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By Shermain Bique-Charles
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Students at the University of the West Indies’ Five Island Campus are facing an unprecedented situation after being told their classes will be held virtually for the first and second semesters of the upcoming year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For many, it will be their first official experience of online learning.

Speaking to Observer, they expressed a range of views about the news which was announced on Sunday.

“Not everyone’s background is peaceful and comfortable; some people have children in the background screaming,” one student said.

A nursing student said she is concerned about whether instructors will be able to effectively teach their content using online platforms.

“I believe that nurses need a hands-on approach especially when looking at how to carry out procedures and practices. We need a more practical approach. I believe it’s unrealistic and even unattainable to have an online learning programme,” she explained.

Another student said the virtual classes could pose a problem with punctuality and reliability.

Some also queried the fees.

“The big issue is, are the fees going to remain the same? If we are not doing face-to-face anymore then the fees have to change,” said one.

However, other students expressed a more positive outlook in light of the virus’ possible impact.

“As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, and that is quite pertinent given the potential of a second wave and it would look very bad for a student to contract the virus while on campus,” a male student added.

UWI said it feared that, given the recent spike in new Covid-19 cases across the Caribbean and the assessment from the scientific community, a second wave of the virus might be accelerated in the winter.

University bosses say teaching staff are already appropriately trained and lecturers ready to transition to e-learning platforms to deliver coursework and assess students effectively.

The first semester will be delivered entirely online with exceptions made for courses and programmes requiring lab work.

And in semester two, “robust online delivery” will continue, a statement said. However, limited face-to-face elements for smaller classes will be initiated with social distancing and other health and safety protocols taken into account.

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