Trade schools to reduce students on campus, emphasize distance learning
- NC Raine | September 23, 2020
As trade and vocational schools welcome students back, Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT) and Saskatchewan Polytechnic have been devising procedures to ensure students can safely get their hands dirty.
When Saskatchewan’s Phase I of the shut-down took effect in March, SIIT developed COVID-19 protocols to allow five programs to finish the year. That experience allowed the school to see what would be required this fall.
“In some ways, we were lucky because we had a very small group of students and staff that we had to bring back. We set up procedures around safety, and were able to alter them in ways that were a little more flexible than if we had brought back hundreds or thousands,” said Tavia Laliberte, SIIT Vice-President of Academics.
SIIT has reduced the number of students enrolled in its programs this fall by 10 to 20 percent; students will maintain two metres distance whenever possible and wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including eye protection in some trades. SIIT will also deliver much of its theoretical education virtually.
And because SIIT has campuses, career centres, and community learning locations across the province, mass gatherings typically found at higher-learning facilities is significantly reduced.
“We do have some advantages at SIIT. We are a smaller institution, with smaller cohorts and we have a very distributed education model. We don't have one huge campus that you come to, we come to you, we come to your community. There are pros and cons to that, but in the case of a pandemic, there are advantages there,” said Laliberte.
Sask. Polytech will take the significant preventative measure of allowing only ten percent of the student population on campus, including only those participating in hands-on labs, shop, and clinical components, said Has Malik, Provost and Vice-President of Academics.
Before entering campus, every individual will be required to do a daily coronavirus check. Masks are mandatory on campus and Sask. Polytech has fully mapped student movement, including which entranceways, washrooms, and hallways may be used.
Sask. Polytech will continue offering theoretical courses through distance learning.
“A lot of work has gone into converting our courses online because most of our courses were face to face,” Malik said.
“We’re careful in making sure each of our courses has learning outcomes that are associated with each of our programs,” he said. “We are making sure that any course that needs to be on campus, we are providing that opportunity, whether its a welding shop, hairstylist or clinic for a health professional, we’re putting the protocols in place so students can come to campus.”
Special supports are also being offered to Indigenous students. Sask. Polytech hosted a virtual summer transition program for Indigenous students to get acclimated to the new virtual platforms and is building a new sense of community for the Indigenous students.
“Even though our student centres are closed... we have virtual platform including a Facebook room, scavenger hunt, book clubs to build that sense of community and relationship building that students aren’t receiving as they’re not on campus,” said Deanna Speidel, Director of Indigenous Strategy at Sask. Polytech.
“The experience this year may look a little different but the quality of our education and our credentials will remain the same.”