2,000 Holland College students return to in-class learning

As of the third week of January, Holland College has brought most of its students back on campus, with some seeing it for the first time.  

'Online can only go so far'

Students walk on campus between classes. For many it was their first time seeing the campus, classmates and their instructors in person. (Laura Meader/CBC )

As of the third week of January, Holland College has brought most of its students back on campus, with some seeing it for the first time. 

The college got approval from P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Office to bring students back after having to move many students to online learning because of COVID-19. 

"We're extremely excited, and it feels good to have the students back. They're learning in the method that we want them to learn in," said Michael Dimitroff, manager of recruitment and first-year advising at Holland College.

"Our education is very hands-on and we couldn't go much longer with the online format, so we had to make the move," he said. "Online can only go so far." 

'For the first time we've had almost all of our students on campus in some form,' says Michael Dimitroff, manager of recruitment and first-year advising. (Laura Meader/CBC )

'The class looks awesome'

Logan MacKenzie, a culinary arts student, said it feels great to be on campus for the first time. 

"It's amazing to be here in person. The class looks awesome," said MacKenzie. 

MacKenzie is from Halifax and had to isolate before beginning in-person classes. He said the online learning "wasn't bad" but he prefers the in-class experience. 

"Been waiting a very long time for this," he said. "I'm like a kid on Christmas."

Culinary Arts student Logan MacKenzie says he was online until now and said it's amazing to be at the college in person. (Laura Meader/CBC)

He said most of his classes will be in a kitchen setting, and his group of eight must wear masks at all times. 

He said when he thinks about what's happening in many parts of Canada, he's grateful. 

"We're very fortunate that we're able to get out," he said. 

More productive in person

Shumbusho Armel Gispain came from Rwanda to attend the business administration program. He also isolated before attending classes. 

"I think it will be pretty productive, now that we get to see people in person," he said. "We're really glad to be here." 

He said it's nice to be able to ask questions to instructors in person. 

Shumbusho Armel Gispain​​​​​​​, a business administration student, says it's nice to see instructors and other students in person. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"You can ask them questions, more than in an online setting. It's really hard — you're really kind of reserved," he said. 

"I'm getting to make new friends, a lot of great experiences so far." 

He said P.E.I. is handling COVID-19 really well. 

Gym and performance hall in use

Holland College says it's following public health guidelines for social distancing and classes of 30 are using the gym or a large performance hall so students can be well spaced out. But many groups are much smaller. 

Dimitroff said the number of students on campus will also be much lower than a normal year, with certain programs only coming certain days. 

"They're likely not here every single day of the week," he said. 

Although some students have been following a blended format all along, he said almost half of the college programs started online last semester. 

"So far, so good," said Dimitroff.

Holland College hopes to keep students on campus until the school year ends this spring. 

"Ideally we can get back to a closer normal in September," he said. 

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