Students across the country, especially those in programs requiring hands-on training, are concerned about how practicums could be affected when classes resume, in a May 21, 2020 story. (File photo)

Students across the country, especially those in programs requiring hands-on training, are concerned about how practicums could be affected when classes resume, in a May 21, 2020 story. (File photo)

Post-secondary students requiring practical skills concerned about education

Abbey Ferreira has wanted a career in the medical field since childhood, so she followed in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother and chose to become a nurse.

As COVID-19 forced school closures, Ferreira, 19, returned home to North Vancouver in mid-March near the end of her first year in the University of Calgary’s nursing program and finished her courses online.

Like thousands of students across the country, especially those in programs requiring hands-on training, Ferreira is concerned about how practicums could be affected when classes resume.

“Right now, there’s just a lot of questions,” she said about physical distancing requirements that would also impact her life in residence.

“You need to take practicums to become a nurse. I’m just wondering how they’re going to do them and what changes there will be.”

The University of Calgary said it is reviewing all experiential learning options as it prioritizes the health and safety of students.

Each faculty is assessing off-site practicum opportunities and if that is not yet possible students may be provided with alternative experiences “to help ensure they are not delayed in continuing their program,” the school said in a statement.

Amanda Baskwill, associate dean of allied health in the faculty of health sciences and wellness at Humber College in Toronto, said students in courses such as massage therapy have faced a few challenges in online classes compared with other courses.

Baskwill said instructors for the three-year program adapted as much as possible and demonstrated techniques via video with someone in their home.

“They were videos of skills the students were able to view and if there was someone in their home, they could practise with that was an opportunity for them to try something new,” she said.

Students learning a trade are also being challenged by the limitations posed by lack of in-class instruction.

Ed Dunn works as an instrumentation mechanic who maintains equipment at the Canfor pulp and paper mill in Prince George as part of his apprenticeship training through the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Classes were cancelled on March 16, just as he was supposed to return to Metro Vancouver for three weeks of schooling.

Dunn and his classmates began learning theory online instead of getting access to the mechanical equipment in the program that stresses practical experience.

“I’d never done online classes and I’m sure a lot of other students are in the same situation,” said Dunn, who ensures quality control of paper based on instruments he maintains at Canfor.

Despite the uncertainty, he’s looking forward to the start of further classes at BCIT to meet his goal of becoming a journeyman after four years of education.

“We’re supposed to go back on June 15 for the practical side of things but it’s going to be completely different, with all the new restrictions and regulations and the safety precautions that will be in place,” he said.

“For me it’s not so bad. I have to just do one more year and tough it out but if you’re starting at the beginning it might be a little different,” he said of programs that prepare students to work in a variety of heavy industry jobs.

Those enrolled in either the technician or apprenticeship programs will have to adapt until they can access equipment that will prepare them for the jobs they’re seeking, Dunn said.

“If you’re behind a laptop you could probably do some simulator training but you’re not going to get that hands-on experience that something’s wrong with your instrument and you have to either calibrate it or fix it.”

A spokeswoman for BCIT said the school is preparing to announce its plans to students as soon as possible.

Jim Armstrong, who heads the industrial instrumentation department at BCIT, said he and his colleagues are working on plans to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Physical distancing requirements involve having to source out personal protective equipment, Armstrong said, adding there must be “serious buy-in” from students to maintain health and safety protocols.

“Right now, I know we’re having difficulty sourcing masks and things like that so the question then becomes, how do we achieve that? That’s something that is foremost for BCIT,” he said.

“In the trade that I’m teaching there are people working on figuring out how we can do the distancing but it’s not easy. There are people literally working around the clock to find solutions.”

Equipment will have to be cleaned after every use to reduce the risk of the virus that causes COVID-19 from being passed on, Armstrong said.

“I’ve got 30 litres of isopropyl alcohol in my garage right now that I gotta take over to BCIT to make sure they can spray everything and wipe it all down before they touch it,” he said of computer screens, keyboards and tools.

