Eduvation Blog

Insider Archive – May 2020

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This archive reproduces our email updates in reverse-chronological order for the month of May 2020.


Friday May 29, 2020

The weeks in quarantine sure seem to be going faster…

Today we can’t NOT look at some recent trends in government funding, and some more Fall announcements. Despite tight budgets and hiring freezes, we’re seeing the trend to invest in pedagogical supports continue, to help faculty prepare for a predominantly online term.

A FEW of you may want to spend your weekend digesting 500+ ways to contain expenses, but for everyone else I’ve collected some lighter fare: a sampler of “remote hands-on learning” from McGill, media literacy infographics, Stingers facemasks, and a lovely tribute video from Humber music students.



COVID19 threatens many institutions with enrolment declines, revenue hits and unexpected new expenses – and governments are clawing back grants to reallocate them to political priorities.

Closing “Low Productivity” Programs

Public universities across the US have been eliminating majors or degrees with weak enrolments or employment prospects, including Anthropology, Philosophy, Languages, Art, Theatre, Music, Women’s and African American studies. Right-wing politicians have been singling out programs created by what they call the “educational elite.” Faced with massive state funding cuts, and the enrolment and budget impacts of COVID19, institutions are carefully examining program net revenues.  Hechinger

“Negative Grants” in the UK?

The former chair of England’s PSE review has suggested that universities might be required to pay the government back for providing “over-supplied, low-cost courses,” in what he is calling “negative grants.” Philip Augar suggests the government could then redirect the funds towards high-cost, priority subjects, because “there is a misalignment between the state subsidy and the economy’s needs.”  The government is expected to unveil funding reforms this Fall, to address the issue of “low-quality courses.” THE

Manitoba Redirects 5% of Funding

uManitoba president David Barnard wrote yesterday that the province has confirmed a 5% cut to its operating grant, potentially offset by a one-time competitive Transitional Support Fund. The province will consider proposals “orienting programs towards labour-market demands,” enhancing online materials and tools, or addressing COVID19 challenges – but UofM will likely need to make budget reductions because of revenue losses and increased costs. uManitoba

500 Ways to Balance Your Budget

So what’s a campus administrator to do? EAB summarizes 500+ approaches to cost containment, from administrative efficiencies, centralized cross-silo staffing, realigned faculty workloads and gainsharing initiatives, to academic reorganization, program prioritization, shared services, workflow improvements, procurement strategies, IT prioritization, space utilization, energy reduction, outsourcing, public-private partnerships, and much more. EAB


Back to School

The inevitable slide of institutions from F2F and blended plans to blended and online plans continues today. Holland explicitly hopes the Winter term will be back on campus, while Red River and Conestoga are planning to bring select students back to campus as early as this summer.


Bishop’s announced last night that it will prepare for either a hybrid or online Fall semester, and will make a definitive announcement by mid-July. Rather than a “primarily online” approach like so many other PSEs have planned, “we will prepare to deliver our courses remotely for those of you who may not be able or who may not wish to travel here… At the same time, we are working hard to prepare to welcome as many of you as possible on campus in September.”

Carleton confirmed yesterday that “all scheduled courses will be online in the fall,” for grad and undergrad students, although they are also “actively preparing to partially reopen our physical spaces and resume some on-campus activities.” Carleton

Conestoga announced yesterday that Winter and Spring students who need to complete in-person work may be returning to campus as early as mid-July. For Fall, “it is our intent to start a gradual return to campus for select programs.” Physical distancing and staggered schedules will apply. Conestoga

Holland has released its academic delivery plan for 2020-21, at an individual program level. Most appear to be blended or distance delivered for the Fall semester, and F2F for the Winter semester – although the plan is subject to revision and the PHO guidelines.  Holland

Laurentian announced yesterday afternoon that the interim Provost and faculty association have agreed on “a mix of in-person courses and online courses this fall.” The plan will next go to a special meeting of Senate on Jun 1 for approval, and then a senate committee will evaluate individual programs and courses. Laurentian

