PEI

UPEI planning a 'more normal' academic experience in fall 2021

In a statement Wednesday, UPEI said while some online options will continue, there will be as much in-person and on-campus learning as possible.

The university says it hopes to welcome as many students as possible back to campus

UPEI's summer sessions will remain mostly online, according to a statement from the university. (Shane Ross/CBC)

The University of Prince Edward Island announced it is planning a return to a "more normal" academic experience in the fall of 2021. 

In a statement Wednesday, UPEI said while some online options will continue, there will be as much in-person and on-campus learning as possible. 

It's been almost a year since the school first emailed students informing them it would be suspending all in-person classes due to the pandemic. 

At the time, P.E.I. had still not yet reported any presumptive or confirmed cases of COVID-19.  But the vice-president academic and research told CBC News it was following recommendations from both the provincial and federal governments to help students practise social distancing.

Moving online

Quickly, the university switched to online learning and eventually moved to a blended model that saw some students return to the classroom. 

However, the changes were easier said than done. 

Student union vice-president Malak Nassar told CBC News in November that students faced challenges with focus during long online lectures. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

According to a survey of more than 1,000 students, the pandemic was taking a toll on mental health and academic progress.

The survey found students across the UPEI campus were struggling with heavier course loads, rising costs and fears of diminished academic success because of the move to virtual learning.

"It's harder to communicate with your peers and your professors in an online class," student union vice-president Malak Nassar told CBC News in November.

"You're missing that participation piece."

Unexpected costs were also associated with online classes. For example, Nassar said students paid more for online data services and some had to buy new laptops.

Summer sessions mostly online

The university moved entirely back online again in December following an outbreak of COVID-19. At that time, the student union president said they were better prepared with more supports in place to help students. 

The school later welcomed a limited number of people back to campus returning to its blended model. 

Those attending UPEI's summer sessions can still expect classes to be primarily online, said Wednesday's statement. 

As for the fall semester, the statement said the school is working with the Chief Public Health Office to welcome as many students as possible back to campus. 

"We are excited for our campus to be an active learning environment once more," it said. 

More from CBC P.E.I.

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