, which is typically about $7 a day," she said. 

The university said in order to be eligible for UPass, students must be registered full-time and have at least one class on campus.

"The UPass had already been issued electronically when many students were switched to online learning at the end of August 2021," said the university. "Students that were affected were only those who no longer had any in-person classes. Their UPass was marked for removal and the associated fee was removed from their student account."

It said impacted students were notified of the change by email, but Young said she was blindsided.

"I didn't receive any like notification of this, so I didn't know what happened until after it was too late to pay and opt back into this payment plan," she said. 

When she approached student services about it, she said they told her she was not alone.

"That person told me that, 'Oh yeah, we've experienced a lot of students who just didn't get the email. Maybe it wasn't sent out, but at this point it's too late.'"

'I'm a little concerned'

Now, with Omicron cases on the rise, the university has cancelled all of its in-person exams, and Young is nervous that the university is doing little to communicate with students or prepare them for another unpredictable semester.

The school's vaccine mandate is set to come into play in January, but Young said as of right now, more than half her courses remain scheduled for online delivery.

"I'm a little concerned now that I've paid for all my courses again, that they might all change and go online, and I'm just really looking forward to having in-person classes," she said.

"I believe I did the right thing and followed what Alberta Health is saying and what the school saying about how I can protect everybody and took the step to get my vaccination, now I'm not even be rewarded because I'm still half online."

The university said in-person instruction offerings will be higher next semester than they were this fall.

"We are also leveraging capabilities gained during COVID in order to maintain online and blended options as well," it said.

"Our goal is to offer courses in modalities that are best for our programs from both pedagogical and access perspectives."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to safety on Calgary Transit. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson or reach her by email at lucie.edwardson@cbc.ca

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