Red River’s interim CEO, Christine Watson, explains that Manitoba’s Phase 2 (effective June 1) means limited access to campus for hands-on learning, in classes of no more than 25. RRC plans to prioritize those students who are close to graduation, or need experiential opportunities to catch up in their programs. The measured approach will take time and patience. RRC



Remote Hands-On Learning

McGill published a 6-min video yesterday that concisely demonstrates a range of remote learning experiences, such as band performances via Zoom, step-by-step lab videos with embedded quizzes, lab and anatomy simulations, apps to share local biodiversity around the world, wildlife trail cams, and more. One challenge is providing dynamic content that can cope with poor internet bandwidth. Many of these tools will continue to be useful once students return to campus.  YouTube

75 Students to Support T&L at Guelph

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that uCalgary is hiring 10 grad students as Learning Technology Coaches, and Western 11 PhDs and 250 summer student interns to assist with preparation for online delivery. Now UoGuelph has announced it is hiring 75 summer co-op students to help migrate courses online for Fall. In addition to earning $5,000-$7,000 for their subject-specific work, the students will earn a certificate in course redesign and remote pedagogy through a series of workshops, and can convert their experience into credit through a Fall elective.  Global


Getting Graphic

Countering the “Disinfodemic”

UNESCO has released a series of multilingual Media and Information Literacy infographics, “MILclicks,” on Twitter and Facebook under a creative commons license. They emphasize the importance of quality journalism, fact-checking, and parenting for MIL, and address the danger of information overload (“infobesity” and “infoxication”) and conspiracy theories. For parents, they recommend teaching kids about fiction, and signing a social media behavioural contract. MIL MOOCs are also offered, in partnership with Athabasca U and others.  UNESCO


McMaster is making social distancing, directional, and informational floor and wall signage available in a consistent format campus-wide. Signs urge people to keep 6ft apart, keep to the right, wash hands often, and limit themselves to 1-3 passengers per elevator car.  McMaster

Concordia Stingers are polling fans on Twitter and Facebook to choose between 2 options for branded face masks. (So far, the left option is outpolling the right one, 2 to 1, on both platforms.)  Twitter



A Musical Tribute from Humber

In honour of Paramedic Services Week, Humber College’s entire Bachelor of Music class and 4 film students released a slick music video compilation this week, featuring 18 performers singing “O Canada” as a tribute to frontline healthcare workers. The project also allowed students to gain work placement hours, and honoraria. It’s well done and worth a listen!  Humber


Thursday May 28, 2020

As more and more Canadian and UK campuses announce a hybrid or online Fall term, US colleges are determined to return to campus – largely because of terrifying forecasts of 40-80% drops in enrolment if they don’t. Sheridan is bracing for an $80M shortfall (although hopefully it won’t come to that). The Quebec government is insistent that it wants to see students back in class – but just what will that campus experience be like?

Today, let’s look at new budget announcements, some international trends that may help and/or hinder Canadian recruitment efforts, updates about the return to campus, and some detailed (and disturbing) visions of the socially-distanced campus we may see this Fall…  Be careful what you wish for!



Dalhousie announced yesterday that tuition fees will increase this Fall by 3%, although many ancillary fees will be waived or reduced, and bursary funding will be doubled to $6 M. The budget also commits $1 M to technology, instructor PD and online student supports. Dal

Sheridan president Janet Morrison wrote staff on Tuesday about an $81M “recalibration” of the budget, based on potential Fall enrolment declines of 21% (domestic) and 42% (international). $48M in savings will be achieved from hiring freezes and reduction of discretionary budgets and part-time hours, contracts, and positions. The remaining $33M may be covered from last year’s surplus. Staff are to draw down unused vacation time, and have been offered retirement incentives. Sheridan


International Challenges

As the US passes 100,000 COVID19 deaths, with no sign of a flattened curve, politicians are increasingly demanding that churches, beaches, and college campuses reopen – prompting 68% of Canadians to want our border to stay closed to Americans until at least September, or even next January. Meanwhile the BC Supreme Court’s ruling of “double criminality” against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou has outraged Beijing. International geopolitics are getting tumultuous for Canada, which can’t be good for international enrolments going forward. Then again, US recruiters are even more pessimistic…

