Due to Humber Colleges COVID-19 restrictions,  many courses are primarily online to reduce in-person class sizes.  Those changes have some students in the skilled trades  finding it harder to learn with the decreased hands-on training.

Famous Itepu, a second year student in the fitness and health promotion program at Humber, is concerned about not knowing what to do in a real situation from the lack of practice he is currently receiving.

“Maybe in a real situation I’m doing everything in my head, but maybe (a client says) ‘oh I’m not feeling okay’ and all I have to do is adjust the seat. I don’t know because it’s not part of the protocol” said Itepu.

Since some of his courses are now delivered through online lectures and instructional videos, Itepu has limited access to the equipment he’s currently learning about.

Many of the programs at Humber have skill labs filled with specialized equipment for students to get hands-on practice in their selected fields. Humber has set up a mock ambulance to teach paramedic students skills like safe and proper lifting techniques to get people into the vehicle.

Labs like that are currently closed leaving students without a way to practice those skills. Even when the labs reopen it will only be on specific days and times, said Bryn Bourne, a second year student in the paramedics program at Humber. Bourne said that students in his program will only be allowed to use the skills lab once a week compared to the four to eight times a week they were going last year.

“COVID has made it a lot harder to keep up with our skills,” said Bourne. 

More readings are being assigned to some classes to make up for lost lab time. Bourne has found reading large studies for hours on end to be mentally exhausting.  Paramedic students are typically assigned 80 learning modules per week to write notes on.  Now Bourne finds himself procrastinating a lot.

“It’s a lot easier to get (information) over to me in person. Right now we are just reading massive studies and have to take notes on those. Everything that would be learned or condensed down for us is being lost in online learning” said Bourne.

 

Itepu expresses the same sentiment, “we are learning all the procedures on paper and watching videos but it is different when we would be in class,” said Itepu.

Students in his fitness programs are supposed to use the Humber gym for practice. It’s currently closed until further notice.

“It’s different having the expensive machines that Humber has and having to learn through the computer and it’s affected us in a negative way,” said Itepu, “there is nothing like having it hands-on right there. You feel like you learn a lot of things when you are told and when you read them, but when you hold it practically it’s different.”

After their one in-person class the students in the paramedics program have to sanitize all of their equipment before leaving. This eats into their time studying for those living far away from the school.

What is also harder to teach through a lecture are the communications skills necessary to excel in a student’s chosen field. In the fitness and health promotion program, scenarios are used for practice. One person would be the client and the other the trainer and work through the scenario.

It is currently unclear how the lack of hands-on training will affect students future employability after graduation. As COVID-19 cases rise the uncertainty of when programs will be able to get their resume hands-on training rises with it.  When asked how it will affect first year students Bourne says “if it were me, I would defer.”