The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

U of S students adapt to online classes in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic

By in News

The University of Saskatch­ewan’s preventative measures for COVID-19 have included a move to online classes and clo­sure of all university buildings. A number of labs, lectures, ex­ams and entire syllabi have un­dergone significant changes to adapt.

While instructors have been fairly good at adapting to a sud­den change in format, the results are different for students of vari­ous disciplines.

“I think [instructors,] they cope really well for the online classes,” says Jessica Xia, a sec­ond-year accounting student.

She attributes her instructors’ efforts in uploading course ma­terials consistently as part of the reason the shift has not impacted her negatively.

So far, Xia’s main challenge in adapting to online classes has been that she needs more skills to keep motivated now that she is studying remotely. She finds that being in a productive uni­versity environment with other students is much more beneficial than being at home, especially while dealing with the stress of the pandemic.

She says the university’s mo­rale-boosting efforts, including Instagram stories and health and study posts have been helpful in coping with the stressful last couple of weeks.

“Sometimes when I do not want to study and I usually browse through Instagram, and I saw those tips that … encour­aged us to study or encouraged us to take a break between the study time,” Xia said. “Because I saw these pictures and I saw these stories I figured out {that} … I should go back to study now instead of browse again.”

Aside from motivation for on­line classes at home, one of the most difficult parts of the transi­tion for Xia has been not seeing her classmates and peers.

“We are social animals, and we still prefer to communicate with others in real life. So even though we can message each other online, or maybe just call each other, it’s not the way we usually communicate with oth­ers,” Xia said. “I know we have to adapt to this for these several months but still, face-to-face so­cializing is really important.”

For Delane Just, an English student finishing the final semes­ter of her degree, this is proving to be a challenge since some of her classes do not fully translate to remote delivery.

A seminar-style English course, for example, does not work as well online for Just.

“The focus of that course is talking in a discussion group and so it’s been a big struggle,” Just said.

Accessing books and articles for classwork has also become more difficult after the closure of the campus. Although it was among the last on-campus places to do so, Murray Library is now closed. The university reported­ly kept the location open longer than the other libraries to ensure students without reliable access to the internet or a computer were not left behind in the move to online.

“I tended to use the library a lot and a lot of the books are not available online,” Just said. “If there was a way to give students more access to the books within the library through a digital copy or potentially mailing or a pick­up service, that would be really helpful for a lot of the research papers I’m currently working on.”

Things are still changing quickly as the campus commu­nity adapts to the circumstanc­es. Some of students’ demands for accommodations have been answered. The new deadline for withdrawals is on the last day of classes, for example, although some students are pushing for a pass/fail system to be imple­mented instead. Such measures have already taken place at insti­tutions like the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and the University of Alberta.

Xia says that the measures tak­en by the university so far, partic­ularly their approval of changes to syllabi, have been helpful in the unexpected transition.

“I can say this is a really good change, since our university is not [sticking] to the original course guidelines and syllabus … to accommodate all the re­quests,” Xia said.

With only online spring and summer classes being offered this year, it will be a while before U of S students are back on cam­pus. It remains to be seen how students and the university will continue to adapt to the circum­stances. Like many of her peers, Just is still getting used to study­ing from home.

“I’ve always spent most of my time at the university itself,” Just said. “I really liked the commu­nity.”

Fiza Baloch

Graphic: Shawna Langer | Graphics Editor

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