Major Hurdles to US Enrolment

US colleges are anxious about international enrolment this Fall. Routine visa processing is suspended at US embassies worldwide, travel restrictions affect many countries, and commercial flights are vanishingly few. Even worse, the Trump administration is expected to restrict a popular post-graduate work program. 88% of institutions anticipate a drop in new international students, like uArizona which is projecting an 80% decline. Prospects for current students are more encouraging, since 92% of them are still in the country. IHE

Grad Students More Likely to Defer

A survey of 30,000 international students found that COVID19 has led 48% of undergraduates and 62% of grad students to defer their studies until next year. About 40% of all levels reported they were “not at all” interested in online study, and another 20% were only “slightly” interested. The majority felt that tuition fees for online study should be discounted 20-40%, although research-based grad students were inclined to say more than 40%. The overwhelming majority would like COVID19 email updates from universities either daily or a few times every week. QS


Back to School

Algonquin College president Claude Brulé wrote yesterday that they are “in discussion with Colleges Ontario about an opportunity to potentially bring a small number of students back to our campuses in July and August.” He emphasizes that this is “a possibility, not a certainty.” Algonquin

Concordia announced yesterday that all in-person summer camps are cancelled this year. The Quebec government announced on May 21 that summer campus would be opening, but Concordia says it “cannot ensure the safety of camp participants.” Some online summer camps will be offered as replacements. Concordia

UoGuelph has announced a hybrid Fall semester, with some courses in-person and some remote, and some extracurriculars and experiential learning virtually, and some in-person. Detailed planning for the Fall continues, and for a phased reopening of the campuses. UoGuelph

MacEwan has announced the majority of Fall term courses will be offered online. Some labs, clinical work and fine arts programs may need to be delivered in-person or in combination with online delivery; more details to come this summer. Residences will be open, and plans for campus services are still being developed. MacEwan

Quebec has instructed CEGEPs and universities in the province to plan for 3 Fall scenarios: 30-35% of students on campus in a hybrid model, 50% of students on campus, or 100% back in pre-COVID class sizes. (Which they admit would seriously jeopardize academic continuity in the event of a second pandemic wave.) As I’ve mentioned already, McGill, Concordia, Laval and others have already announced a primarily online Fall term. Le Devoir

Selkirk College VP Education Rhys Andrews clarified yesterday that Fall delivery will be blended, with theory delivered off-campus and experiential components in-person. Through the summer, program specifics will determine what will be online (asynchronous), remote (synchronous), in-person, or blended. Selkirk

Trent has announced a “multi-access Fall term” and unveiled “Trent Forward,” a phased approach to reopening the campuses. On-campus academic and social events and activities are being planned, but “at the same time, most courses will be made available through online or remote delivery.” Residences will be operational, on a single-occupancy basis. Trent

uWaterloo clarified yesterday that all first-year courses this Fall will be available online, with a select few also available in-person, and released details of program delivery by faculty. Residences will be fully operational, with single bedrooms, social distancing and other health precautions. Residence deposit refunds will be issued for students who are unable to come to campus. uWaterloo


How a Socially Distant Campus Might Look

If staff and students return to campus before a proven COVID19 vaccine has been widely deployed – this summer, this Fall, or even next year – they will encounter new health and safety precautions and mandatory social distancing. Here are several perspectives on what we can expect…

The Socially Distanced Campus

Everyone will need to complete a daily affidavit, online or at the campus gates, that they are experiencing no COVID19 symptoms, and have their temperature taken. Many campuses may opt for twice-weekly nasal swab or saliva testing. Throughout the campus, furniture will be removed or taped off, doorways and hallways will be designated one-way, and doorknobs may be completely removed. Classes may be held outdoors or in large tents. Older profs may teach from behind plexiglas. Class stewards may enforce compliance. Breaks between classes will be longer, to allow for deep cleaning, so timetables will extend into the early mornings, late evenings, and weekends. Dorms will be single-occupancy, dining halls take-out only, and people will eat in assigned shifts. Chronicle

