Nfld. & Labrador

MUN students, faculty facing challenges in preparing for online courses, leaving residences

Political science professor Lucian Ashworth says the biggest difficulty is courses are designed for face-to-face instruction.

Biggest difficulty is courses are designed for face-to-face instruction, says political science prof

Lucian Ashworth, a political science professor at Memorial University, says students and faculty members face challenges in bringing courses online. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

As Memorial University works toward suspending classes on Wednesday, students and faculty are beginning to face challenges in moving courses from the classroom to the computer.

Political science professor Lucian Ashworth told CBC News the biggest problem is that courses are designed for face-to-face learning.

"It's a major change of gears," Ashworth said Monday. "It's almost like the difference between a stage play and a film, if you were suddenly asked to convert a film sort of halfway through into a stage play. There's a whole series of things you have to do differently."

In a statement Sunday afternoon, the university announced the suspension of classes as of the end of Wednesday due to concerns over COVID-19. Instruction is set to resume online March 23.

Shreya Hinde, a first-year science student, is concerned about losing time in the laboratory. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Shreya Hinde, a first-year science student at Memorial, said her main concern is lost time in the laboratory.

"You can't do that online," said Hande, whose courses include biology and chemistry. "I have no idea how. But they said they will figure it out by Wednesday, and we should be hearing more by then."

Hande will be self-isolating in her dorm room during the suspension of classes, citing concerns over travelling to other areas of the country.

"It's reassuring. It's comfortable because I don't have to pack up and leave," Hande said.

The university is asking as many students as possible to leave their residences by Sunday in an effort to limit student density on campus. The residences will remain open, and services will continue for those who cannot return home.

Ashworth said he has heard from students wondering about the logistics of moving courses online, like how projects and final exams will be handled and how the university will ensure students have internet access for online classes.

"It's one of those situations where when you begin to unpick one of the threads, lots of other threads come undone at the same time," Ashworth said.

Scott Lynch, head of the department of economics, said students and faculty are facing similar issues in moving courses online.

Scott Lynch is head of the Department of Economics at Memorial University in St. John's. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

"There are instructors out there, students out there, that prefer the personal contact with the instructor," Lynch said. "So it's going to be hard on both [groups], I think."

Although things could be difficult in the beginning, Ashworth said faculty will work as hard they can to make the learning experience better for students.

"We have the tools but still, it's going to be very awkward," Ashworth said. "It may take time, and it may not look pretty, but we'll get it done."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Andrew Hawthorn