Student union mobilizes to support Conestoga College students in remote learning

Published May 13, 2020 12:33 p.m. ET

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KITCHENER -- The union representing students at Conestoga College is reacting to some sweeping changes to learning in a post-pandemic world.

Conestoga's president and CEO John Tibbits outlined a vision for the school in a letter to staff on Tuesday, saying that remote learning is here to stay.

"We do have to make that transition," he said in an interview with CTV News. 

Conestoga Students Inc. says the main priority is to make sure that students get enough support during this unprecedented time.

"They’ve had laptops sent to the students who are having technical difficulties and software has been provided to students," says Sanu Banu, president of Conestoga Students Inc. 

"There is definitely more that can be added and we are constantly in touch with the college to ensure these requirements are being met and students are not being left out because they do not have the equipment to ensure they are receiving these online courses."

The union says they've been talking regularly with administration about the transition and say they want to make sure students are supported mentally and financially as well.

Tibbits said earlier this week that we're seeing a shift in how college education is offered, and even after the pandemic is behind us, some changes will be here to stay.

He says that that, while it could be a year or longer until a vaccine is produced, post-secondary education won’t get back to normal before that.

He admits that the transition will not be easy or cheap, but it will be necessary.

"I think it's going to cost us more," Tibbits said earlier this week. "But we're not here to make big profits, we’re here to provide people a quality education and make sure they’re healthy."

Adding another complicating factor to this situation, the college is forecasting a significant drop in enrolment.

This is being attributed to fewer international students due to travel restrictions, and Canadian students who may decide to wait a year before going to college.

The college is looking to digital simulations and virtual reality to shift the trades and health-care programs out of the classroom.

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