TIMMINS, ON: In the weeks following the abrupt arrival of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Northern College, its staff and faculty worked diligently to transition educational operations from traditional, in person lessons to distance learning delivery methods.
This was achieved in record time, utilizing the College’s wealth of experience with distance delivery.
“While we were able to pivot quickly and complete a significant portion of winter 2020 semester programming in a remote delivery format, the fact that we have been unable to return to campus to complete required in-person programming has left a number of graduating and apprenticeship students ‘stranded’,” stated Dr. Audrey Penner, Northern College’s Vice President of Student and Academic Success. “Some of these students were only weeks away from graduating and entering the frontlines. We need to find solutions to get them over the finish line and into the workforce.”
As the COVID-19 Pandemic continues to alter the social fabric of our communities, country and the world at large, Northern College is looking to develop some certainty for students as Northern looks toward the start of the Fall 2020 semester.
“We will engage in pilot programming delivery to smaller numbers of students in the summer months, by doing this we will be able to assess requirements and risks in planning for how increased activity can occur in Fall 2020 and Winter 2021,” stated Penner. “Now that the Ontario Government is examining a gradual and measured reopening of Ontario’s economy, there is a need to examine ways to resume training for key sectors upon which this economic recovery will rely. This must be done in a safe and controlled way, with staff and student safety the number one priority.”
Certain aspects of programming offered to students at Northern College can be transitioned to distance delivery with relative ease, whereas one demographic of students called, “stranded students,” are required to complete curriculum involving in person demonstrations of acquired skills in order to be awarded their diplomas. This pilot project will explore options available to ensure every student has the opportunity to access the same high-quality education available at Northern.
“Times of great uncertainty and turmoil often create the perfect conditions for innovation,” stated Northern College President & CEO Dr. Fred Gibbons. “While we, like thousands of other sectors across the country, are working to make the most of this widespread change in circumstance, we are confident that the minds at this institution are more than up to the task. We are certain the future will look different, but we are confident that Northern College will continue to deliver the highest level of education to students wherever they are learning from.”
As Northern contemplates the changes required to ensure a safe return in September of this year, it has created a pandemic planning taskforce which is exploring consistent ways to monitor student numbers on campus, maintain physical distancing guidelines both in the classroom and on its campuses at large and implementing the necessary safety measures, processes, and cleaning requirements to maintain a healthy and productive learning environment.
“To minimize risk and effectively leverage the proposed summer activity as a pilot, on-campus activity will be limited to a small number of programs per campus, and section sizes will be kept small,” stated Penner. “Entry to campus will be limited to students who are scheduled for on-site activity and to essential faculty and staff only. Entry to campus will be through controlled access points along with enhanced screening protocols prior to coming onto campus”
By taking the summer months to test working theories in a COVID-19 era learning environment, Northern College is taking proactive steps to ensure the safety of its students, ensuring they are given everything they need to succeed in their latest semester of post-secondary education.
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