Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Limited activity, courses resume on NAIT’s main campus

Fall term to continue virtually

NAIT’s main campus has reopened in a limited capacity for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic.

Students from a handful of credit and continuing education programs returned to main campus beginning in July after in-person classes were suspended last spring. Some corporate training and research activities also resumed, while the campus bookstore, Shop at NAIT, reopened for curbside pickup. Facilities and in-person services remain closed otherwise.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep the activity on campus limited.”

On average, 130 students and clients will be on campus per day in July and about 100 in August. That’s in addition to the 200 staff members who will be working on campus this summer. In comparison, about 1,500 NAIT staffers are working from home.

Anyone visiting campus is expected to wear a mask when two metres of physical distancing isn’t possible.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep the activity on campus limited so we can minimize the risks to people from COVID-19,” says Josh Bowen, director of NAIT’s relaunch coordination team.

“We’re only opening those spaces that are specifically required for the activities that are taking place. The majority of our buildings and facilities will [continue to] have limited access.”

Back in the lab again

Accommodating students whose graduation was delayed because of the pandemic was one of NAIT’s priorities when re-opening spaces, says Bowen. That includes students in Denturist Technology, Power Engineering Technology and Laboratory X-Ray Technology credit programs but also continuing education courses such as Emergency Medical Responder and Industrial Mechanic (Millwright).

Denturist Technology chair Shelley Schlesiger says the pandemic has been particularly challenging for her program, which requires about 700 hours in a clinic per term in the third year – work that was halted in March. Instructors taught theory virtually when possible, but the lack of practical experience delayed graduation.

“Now, they’ll be back on track – provided nothing changes with the pandemic,” says Schlesiger (Denturist Technology ’92).

“Like a ghost town”

Taylor Wyley was among nine third-year Denturist Technology students who returned to NAIT on July 6 to finish their last two courses.

Wyley had been mere weeks away from completing her third and final practicum last March at a clinic in Camrose when the Alberta College of Denturists, the profession’s regulatory body, closed clinics across the province.

Most of her time since has been spent at home doing yard work and DIY projects while waiting for the green light to return.

“It’s frustrating, but there’s nothing anybody could do to get things moving,” Wyley says.

Denturist Technology students in the lab at NAIT

Campus feels “like a ghost town,” she says, with students wearing protective masks and face shields in the lab, where they’re also spaced two metres apart. They still can’t see patients, but there’s a serious determination to complete lab work, Wyley says. “We’ve been banging out as many projects as we can.”

“I’m very grateful that the instructors are taking the time and effort to help us.”

She’s just as impressed with the commitment shown by instructors who, in some cases, postponed vacation and underwent training so they could use NAIT’s Centre for Advanced Medical Simulation where students will practice on virtual patients to prepare for their college examinations. It’s Wyley’s last hurdle to working without supervision. She’s been hired at the same clinic in Camrose where she did her practicum.

“I’m very grateful that the instructors are taking the time and effort to help us. Without them, we would be hooped. We wouldn’t be able to work.”

Fall term continues virtually

Preparations are continuing for NAIT programs for fall term, which will proceed virtually where possible with limited in-person labs and shops. Vice-president academic and provost Dr. Sue Fitzsimmons previously announced the continuation of virtual learning. At the time, she shared NAIT’s commitment that students will continue to benefit from the polytechnic’s strong relationships with industry, experiential learning and close connections with instructors.

“We are unwavering in our commitment to provide students with an exceptional experience and the high-quality polytechnic education they expect from NAIT,” she said.

Program staff have already started communicating directly with students about specific learning delivery for the fall term.

Learn more about NAIT’s relaunch strategy.


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