Some in-person classes will be offered at Nipissing University in the new year.

The school sent a notice to students on Friday that a handful of undergraduate courses will offer an in-person option for the second semester.

Dr. Arja Vainio-Mattila, Nipissing’s Provost & Vice-President of Academic & Research, says the university polled its students for their thoughts on the first semester of exclusively online instruction.

“There was a clear sense that students were missing the contact with colleagues on campus,” she said. “We’ve chosen a handful of courses at the undergraduate level that fit the kinds of facilities that we already have.”

Dr. Vainio-Mattila says it is up to the student’s or professor’s discretion as to whether they enrol in in-person classes again, with all online options still available.

To adhere to local and provincial health protocols, classes of no more than 50 students will be offered in-person, with the university only utilizing classrooms where proper physical distancing can be ensured. Classes will also be scheduled in an effort to minimize contact between students coming on or off-campus.

Hannah Mackie, President of the Nipissing University Student Union (NUSU) says the shift back to in-class instruction may take some getting used to.

“I think this is definitely going to be a trial and error in terms of what’s going to work for our students and what’s not. Every student experience is so individualized,” she said.

Mackie adds the student union has heard of some of the struggles students have faced with online learning.

“It’s been difficult for students across the board, especially with students who have never done online learning before,” she noted.

With some in-person classes to be made available, Mackie says it will provide a small semblance of normalcy for students.

“A lot of us students were really used to being able to walk up to profs at the end of class and say ‘hey, can you go over this concept again?’,” said Mackie.

Dr. Vainio-Mattila says rolling out the in-person protocols has been the top of mind for nearly everyone at the university.

“The last many weeks, it’s been the primary focus of just about everyone working at the institution. Now, many of us are already thinking about next fall, trying to think about what the ‘new normal’ will look like,” she said.

And added flexibility between in-person and online courses could end up benefiting students.

“We hear from some students that having some online courses is great because it gives them more flexibility for work shifts that are available,” Dr. Vainio-Mattila said.

Dr. Vainio-Mattila adds that it won’t yet be known how many people will return to the area next semester to take advantage of in-person classes. She says that it will likely most benefit those already residing in North Bay.

Nipissing University’s winter semester is set to begin on January 11, 2021.