UBCO opens for semester, online-only for most students

Returning to the 'classroom'

Sarita Patel

It may not look like the typical kick-off to orientation week at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus, but the school says the buzz has moved online. 

UBCO has 11,000 students from 100 countries who live in 18 different time zones, something the university has had to adapt to for the new school year. 

“Two words that I heard a lot from our professors is compassion and understanding because students are operating under many, many different circumstances, timezone is only one,” explains Ananya Mukherjee Reed, provost and vice president of academics at UBCO. 

“People have different work environments at home and access to technology sometimes … we actually did put in place a technology bursary.”

The professors are also working from home and managing a combination of live interaction and pre-taped video. Two town hall meetings were held before the start of the year to get an understanding of the student body's needs. 

“Professors are actually trying to do things that they would not have been able to do in-person classrooms and this is true across disciplines," Mukherjee said.

Some programs such as nursing will require on-campus learning, and Mukherjee says the school has a plan in place to manage traffic flow in each building.

“Everything is in place to make sure that students who are coming to campus or staff or faculty who are coming to campus for whatever reason, that they are able to comply with the public health guidelines as much as possible,” she adds.

All the now-routine COVID-19 regulations are in place, including hand sanitizer and signs reminding the public of social distancing. 

UBCO is providing free quarantine spaces for those coming for on-campus learning. Fewer than 100 students are living on residence this year.

“Our residences are operating at about twenty per cent capacity … and when students are coming into class … there’s a plan about who can come through which building at what time,” adds Mukherjee Reed. 

All student programming has also been moved online.

“Nothing has been reduced, in some cases, we have expanded them to accommodate the new remote learning environment.”

Due to limits on gatherings, events will continue online, like last year's convocation and this fall's orientation, but the school say it has also made a mentoring program available online — not only for academic purposes but for a social aspect as well.

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