Students walk between Algonquin College buildings on Wednesday. Students last Thursday were checking for updates from the college as a storm approached Ottawa.

Last week’s predicted two-day storm saw some classes migrate to Zoom on Friday, with mixed feelings from staff and students.

Connor Finniss, a radio broadcasting student, enjoys in-person learning.

“There’s something nice about being on campus. Being online the engagement is at an all-time low,” Finniss said. “When you’re there, you’re forced to pay attention.”

Thursday morning came with periods of snow and sleet. The day was spent wondering if Friday’s classes would proceed as students, staff, and administrators monitored the constantly changing conditions.

After the challenges and benefits of online learning during the pandemic, schools could have the option to switch classes online through Zoom and Brightspace. Some classes did switch to that platform last Friday.

“We’ve done it once or twice so far, and I think it’s a good option. Since so much happens in a class, losing one to bad weather puts everyone behind,” said Kira Maranta, a health services administration student.

Marina Westbrook, a professor and coordinator in the Aboriginal studies program, is glad the option is available.

“It’s helpful when severe weather is predicted. Especially when police are actually saying, ‘Stay off the roads’,” Westbrook said. “I don’t like the possibility of a student getting into an accident trying to get to the college during a storm.”

Zoom classes lack a personal connection and participation from many students.

Christopher Ralph is a professor in the School of Media and Design.

“My favourite thing is when I’ve sent everyone off to breakout rooms and there are always a couple of students who don’t leave the main room. I always know they’ve wandered off somewhere,” Ralph said.

Vanessa Mameanskum is in a distinct category of students who started their post-secondary journeys online. She comes from a small, fly-in community and has completed a year of Aboriginal studies via Zoom. She then started this year in the early childhood education program on campus. She decided to withdraw from her course for a myriad of reasons, with in-person classes being high on the list.

“I just couldn’t concentrate because my class was too loud. Too many distractions,” Mameanskum said.

The Algonquin Times reached out to the college administration to find out what constitutes poor enough weather to switch all classes online. The Times didn’t receive a response by deadline.

The college said on Instagram last Thursday evening that it would be open for “business as usual” on Friday and advised students to watch their email and Brightspace accounts for updates.