C/O Ainsley Thurgood
McMaster’s potentially surprising welcome to the return of in-person learning this winter
By: Bianca Perreault, Contributor
Despite the excitement of a movement back to in-person functions, the return to pre-pandemic life could be a hindrance for many people. We’ve just been through over 15 months of change, with people developing new habits and experiencing a time of instability. At McMaster University, the school is looking forward to a Back-to-Mac plan for the upcoming semester. Through scares, stress and excitement, what should we expect for January 2022? Will it be welcomed? A disaster or a debate? McMaster might have to prepare for a variety of perspectives on the return of in-person learning this winter.
There’s such a diverse set of perspectives and those determine how the movement back to in-person classes will be received. Let’s look at the parents as an example, for whom it is essential that their students get a high-quality education. Many parents believe in-personal learning is highly valuable, the method by which the majority of the post-secondary studies have been delivered before March 2019.
But what about teachers? Since the pandemic affected our academics, we must always consider the opposite party and their perspectives. It would be a lie to say that I have never heard a teacher saying that they would rather work from home for their safety. Post-secondary education hasn’t stopped through this global experience, so people like professors have learned to work with it throughout eLearning and found comfort in this way of teaching. For teachers who may not want the vaccine, made mandatory at McMaster, would either have to work from home or not at all.
We must also consider the perspective of students who feel that they work better and learn more efficiently in-person. Prior to the pandemic, very few educational institutions were offering online or hybrid options. However, online learning was always there through programs such as Cégep à distance and even online programs through McMaster Continuing Education. Countless people may have assumed that online learning would be straightforward as they would have less effort to do “physically.” However, it has proven to be challenging for so many others mentally. Despite considerable rise in student enrolment in entirely online courses over the last two years, given the circumstances of the pandemic, most students have still said they would prefer continuing with in-person classes if they had the option.
As an out-of-province student coming from Quebec, it was less trouble for me to move to Hamilton, take a COVID-19 test and show my proof of vaccination while living in the same country where McMaster is located. However, numerous online students, including one of my roommates, haven’t been able to arrive in time for the start of the school year due to the rules and restrictions for international students. How are these students handling the challenge of being in a completely different country while only wishing to be in Hamilton? Is it naive of us to assume such restrictions won’t hinder the success of international students before the winter semester?
With all these questions and perspectives in mind, it’s difficult to fully understand the impact that the move to in-person learning may have.