May 29, 2024

It has been a long, trying two years of mostly online learning at Conestoga College.

“I’m still trying to adjust to it,” said Michael Keenan, a Professor of Electro-Mechanical and Automation Maintenance at Conestoga College. “In this [Zoom] box, I find it hard to break out into different topics, or different ways of showing information.”

After originally planning to have students return to campuses in early January, Conestoga College is now scheduled to open for in-person classes on Jan. 31.

The COVID-19 pandemic complicated many aspects of life, and most students and professors have been using Zoom ever since spring 2020. Select courses moved to a hybrid approach, employing a mix of Zoom classes and in-person classes when needed.

Keenan’s classes have been mostly in-person, with some Zoom classes where needed.

“I like that personal connection that I can have with the students … Like when you see a [student’s] eyebrows go down once you say something, and they’re confused. Those simple cues get lost for me,” Keenan said.

Michael Keenan, a Professor of Electro-Mechanical and Automation Maintenance at Conestoga College. Photo from Zoom.

Conestoga responded to the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 by suspending all on-campus and in-person programs and classes, as professors attempted to convert to Zoom classes and find new ways to teach.

“We lost shop time last year,” said Keenan. “For a lot of the hands-on, practical stuff, we were able to find simulation software that the students could download … so they’re physically doing the exact same thing they would [in class].”

Keenan said he found these programs to be beneficial for his students while they were learning from home.

While many students and staff are eager to get back inside classrooms to make up for lost time, others are hesitant because of ongoing concerns about the Omicron variant.

As of Jan. 2, Conestoga implemented policies that require all students, employees, and visitors to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 through the Mobile Safety App, mirroring mandates from other colleges and universities in the area.

On top of that, anyone who enters a campus for any reason must wear a college-issued mask and sanitize their hands.

All these protocols have been put in place for the arrival of in-person classes set to resume this month.

“I like [in-person], because you can talk to your teachers and understand better what you’re learning,” said Ken Kowalchuk, a Conestoga student in the Industrial Millwright course, one of the courses that still has some in-person classes right now.

For now, many students like Kowalchuk are looking forward to the re-opening of campuses, and with that, going back to a more ‘normal’ life.

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