SAIT students reach out for help with their online classes, and with an increased demand, SAIT Student Services are busier than ever before.

“Our numbers for accessibility have more than doubled from last year,” said Lenore Norris, manager of the Lamb Learner Success Centre, on a Microsoft Teams video call.

“We were really surprised by the number of students who came by our booth,” said Norris, speaking on the SAIT orientation that was on campus for the first time since 2019, adding, “We were really pleased about the level of interest and the number of students coming by and inquiring about the services.”

Students requesting guidance after classes start is typical, but the uptick was noticeable because the year before saw, according to Norris, about a “twenty per cent” drop in students accessing their services, and in the overall attendance at SAIT.

“We had a lot of people that deferred coming to school,” said Norris, adding, “I think our numbers dropped all around [SAIT].”

Joseph Hudson, an academic coach with SAIT who works out of the Lamb Learner Success Centre, said he hasn’t seen a decrease in his meetings with students; rather, the focus of his sessions has been about adapting to online learning.

“It’s almost a 50/50 split,” said Hudson, of students that enjoy online learning versus those that have a hard time learning online, with “…maybe a [few] more students saying they’ve had a harder time adjusting to the online world.”

The students that struggle with online learning are mature students, and students fresh out of high school, with some reasons being technical (how to use the online technology), to students not approaching their learning in the same way they would if in-person.

Hudson said, “Some students don’t go through that same level of preparation for online than they would have if it was face to face.”

Joseph Hudson poses inside his office of the Lamb Learner Success Centre in the Stan Grad building on SAIT campus in Calgary on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. Hudson is an academic coach and learning strategist, and he works with students to help them with their classes by teaching and guiding them in how they learn. Hudson has worked with SAIT for eight years, and before taking on his role at the centre, he was an instructor. (Photo by Alejandro Melgar/The Press)

“Students may have an 8 a.m. class, so if they were coming to campus, they’d be getting up at 5-6 o’clock, going through their routine, getting their coffee, having their breakfast, taking a shower, commuting to SAIT, and all along they’re mentally preparing themselves to walk into the class,” and adding, “with online, they may – in some cases – roll out of bed minutes before the class, put on a hat as opposed to taking a shower, be half asleep, and log into the class, and keep the camera off and go about their routine while they’re quote-on-quote in class.”

Hudson does his part to help the students that see him, and when asked about the connections and benefits he has made, he said, “I’ve got students that have graduated that still write to me on a regular basis.”

Colleen Burnett, manager of Student Experiences with SAITSA, said that “Mental health stigma is still so real to a lot of students,” adding, “The fear of going to counseling and not feeling safe in that space does prevent a lot of people from actively seeking help.”

Norris, however, believes that mental health stigma has changed, saying of her university days that “there wasn’t that emphasis on the support side.”

“We’ve normalized [mental health], and I think that’s what’s so important. You don’t have to wait until you’re absolutely in trouble to come get some support, you can do it even if you’re a straight-A student.”

When asked about what to say to someone who is hesitant about accessing their services, Hudson said, “What have you got to lose?”

“There’s a little bit of time, of course, but what you have to gain is a lot less frustration [with classes], and a lot better use of your time with getting to the goals that you want to achieve.”

Lenore Norris, right, and Joseph Hudson pose together at the reception desk of the Lamb Learner Success Centre in the Stan Grad building on SAIT campus in Calgary on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. Norris and Hudson both work to help students with their learning through coaching, tutoring, and mentoring. Norris is the manager of the department, and Hudson is an academic coach. (Photo by Alejandro Melgar/The Press)

Feature photo: Lenore Norris poses in her office inside the Lamb Learner Success Centre, which is in the Stan Grad building on SAIT campus in Calgary on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. Norris manages the department and works closely with other areas of student support at SAIT. She has been with SAIT for 22 years, and works to help students with their learning by providing and referring students to coaching, tutoring, and mentoring services. (Photo by Alejandro Melgar/The Press)