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Students get ready for unique back-to-school experience at George Brown College

Angela Gismondi
Students get ready for unique back-to-school experience at George Brown College
ANGELA GISMONDI - The fall session at George Brown College in Toronto begins Sept. 8. While most learning will take place remotely and online, students in the Centre for Construction and Engineering Technologies at the Casa Loma campus in Toronto will be heading back to class a few days a week to use the shop and labs. A pilot project during the spring and summer session, pictured here, saw a reduced number of students and a number of increased safety measures such as a mandatory COVID-19 training course, wearing masks at all times and adhering to distancing protocols.

The fall semester at George Brown College will be different this year and students will need to get used to a new way of learning and navigating student life that’s unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, courses will be taking place predominantly through remote delivery format and most students and employees will continue to work remotely if they can.  Small groups of students and employees will have access to campus for limited instruction that requires in-person labs and facilities.

“The safety of our students, faculty and staff comes first,” Adel Esayed, dean for the Centre for Construction and Engineering Technologies (CCET) at George Brown College, told the Daily Commercial News.

“We’re going to make sure that anything that we can deliver online we will deliver online. Any person that does not need to be on the campus should continue to do their work from home. But the lab component, the portion of the course that students need to do in the shop, we have to open the shop for them to do the work.”

At the CCET, located at the college’s Casa Loma Campus in Toronto, hands-on courses include introduction to machining; precision tool fabrication; advance computerized numerical control; and refrigeration laboratory application.

During the spring/summer session, the college ran a pilot with a reduced number of students working in the lab and the shop.

“We had a couple of programs for students who need lab and shop hours to graduate,” said Esayed, adding the sections were about half of the students who came in once or twice a week. “In September it’s going to be the same thing because of social distancing. With the small size, the students learn more. On the other side it’s a bit expensive. Students enjoy it because they have more time to interact with the faculty, they have more time to spend on each machine so the learning curve is very high.”

He said the spring session went well and he is confident the fall session will be successful.

“For the students, I don’t see a problem for them to come back,” said Esayed. “The college students enjoy the hands-on component of the program and this is why they are in the college because they touch things and learn. This is how they are going to do it in the future. The online theory is fine but still you can’t teach the lab or the shop component online so you still need access to the shop and the lab where students can do things by themselves.

“We are working, preparing and taking many factors into consideration because the number of students in the fall will be more than we had in spring/summer,” he added.

Full-time programs start Sept. 8 but orientation events are already underway online with new full-time students, returning students and future students, providing students with the opportunity to connect with classmates and faculty, learn about student services and supports and get details about the program for the 2020 fall semester.

For those who are returning to campus, new measures include a mandatory safety course. 

“Before they start any course inside the college they have to take COVID-19 training that is prepared by our health and safety committee,” Esayed explained. “It’s mandatory for any faculty, students and employees who want to be inside the college. They need to finish the training. They will be provided the two washable masks. For all of our shops and our labs students have to wash their hands before they go in. Sanitizers are available for them before they enter the college. They have to put the mask on and keep it on the whole time until they leave.”

Through its social media hub, the college is providing tips and resources for staying healthy off campus, managing physical, mental, nutritional and social health.

George Brown counsellors and experts are providing tips on a variety of subjects including five ways to reduce stress; how to cope with self-isolation and social distancing; how to create healthy routines while staying home; how to manage your time when completing courses at home; how to balance child care while working and studying from home; and tips for students coping with financial stress.

They are also providing support to faculty and staff.

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Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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