The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition to virtual learning presents additional challenges for those who live in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
Limited access to reliable internet and cellular phone coverage in rural areas has prompted the Grenfell Office of Engagement to reach out to partners to establish learning "hubs" and "hotspots" in the Port Saunders and Bay St. George areas. These locations are also available for the general public/community members.
Grenfell Campus's Offices of Research and Engagement, in partnership with Northern Peninsula (Mekap'sk) Mi'kmaq Band, Norpen Aboriginal Women's Circle, and Norpen Status of Women's Council, have established an "E-Learning Hub" in Port Saunders, to support local students and community members with a quiet space and reliable internet access. The Port Saunders E-Learning Hub is located on the third floor of the Town Centre in Port Saunders at 212 Main St.
"This space will be open each week during the fall semester to provide students an alternative space to study and complete schoolwork outside of the home," said Jennifer Buxton, Grenfell's regional engagement and experiential learning co-ordinator. "There is a Facebook Page for the Port Saunders hub where students can find specific information related to the hub."
While there are set hours for the hub, Buxton emphasizes the hours are flexible and subject to change based on student needs. Students should feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org if they have specific requests. The current hours are:
Monday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Tuesday 3-7 p.m.
Wednesday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Thursday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Friday 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
"It has been a pleasure to work with Grenfell Campus and the Northern Peninsula (Mekap'sk) Band, to deliver this much needed service to students in Port Saunders and surrounding areas," said Nicole Bursey, executive director, NorPen Status of Women Council. "The NorPen Status of Women Council is looking forward to continuing our partnerships with them, for both the E-Learning Hub, and other initiatives in the future."
In St. George's, Grenfell is partnering with the St. George's Indian Band; the hub will be located at the K'Taqmkuk Mi'Kmaq Historical Museum at 183 Main St. While the hub is not yet open to students due to renovations, internet is available and students/community members who require internet access are able to do so from the parking lot.
"The hotspot is the first phase of a larger plan to increase access to reliable internet in a quiet space for students once construction at the museum is completed in the coming weeks," said Buxton.
Later this semester, the St. George's E-Learning Hub will be a place where students can go to access reliable, consistent high-speed internet in a quiet space. Located on the top floor of the museum building, this space will be open certain hours each week during the fall semester to provide students an alternative space to study and complete schoolwork outside of the home.
Students should stay tuned for updates as the St. George's E-Learning Hub takes shape.
For more information, including password access, email email@example.com.
Caption: Mildred Lavers, left, Chief of the Northern Peninsula (Mekap'sk) Mi'kmaq Band, Nicole Bursey, Executive Director of the Norpen Status of Women's Council, and Jayme Cornick, seated, MUN student and e-learning hub facilitator, check out the new Learning Hub in Port Saunders.