Computers screens and online learning have replaced face-to-face interactions between students and their instructors this week at the College of New Caledonia.
While some trades training continues in machine shops with new precautions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it's definitely not business as usual for the 50-year-old college and its six campuses.
"CNC campuses do remain open but we have moved face-to-face classes to an online format," said Chad Thompson, the college's vice-president academic. "Faculty had three days off last week to get themselves ready so the official launch of online courses took place (Monday).
"There's still a handful of educational activities going on where it can be done in a safe manner maintaining social distancing with appropriate protective gear if necessary for activities that can't be done online. That's primarily trades activities, but only about 10 per cent of our trades students are currently on campus."
Thompson said faculty members have been innovative working with CNC's Centre for Teaching and Learning to find the right alternative delivery teaching tools to get through to their students.
"They can do webinars, recorded lectures, chatroom-type activities, there's a whole variety of things being done by faculty to figure out what the best way to continue their classes is and to make sure students are getting the best education possible considering the circumstances," said Thompson. "There's provincial support provided by BC Campus for faculty to be better online teachers."
Lab activities were compressed whenever possible in each program and Thompson said most of that was completed last week. Programs such as health sciences which were not able to finish the lab instruction will be working out alternate plans to make sure those students complete the work at a later date, if necessary.
"For many of them that involve more student contact, like dental (hygiene and assisting), we're watching the situation as it unfolds and coming up with potential contingencies for when we are able to return to, if not normal, a more normal form of operation," said Thompson.
The college is changing schedules in an effort to minimize the number of staff members in the trades shops at any one time and will only keep those shops open where they can maintain safe distances.
CNC has between 3,000 and 4,000 students registered at its campuses in Prince George, Quesnel, Mackenzie, Vanderhoof, Fort St. James and Burns Lake.
Student services, which offer support for academic advising, tutoring, registration and application processes and help for international students, are now available only online or by phone and staff are working off-site. The challenge for the college is to make sure students are aware they still have access to those services. Frequently asked questions on several topics have been posted on the college website.
CNC food services were shut down Monday, on the advice of provincial health authorities. The student residence, which as about 65 occupants, remains open. Thompson said there are fewer concerns about COVID-19 transmission at the residence because each of the dwellings are one-person rooms which all have outside entrances.
"Students don't have meal plans so the residences are actually quite safe for students to continue to live in and they can continue to feed themselves as they always have," said Thompson.
CNC offers an inter-session semester that starts the second week of May and continues through to the end of July, but the college has yet to confirm whether it will indeed offer classes for the summer term.
"We work very closely with Northern Health and the relevant ministries to make sure we are following the direction that is being recommended by the public health officer and doing everything we can to keep staff, students and the entire community safe," said Thompson.
"It's not something we've seen or experienced before. We're all learning as we go along and I'm proud of the way the staff, the faculty and the students have risen to the occasion, taking really seriously our responsibility to keep each other safe and to be able to still be educating our students."