Some international students in Barrie are taking online courses from Georgian College due to student visa backlog

Jim Swales has been welcoming international students to his Barrie home for several years now, and says this year's student is missing the social aspect due to unexpected online learning.

An international student in Barrie feels that something is missing because of online learning, when it may come down to increased demand for student visas.

Jim Swales, a Barrie man who has hosted international students in his home for several consecutive years, spoke on behalf of the student, who did not want his contact details shared. Swales said the student paid a lot of money to attend Georgian College, which they said should include classroom instruction with live interaction with instructors and other students.

Instead, this student and others like them will be taking online classes over the next few weeks, to account for federal student visa processing delays. Even so, Swales says the college could have taken different steps.

“If they wanted to do an online learning, they could have stayed home and … saved thousands and thousands of dollars,” he said. “But they didn’t have that opportunity.”

The college said it took this step to allow more time for other international students to arrive.

“To accommodate the many international students who could not travel to Canada and who risked losing an entire semester, Georgian made the decision to modify specific programs, affecting approximately 6% of the student population,” said Maher Ghalayini, vice – interim president. president of academics, said in an email to Simcoe.com.

“An example of a change in mode of delivery was moving online for the first two to six weeks of the semester, during which time more theoretical content will be taught and the focus on hands-on, in-person learning will shift to the second. half of the semester,” Ghalayini continued. “This will allow more time for IRCC to process more visas and allow more students to arrive for in-person study.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) confirmed a delay in processing student visas, explaining that demand was higher than expected this year.

“In the last year unaffected by the global pandemic, 2019, IRCC received approximately 288,000 study permit applications from January to August. By comparison, in 2022, we received approximately 478,000 study permit applications in those same months,” reads a statement provided by IRCC which says the organization hopes to hire 1,250 new staff to help reduce the backlog.

“We know these unexpected changes have inconvenienced some students in the first few weeks of the semester, but, by making these temporary changes, we are able to make learning accessible to hundreds of international students awaiting their visas,” Ghalayini added.

But Swales said the way Georgian handled it was “very unfair” to students who came to Barrie.

“They should have done both programs in parallel and given both sets of students basically what they expected and what they paid for,” he said.

Swales added that it’s not just the in-person learning experience that students miss; it’s social interaction that he says hinders their ability to learn English.

“The only way to get better is to socialize with other people and have to communicate and…hone your speaking skills,” he said, adding that he had also seen former students internationals learn the landscape from each other. “They can pair up if they want to go somewhere. ‘Oh, I’ve been there before. Let’s go now. I will ride with you. I’ll show you the bus route, whatever it is.

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