Online labs, tuition costs concern Sask. university students

Aina Ulain said online was okay for the Spring semester but isn't sure how she'll complete her diploma.

Aina Ulain said online was okay for the spring semester but isn't sure how she'll complete her diploma

An engineering student and a health studies student are calling for tuition to be lowered at the University of Regina while all classes are online. (CBC)

Elementary and high school students are preparing for physically distanced classrooms and more. However, university students are gearing up for a completely online learning experience. 

Some students have concerns about the online learning environment. Everything from the lectures, labs to tuition costs remains the same for online classes. 

"I struggle to find how I'm going to be able to finish and what I'm going to be even learning from all of this," Aina Ulain said. "The last class I took online. Honestly I didn't get that much out of it because of all the struggles I faced."

Ulain is a Bachelor of Engineering student at the University of Regina.

She said for one semester last spring, online learning was okay, but for the rest of her degree will be difficult. Ulain said she noticed the difference right away and found it hard to keep up with the studies.

"My biggest difference … immediately from going from professors actually writing out the question and explaining their processes in a way to kind of just having the question there online," she said. 

"Which changes the whole dynamic because you're not there. Not going as in-depth and they're not explaining, you're not watching them do it. You don't know how to do it yourself." 

Aina Ulain is an engineering student at the University of Regina. (Submitted by Aina Ulain)

Ulain said the labs are the toughest part online and instead, teachers should consider smaller, physically distanced labs.

Right now, Ulain said she and other students are taking equipment home and trying to do the projects there. 

"But with the technical difficulties that come from being in a separate, different environment than your school," she said. 

Suzanne Kresta is the dean of engineering at the University of Saskatchewan. She said Ulain's concerns are similar to what she's been hearing from students during the Spring and summer months. 

"We've been working hard all summer to set things up and ensure that they really have the best experience they can possibly have under pandemic conditions," Kresta said. 

The Dean of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan says this fall semester will be very different than the Spring online semester. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Kresta said they are working toward pre-taped demos for labs to give case simulations and will have lab technicians available to help students work through their problems. 

"It's quite different when you have four months to plan than when you have two days to plan." Kresta said. "We really feel like we're in a much better position this fall." 

Kresta said the university is also advising students to locate themselves where they feel supported. She said some have returned to Saskatoon where they can be in a COVID bubble with other students to help study with others, while some other students are in their home communities of support. 

Ulain said she finds the tuition for domestic students too high considering they are not using the amenities the university provides, such as libraries or public spaces. 

The University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan previously announced a tuition freeze and a slight decrease in fees. The University of Regina previously said it cannot decrease tuition due to fixed or increased costs. 

International student raises tuition concerns

Students from Saskatchewan aren't the only one with concerns. Harpreet Kaur is an international student doing her diploma in Health Studies at the University of Regina. 

Kaur said after taking summer classes it is clear to her the difference in learning online versus learning in person. 

"The environment is not good because home is like a lazy environment," she said. "We don't have chances to interact with our professor with our classmates."

Harpreet Kaur is a health studies student at the University of Regina. (Submitted by Aina Ulain)

Some lectures were still okay and discussion forms, however not all courses were the same online. Kaur said during one summer class, there were no interactions with the professor and instead it was all online reading. 

"It makes a huge difference because we don't have the knowledge of that subject that means we cannot apply that in our futures," she said. 

The University of Regina said it is investing significant time, effort and resources into the remote learning experience for the fall and each course will meet the necessary academic requirements for the same degrees students would earn through in person classes. 

Kaur said more engagement with professors would be better for students and with the current online classes, the high tuition for international students should be decreased.

The University of Regina said it "appreciates the difficult financial circumstances" some students face but it is not in a position to waive or reduce tuition. It said costs have remained fixed or have increased. 

The university said it has implemented a number of changes to support students including distributing $345,000 through its two Student Emergency Funds. It said 87 per cent of the funds to graduate students went to international students. It said 64 per cent sent to undergrads went to international students. 


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