Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

NAIT maintains focus on virtual learning this fall

“Our priority is keeping our students and staff healthy and safe.”

NAIT will deliver classes virtually wherever possible this fall, part of the polytechnic’s ongoing efforts to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Dr. Sue Fitzsimmons, vice-president academic and provost, announced the decision May 19 in messages to students and staff.

Portrait of NAIT vice-president academic and provost Sue Fitzsimmons“Our priority is keeping our students and staff healthy and safe,” Fitzsimmons said. “Our plan for the fall was made after careful consideration of the provincial health restrictions and how we can safely deliver our unique brand of polytechnic education to the highest standard.”

Fitzsimmons shared the news shortly after the first phase of Alberta’s relaunch strategy came into effect on May 15 and allowed some businesses such as restaurants to reopen at reduced capacity. Relaxations to physical distancing rules now allow 50 people to gather in an outdoor space, with appropriate physical distancing and sanitization.

“As the provincial government phases in each stage of its relaunch plan, we will assess our ability to transition NAIT’s operations and will do so as we are ready,” she said.

“As the provincial government phases in each stage of its relaunch plan, we will assess our ability to transition NAIT’s operations and will do so as we are ready.”

Based on current guidelines, Fitzsimmons said she anticipates that NAIT will be able to deliver limited in-person labs and shops in September, but that it might not be possible to offer all courses.

Staff from each program area will decide how they will offer courses, she said, and that those decisions will be communicated with students in the coming weeks.

Programs will work with students whose courses were disrupted in March so they can catch up and complete their studies. That includes work integrated learning (WIL) placements that were suspended due to health restrictions or business closures.

In terms of the skilled trades in particular, NAIT has been working with Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training and other post-secondaries to develop plans for how to proceed with apprenticeship programs. Those decisions will be communicated as soon as possible, Fitzsimmons said.

With every decision, she added, NAIT will stay “true to our polytechnic roots.”

“Students will continue to benefit from NAIT’s deep connections to industry, gain applied industry experience, enjoy close connections to classmates and learn from instructors who are experts in their fields.”

NAIT committed to providing an ‘exceptional experience’

NAIT cancelled in-person classes on March 15 and made the switch to online delivery four days later. Fitzsimmons recognized that an operational pivot of this scale hasn’t been without challenges, especially for a polytechnic focused on experiential learning, applied research and Industry Solutions.

“We are unwavering in our commitment to provide students with an exceptional experience.”

Everyone has learned a great deal through this process – executive, instructors, students and staff – and we will continue to adapt and improve, she said. A recent survey of more than 4,000 students has provided valuable insight about the online experience – information that will help instructors and leaders improve for the fall term.

“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.

Virtual student supports continue

NAIT’s four campuses will remain closed to students, with the exception of computer labs available for students who don’t have access to technology. Even though students can’t access facilities physically, Fitzsimmons assured that important services such as student counselling, library, academic advising and learning supports will continue virtually. Some services could transition to in-person as health restrictions allow, she said.

“We will keep our NAIT community informed as these decisions are made.”


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