“That’s going to put some very interesting operational constraints on the students and their learning. And if they all buy into it, it can work.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2020.

CoronavirusPost-secondary Education

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer area seniors facility pauses visits after staff tests positive for COVID

The Hamlets at Red Deer has temporarily put the breaks on visitors… Continue reading

.
Alberta confirmed more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases Sunday

Alberta confirmed 1,584 COVID-19 cases Sunday afternoon. The total active cases went… Continue reading

Hockey Canada logo at an event in Toronto on November 1, 2017. A “non-core member” of Hockey Canada’s National Junior Team staff has tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Hockey Canada staff member tests positive for COVID-19 in Red Deer

A “non-core member” of Hockey Canada’s National Junior Team staff has tested… Continue reading

A man makes his way across an office tower bridge during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. At least two provinces are reporting new highs for daily COVID-19 infections on Saturday, after the federal government’s latest modelling data showed Canada could see 20,000 cases each day if people keep up their current number of contacts and interactions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 cases keep surging in Canada as four provinces report new one-day highs

OTTAWA — Four provinces reported new highs for daily COVID-19 infections on… Continue reading

Lynn Van Laar, Christmas Wish Breakfast organizing committee chair, said this year’s event was planned outdoors to minimize the risk of COVID. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Outdoor Christmas Wish Breakfast helps central Alberta families this holiday season

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t going to stop children from having a merry… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pauses after responding to a question about the holidays during a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau joins G20 in promising COVID-19 aid to poor nations, rejecting protectionism

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined leaders from the world’s 20… Continue reading

Justice Minister David Lametti responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons, in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. The federal bill revising the rules on medically assisted death in Canada has raised the ire of the Canadian Psychiatric Association over the proposed law’s explicit rejection of mental illness as grounds for ending a patient’s life. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental illness in assisted dying-bill slammed by psychiatrists

OTTAWA — The federal bill revising the rules on medically assisted death… Continue reading

The Quebec flag is seen on the podium as Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet responds to a question during a news conference Wednesday June 3, 2020 in Ottawa. Perennial anxieties around the state of the French language in Quebec have boiled over in the past week, with politicians seizing on a Liberal MP’s initial brush-off of the issue as evidence of indifference to a crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Angst around French language boils over in Quebec, as politicians warn of ‘decline’

MONTREAL — Perennial anxieties around the state of the French language in… Continue reading

Numuch Keitlah, left, and Jake Thomas, centre, participate in a Coastal Nations search and rescue exercise off the coast of Vancouver Island in this undated handout photo. The recently operational Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary has more than 50 members from five Indigenous territories who are trained in marine search and rescue. They are on call day and night to respond to emergencies along some of B.C.’s most rugged and remote coastal areas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Jordan Wilson *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Canada’s first Indigenous-led coast guard auxiliary patrols B.C.’s rugged coast

VICTORIA — The winds were gusting at 110 kilometres per hour and… Continue reading

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has sponsored the VanVleet Court at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford, Ill. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Fred VanVleet signs four-year, US$85-million deal with Toronto Raptors

TORONTO — Fred VanVleet, one of the most coveted players in free… Continue reading

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
‘Hardship is not a new thing:’ Nunavut fights COVID-19 as cases continue to rise

IQALUIT — It has been just over two weeks since Nunavut declared… Continue reading

Pedestrians walk past Pfizer world headquarters in New York on Monday Nov. 9, 2020. Despite recent optimism over reported results from COVID-19 vaccine trials,<br>Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have recently announced they're developed COVID-19 vaccines that are 95 per cent effective. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Bebeto Matthews
A long way from lab bench to bedside: Virus experts urge COVID-19 vaccine caution

Despite recent optimism over reported results from COVID-19 vaccine trials, virologists say… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
After COVID-related transplant delays, 16-year-old N.S. girl gets lung transplant

‘This is the difficult time now of seeing Tahlia in ICU hooked up to 15 IVs and sedated’

Most Read