Okanagan College students frustrated with online classes while paying full tuition | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Okanagan College students frustrated with online classes while paying full tuition

Trades Complex, Kelowna Campus.
Image Credit: Okanagan College
October 22, 2020 - 7:00 AM

Adapting to a new way of learning and having to pay a full tuition price for online classes is bothering some Okanagan College students.

Ashley Robinson, a third-year Kelowna Okanagan College business student and member of the Student Union, has found the transition to online difficult, saying she struggled to retain information typically delivered in an in-person setting.

“When I’m home, I get to feel relaxed… there are a lot more things to go to and it doesn’t really narrow your focus to school,” she said. “It is the current climate that we’re in, but I can’t do anything about it.”

Robinson is also frustrated with the increase in tuition fees, she said.

“It is completely bogus,” she said. She’s paying roughly $2,600 this semester for five classes.

“It’s not right really, because the way that we’re learning is completely different than in a classroom and it’s not like we have to be in the physical building where we have to account for facilities and maintenance. I would have thought those would be cut out of the tuition fee.”

Not only is tuition higher, accessing classes themselves can be challenging. She says she's had mature students call her in the middle of the day seeking help logging into classes through Zoom. 

“It’s not fair to be paying full price as there are a lot of older students… who are struggling with technology," she said. 

While the change isn’t all bad for her — not commuting to school makes juggling her three jobs easier to manage — she says she's missing the important parts of classroom education. Two classes she wishes she could talk to professors in person and notes.

“I would prefer to have some portion to go to school… and I think a huge part of the college experience is meeting new people and learning about them because they might be the future people you’re working with in business,” Robinson said. “A lot of older people (are having challenges) especially because they’re not well-versed on technology so having the ability to go into school for two to three times a week may be a better setting.”

Christine Reeves is in her second and final year studying communications, culture and journalism and she believes her grades have taken a hit because of online instruction.

The challenge for instructors and students is how they’re interacting through this technology, she said.

“The experience of being online versus being on campus has been a real huge adjustment to grasp for the teachers, the instructors, students. The group sessions alone are difficult. Logging in I find a lot of the students are dropping off, (and) coming back in,” she said.

She knows the college is doing its best, but finds the adjustment difficult, noting that everyone is trying to adjust to this new way of communicating.

Reeves has seen a roughly 10 per cent drop due to the stress of adjusting to online instruction, she said.

“I’m usually an 80-90 student and now I’m at a 70 and I’m thinking 'what is wrong?' But it’s the different instructors,” she said, adding that in-class instruction doesn’t always transcribe well online.

She doesn’t mind the tuition increase, however, as she’s saving money on parking and has a $500 education grant because of COVID-19.

“I had to drive from Westside, and try to find parking and it was such a strain and stress,” she said. “If the pandemic continues on, they really need to change (this system). The platform is so difficult on our instructors, so difficult on me, that if they put us in these collaborative sessions with groups, it doesn’t work. You don’t even know there are other people in the room and it’s so uncomfortable.”

READ MORE: Refugee families face unique struggles with online school

The college’s tuition fees were set to increase by two per cent back for domestic students and five per cent for international students, for 2020/2021 school year.

“Like most post-secondary institutions, Okanagan College hasn’t reduced tuition for 2020-21 academic year because we are intent on maintaining educational quality through the course of this pandemic and the currently altered forms of delivery we are experiencing,” said Allan Coyle, college associate vice president of external and strategic initiatives, via email.

The college has made additional investments in technology to support instructors and facility to make an online transition and the cost of providing programs and courses to students hasn’t gone down. In some instances, it's increased, like with the more than 1,000 students at the Kelowna campus that still coming to campus for health, science and trade labs, he said.

“Pandemic protocols mean increased cleaning costs and investment in things like Personal Protective Equipment for instructors, and plexiglas shields,” he said.

READ MORE: As more colleges stay online, students demand tuition cuts

And the college has invested in technology to allow students easier access to financial aid, counselling and employment services online, Coyle said, adding that the college has had more than 520 students use the online service to access the Kelowna student success centre.

“If students are experiencing issues with online delivery formats, we are advising them to seek help through those student success centres and to connect with their professors and instructors. Going into the summer and fall semesters, we developed and posted materials for students on our website that focus on how best to engage in online learning, that identified tips and best practices. We ensured that all registered students were alerted to those resources," he said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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