Red Deer College president Peter Nunoda. (Photo by contributed)

Peter Nunoda: Winter term will be busier on RDC campus

In my column last month, I shared details about Red Deer College’s fall term.

Now, six weeks and several snowfalls later, I’d like to provide updates about our plan for the winter 2021 term. It feels like a quick transition between the seasons in several ways.

However, it’s important for us, as a college, to look ahead and plan for the coming months. We’ve shared this plan with our students, and now I’d like to share it with our community, as well.

The first important takeaway about our winter term delivery is that RDC will increase in-person course delivery to approximately 40 per cent of our student enrolment.

We anticipate that between 2,000 to 3,000 students, in addition to the faculty and staff who support these students, will attend main campus each day.

It’s a very unusual thing to determine how to best serve students during a pandemic, and we have had to weigh the options across our programs.

A guiding principle that has driven our decision-making is our commitment to providing students with a high-quality learning environment, whether online or in person, as well as finding creative ways to enhance our students’ overall experiences.

With this in mind, we’ve looked at the curriculum for each course, in each program, to determine what must be delivered in person in order to support student learning.

Labs and shops across RDC’s programs fall under this umbrella. We have also looked at the suitability of each course and program for the different delivery options, because some courses and programs are not a fit for continued online delivery.

With these curriculum-based and suitability criteria providing the framework, we have established what programs will be offered in person on main campus, as well as those offered through a blended model, with some in person and some online instruction.

All other programs will continue to be delivered online in the winter term, as this is the best method we have determined to minimize the number of people on campus, in an effort to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. These details are available on our website at rdc.ab.ca/covid.

When I consider RDC’s current and continuing online delivery, I’m reminded of the diligence and dedication that our students, faculty and staff have committed to making this successful.

RDC has offered select programs through online delivery for many years, but in the past several months, this has obviously grown exponentially.

As an institution, we have already learned from these experiences, and we are committed to ongoing learning so that we will continue to evolve and offer students the best experiences possible.

We’re currently surveying all students to better understand their thoughts about online delivery from the fall term.

From this, our academic teams will look to refine our online offerings for winter term, creating an even stronger learning experience for students.

Another important part of being a post-secondary student is making connections with others. We know that this can sometimes be more challenging in an online environment.

As an institution, we are exploring creative and safe opportunities for RDC to provide in-person interactions in the winter term, even for those students who are learning online.

We are continuing to look at all the options and will inform students as decisions are made.

All of our decisions are based on our top priority, which is the health and safety of the RDC community.

As we look to accommodate the increased number of people on main campus in the winter term, we will continue to follow Alberta Health guidelines and RDC’s rigorous protocols to protect people from exposure to COVID-19.

The hard part, though, is that COVID-19 continues to be pervasive worldwide. In recent weeks, we have had people test positive who were at RDC, and we wish them well as they recover.

For all of us collectively, part of the balancing act of this pandemic is determining how to proceed – how to work and learn and live in a safe manner.

Our plan for the winter term at RDC strives to achieve that balance, as we are guided at the college-wide level by government directives, expert advice and best practices, but we are still recognizing the needs of our students and employees as individuals.

We will continue to monitor the situation and make the best decisions for the health and safety of our college community. And we will always advocate for kindness and support of each other as we all navigate through this unusual time.

Peter Nunoda is president of Red Deer College.

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