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COVID-19: University students anxious and confused about end of term
MONTREAL -- In Canada’s biggest university city, COVID-19 has created an air of uncertainty among students, who have been off school since Friday.
Most of Montreal’s universities have issued multiple statements since Premier Francois Legault's announcement to close schools until the end of March. They have begun to anticipate moving to online instruction for the rest of the term, for most courses.
Despite updates from universities, students remain anxious. They wonder how they will complete assignments which require access to school facilities and where exactly deadlines stand.
Cierra Barnes, an undergraduate student doing a specialization in therapeutic recreation at Concordia, thinks the school has been communicating efficiently.
“However, this couldn’t have come at a worse time in the semester,” Barnes said, explaining that several final assignments are due in the coming weeks. “In my case, only two out of four teachers have reached out to me with regards to how the rest of the semester will play out. It’s a bit frustrating, because you go from knowing exactly what’s going on to a lot of confusion.”
McGill psychology and math student Alyssa Wride said her professors have been responsive, but that a lack of a clear plan for the end of term is stressful.
“My concerns are just the course load in the last two weeks of classes, and methods of exam delivery,” Wride said. “Both things that our school has told us they will have planned by the end of the week.”
Concordia University spokesperson Vannina Maestracci said the school has begun posting a daily bulletin to provide students with up-to-date information efficiently, in addition to the COVID-19 FAQ page and email dedicated to COVID-19 questions. McGill, UdeM and UQAM have similar services available online.
“These are exceptional times and everyone is working as much as possible to minimize the effects of this pandemic on students, faculty and staff while at the same time keeping everyone safe,” Maestracci said. "We ask for everyone’s understanding and flexibility.”
Amelie Daoust-Boisvert, an assistant professor at Concordia University, surveyed each of her students to better understand how to structure the rest of the term. Her survey found that many students have moved back home, others don’t have guaranteed access to the internet, and some, who rely on the library or cafes for studying, may not have access to quiet workspaces at home.
“The first thing I told my colleagues is ‘You need to check on your students, are they alright?’,” Daoust-Boisvert said. “Some might normally receive services for disabilities or the psychological services from the university… It might be a challenge for them psychologically in this situation; some of them are very anxious.”
Daoust-Boisvert said she received a response from 80 per cent of her students. For the other 20 per cent, she reached out individually. Equipped with an understanding of the varying circumstances affecting her students, Daoust-Boisvert will propose adjustments to her course outline to ensure success for everyone.
Maestracci said Concordia is currently working on figuring out “how to equip faculty and students who would not have the means to partake in online instructions, such as by lending computers.”
“We need to understand that we need to lower our expectations towards everyone - lower our expectations towards university administration, our professors, the students, the staff,” Daoust-Boisvert said. “Everyone has a unique situation right now: some might be quarantined, some might be taking care of parents, or people who can’t go out because they’re afraid. Some have their kids at home, like me.”
STUCK IN MONTREAL
Because the decision to move to online courses indefinitely is still pending in some cases, and came after border closures in others, many international students are incapable of going home in a time when they’d much rather be with their families.
Others are worried about U.S. student loans, as they say you cannot receive them when taking online courses.
For now, they wait.