Fanshawe's world now divided between virtual and in-person reality

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: ANGELA MCINNES
Student service hubs are open throughout Fanshawe's Oxford Street building to assist students in navigating their way through the new health and safety guidelines

The COVID-19 pandemic has split the Fanshawe community between the virtual and real-life world.

The College will welcome back 18,000 students for its fall 2020 term, with 8,000 taking part in blended-delivery programs. Its main Oxford Street campus will see approximately 5,000 students on a given day, with their schedules staggered to allow for social distancing in the hallways and classrooms.

“I feel ready,” said Gary Lima, Fanshawe’s senior vice president of academics. “I feel confident we’re in good shape, providing everyone follows the guidelines.”

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Lima said that the College worked throughout the summer to transition as many courses as possible to an online format, while creating safety components for those that must be taught in person. The faculty worked with the College’s Centre for Academic Excellence to create a plan that is unique to each program.

Students, faculty and staff are required to complete a COVID-19 training module, as well as a daily online screening. Each academic space has been assessed to delineate where students can remain distanced at two metres apart, and Plexiglas barriers have been installed where distancing may not work.

There are occupancy limits on washrooms and elevators, and signage, posters and floor markers have been placed throughout the campus buildings. Mandatory personal protective equipment includes wearing masks at all times, and cleaning and sanitizing procedures have increased.

Lima said that an online component has been created even for courses that could have been face to face, to further limit numbers on campus. He added that transitioning to the online format was fairly easy for Fanshawe.

“We were a leader in online learning before this even started,” Lima said. “We had the second highest number of online courses in the country, and we’ve been going at this for 10 years now. Before COVID-19, we had dedicated a lot of resources to helping faculty deliver online, and had to ramp up in the summer.”

To help students adjust to the online classroom, the College is providing support via their eLearner coordinators, academic advisors, and library and media services. Lima encouraged students to gauge their readiness for online learning using the tool

Most programs will have a minimum of at least one synchronous course, where students can have live face time with each other and their professor to accommodate different learning styles. While international enrolment has declined by 10 per cent due to travel restrictions, he said the synchronous delivery will help students out of the country to build a personal connection with their peers.

Conversely, domestic enrolment at Fanshawe has increased slightly by one to two per cent. Those taking classes on campus will be able to use study spots, lounges and homework labs, with student service hubs open to help them locate these areas. Students can purchase food in the Student Union Building, at the Oasis and The Out Back Shack patio.

The FSU main desk will be open, as well as the main front desk at the library. All registrar services and international office services will be available remotely.

Residence life will look different as well, where occupancy has been limited to 45 per cent capacity, according the David Norwood, director of residence operations.

There will be 615 students living in-house as of Sept. 21. Students are required to stick to two individuals per room at a time. They can visit each other, but no outside guests will be allowed. Several international students have already quarantined within their rooms, with the residence staff helping to deliver food and keep all students connected to mental health supports.

With these precautions in place, Lima said the College is ready to take whatever comes next.

“If we follow all the guidelines, we won’t need another lockdown,” he said. “If there was another lockdown, it would be similar to what we did in the winter last year, although we’re a lot more prepared than we were the first time. Our end goal is to not have a lockdown.”