Staff, Students Find New Rhythms amid Fall Changes

October 2, 2020

This semester, faculty, staff, and students of Emmanuel Bible College are adjusting to the new realities that have accompanied the Fall semester.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most courses are being offered exclusively through Distributed Learning (also known as Distance Education), which allows students to learn at their own pace, from any location with internet access, within the framework of a traditional academic semester. This approach allows Emmanuel students to engage in quality higher education while staying safe. The self-pacing also gives students flexibility in managing their schedules, which, for some, have become more complex since the onset of the pandemic.

The current circumstances, of course, have meant the loss of valued aspects of the traditional Emmanuel student experience. At present the classrooms, usually resounding with conversation at this time of year, are empty, and there are no school-provided meals or regular in-person Chapel services. Favourite events such as Missions Week are not viable this year, at least in the way they were previously held.

Yet, these changes have not stopped the school from finding ways of staying connected and building community. Eric Friedel, president of the Student Leadership Team (SLT), has found encouragement in observing how those living on Residence have found new life rhythms that keep them in sync with each other while respecting social-distancing rules. For example, even though students do not head to the J. H. Sherk Education Centre for lunch at a set time each weekday, they do set down their books and laptops at an arranged time and eat their own lunches, communicating as best as they can with the protocols in place. Other students are engaging in regular times of worship with their social bubble, perhaps finding an online church service and participating in it together.

The pandemic also has not stopped the SLT from continuing to provide services to the students. Earlier this week, the team was preparing for its first livestreamed time of prayer. Next week is a special week of guided prayer, with members of the school community being asked to pray for specific concerns on each day.

Interim Academic Dean Mark Thornton has noticed faculty and adjuncts also adapting quickly and developing new practices to keep students’ academic experiences deeply meaningful. Some are holding video conferences through which they can converse with students and offer a more personal kind of influence than what students may usually find in the self-paced education. Many are very active through email as well. So, even though after-class discussions or hallway chats are not taking place as usual, mentorship is still occurring, and the College’s four program directors—Dr. Rich Kopanke, Charles McCordic, Karen Joseph, and Kimberly Whyte—are still able to guide students above and beyond the course level.

Mark Thornton is pleased with what he is seeing from students and faculty. At the same time, he is looking to the future and is working with other leaders of the College to plan for future scenarios. Updates will be made on the College’s website as well as Facebook and Twitter pages.

The featured image shows student Joshua Bowlby studying in a Residence room.