Langara looks back on the anniversary of COVID-19 pandemic

Students and instructors had to adjust their lifestyles when the global crisis started in March 2020

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By Hannah Snider

It’s been one year since Langara College shifted to remote learning to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

On March 12, 2020, the college had to halt in-person instruction after WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Without preparation, students and teachers had to adjust to online learning, and college administration had to provide technical support.

The campus went online just three months after Kaitlin Lovering began her job as a Langara chemistry instructor. Lovering quickly noticed anxiety levels spiking among faculty and students.

“You would be wandering the halls, and you know everyone is talking about it because ‘coronavirus’ sounds the same in everyone’s language,” said Lovering, who added that she had felt tired between the anxiety surrounding the pandemic, course preparation and classes moving online.

Technical challenges

Chris Arnold-Forster, director of the Emergency Operations Centre at Langara, was serving some 20,000 Langara community members during the first phases of the pandemic.

The EOC had a team of 120 people in March 2020 to help source essential supplies during a global shortage of sanitary products and technical equipment required for online learning.

“The depth of challenges there were quite high because there was a global shortage of tech equipment to go to online learning,” Arnold-Forster said.

Carrie Jia, a student in the applied planning post-degree diploma program, said online learning created a disconnect among instructors and classmates. She added that she had to buy a new computer for school.

“My laptop just wasn’t able to handle the application we were using,” she said.

Social sciences graduate Divya Gupta comes to Langara to study. Photo: Hannah Snider

After Langara cancelled the majority of in-person classes, instructors had to learn to use new computer applications, such as Zoom, Kaltura and Brightspace. The college also had to negotiate with Adobe to extend software licences to student and instructor personal computers.

Carmen Larsen, Langara curriculum consultant, taught workshops for instructors to help them move their courses online.

“The instructors … were just so motivated to help students in this crazy time and do the best that they could do,” she said.

Larsen said she started many of her sessions with instructors by reminding them they were going through a global crisis.

“We had all of two seconds to get online, so let’s be good to ourselves,” she told the instructors. “Let’s be good to our students. Let’s take care of each other. Let’s be patient.”

Return to campus

On March 8, Anne Kang, minister of advanced education and skills training, announced that post-secondary institutions should prepare for a safe return to in-person learning in September.

First-year arts student Shauna Bevacqua has concerns about returning to campus, but feels prepared nonetheless.

“As long as the vaccination schedule goes according to plan, I’ll be ready to go back in,” she said. “I am a bit nervous, especially since I didn’t have the experience before. So it’s going to feel kind of like starting for the first time again.”

The college, which on March 12 flew the Canadian flag at half-mast to mark the anniversary of WHO declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, has said it would adhere to the province’s mandate to open.

Langara administration is still working out all the logistic and curricular details.

“My first concern would be that when we come back to campus that we don’t recognize some of the grief that all of us will have,” Arnold-Forster said.

Listen to our interview with EOC director Chris Arnold-Forster below.

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