Ottawa

University dorms emptying out as learning goes online

University residences across Ottawa are emptying out as students pack up and go home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

COVID-19 pandemic has students, parents, profs scrambling

The University of Ottawa has asked students to move out of residence buildings by March 22 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Students and parents spoke to CBC News about how the situation is affecting them. 0:58

University residences across Ottawa are emptying out as students pack up and go home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Most university and college students have until Sunday to vacate their dorm rooms and receive a pro-rated refund. Most schools have a contingency for exceptions, including students affected by travel restrictions.

Some students were in tears Wednesday as they embraced their friends and said goodbye while their parents stuffed boxes and bags into cars in the residence parking lot.

"It just kind of makes it real how serious what's going on is," said University of Ottawa student Greacen Butcher, sporting a maroon and while Gee-Gees T-shirt. "I don't think any of us really realized until we were told, like, you need to move out now."

Parents piled waiting cars full of belongings Wednesday as a steady stream of students moved out of residence at the University of Ottawa. Except in certain circumstances, students have until Sunday to get out. (Jean Delisle/Radio-Canada)

Holly Johnson, another U of O student, said most people thought there'd be more time.

"We thought we still have a few more months," she said. "Everything went down so fast. We've been hearing about the virus for so long, and no one really realized it was going to come and ruin our last few months of school."

Nevertheless, students are expected to get on with their coursework, which has moved online as of Wednesday. Johnson said that's just adding to the stress for everyone.

"I don't think any of our professors are really prepared to move to online classes," she said. "I definitely think that some of the older ones have trouble adapting, and we were definitely not prepared to be sent home."

Greacen Butcher didn't expect her first year at the University of Ottawa to end this way. Her folks came to collect her Wednesday before returning home to Barrie, Ont. (Jean Delisle/Radio-Canada)

Most parents were happy to whisk their kids away, however.

"I don't think it's a good environment right now," said Leanne Hitchcock, who was picking up her daughter from the U of O.

Michelle del Maschio arrived to collect her daughter, who will have new rules to follow once she gets home.

"Nobody's coming into our home except the children. No friends, no guests. I don't want them going out at night. No. We have to nip this in the bud. We don't want an Italy."

It's the safest thing to do right now, considering how many people come in and out of the university.​​​​- Katherine del Maschio, U of O student

Katherine del Maschio said she's OK with that. 

"It's the safest thing to do right now, considering how many people come in and out of the university," she said, although she expressed some concern about how the rest of the semester will go academically. 

"I know it's taking a huge toll on [students'] mental health, and of course everyone's really scared about physical health as well, and infecting loved ones. But at least at home we can be together," said student Lindsay MacKenzie before piling into her parents' car and heading back to Toronto.

Professors scrambling to get courses online

Meanwhile, professors are struggling to transform their lectures and seminars into online courses with only a few days' notice.

"Less than a week ago, I thought we'd be going to the end of term. It was [March 12] when it started to look like it was going bad," said Stephanie Carvin, an assistant professor of international relations at Carleton University, in an interview on the CBC's Ottawa Morning.

"There's the expression, 'building a plane while going down the runway.' But I feel that we're not even building a plane, we're kind of just running down the runway and flapping our arms and hoping for the best."

Kyle Conway, an associate professor of communications at the U of O, said he's been distributing slides and a series of short podcasts, trying to turn 90-minute lectures into "small bite sized chunks" for his class of about 80 students.

Professors at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa who are used to teaching students in the flesh are in a scramble to move their classes on-line. Two academics explain what’s lost and gained in this new reality. 8:12

Algonquin College has suspended all classes until March 23, giving its instructors an extra week to adapt their course content.

Students at Algonquin must also move out of residence by Sunday. Carleton University "strongly recommends" students move out by then and Queen's students have to fill out a request form if they want to stay longer.

Students move out of residence at the University of Ottawa on Wednesday. (Jean Delisle/Radio-Canada)

With files from CBC's Sandra Abma, Ottawa Morning

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