A Day in the Life this Fall

Norman Clark paints a pretty ugly picture of the student experience this Fall: avoiding people in the halls, wiping classroom chairs with disinfectant, sitting 2 students to a 7-foot table in class, and straining to hear the professor through her face mask. Hoarse from shouting to fellow students, some students will bring headsets to class in order to Zoom with each other in the same room. And classes will take longer to empty, as each table waits its turn to be dismissed. IHE

Almost Certainly Better Online

Although active learning pedagogies are proven more effective than lecture, a physically distanced classroom will severely limit student interaction. Small group discussions are difficult when students will need to shout to be heard, and it won’t be safe for profs to circulate among the groups. Whiteboards and shared surfaces will be out of bounds. “The physical challenges may discourage some faculty members to the point where they just lapse back into lecture mode.” Collaborating virtually online may be much more effective and natural than doing so masked, in a socially-distanced classroom. IHE

Wednesday May 27, 2020

This daily collection of breaking news and emerging trends shaping the future of higher education will be a bit more thought-provoking and unique, I think, if I emphasize thematic coherence over timeliness. My goal is not just to recap events of the past few days, but to forecast developments for the next few YEARS.

Naturally, I frequently look to the US for examples of potential (sometimes dystopian) futures – but increasingly Canadian PSE has a lot more in common with the UK and Australia. (For instance, while an astounding number of US college presidents stubbornly insist on reopening their campuses this Fall, we learned yesterday that the majority of UK universities are planning a blended approach.)

The UK is not only my birthplace, but also home to the World University Rankings… Today, we look at some ripple effects of the COVID19 crisis on the rankings in 2022 and 2023. At some 9-figure budget challenges in Alberta and the UK. At some technology news that will shake up the Canadian textbook industry. And at the rise of money-back guarantees to reassure students faced with uncertainty about the Fall.

In the Insider’s third month, I’m still experimenting with the format and content. Please let me knowwhat you think works, or doesn’t!


Pandemic Echoes

Pandemic Impacts on Rankings

The Chief Data Officer of the Times Higher Ed World University Rankings expects the impact of COVID19 to be measurable in the 2022 and 2023 rankings. Bibliometric data for the 2022 rankings will be distorted by COVID19 research, and reputation data may shift based on the profile of ongoing research (such as at Johns Hopkins, Oxford, and Imperial College London). By 2023, the rankings will be affected by changes in income and research output this spring, as well as international enrolment, staff and collaborations this fall. THE

Ripple Effects on Mental Health

Quarantine has real impacts on mental health, including PTSD, confusion and anger, and alcohol consumption is up 25% for Canadians aged 18-54. Most of us have moved past the “Heroic” and “Honeymoon” phases, in which community cohesion is at its peak in response to disaster, and transitioned into “Disillusionment.” Many people won’t be ready for the “Reconstruction” phase until next year. Employers need a “mental health return to the workplace plan,” and to provide “mental health PPE” to employees. Conference Board


Student Guarantees

Many institutions have announced that their first-year student housing guarantees are suspended this Fall, because of occupancy uncertainties due to COVID19. To address applicant anxiety, however, several have unveiled new assurances:

Full Refunds at King’s

For the first time, King’s University College at Western is offering a full refund of student deposits if they change their mind later this summer. Full refunds of residence deposits can also be requested up until Aug 31.  YouTube  |  King’s

Money-Back Guarantee at Ontario Tech

Anticipating largely online Fall and Winter semesters, Ontario Tech has announced a “Student Experience Guarantee” for this Fall. Students “not satisfied with the quality of their university experience” can withdraw by Oct 9 and get a full tuition refund, without penalty. Ontario Tech


Budget Challenges

uAlberta plans a significant administrative and academic restructuring to save up to $120 M by reducing the number of faculties, shifting some administrators back into research and teaching roles, and eliminating underperforming programs. Edmonton Journal

Cambridge U president Stephen Toope, formerly at UBC, has advised staff that the UK’s wealthiest university may need to extend hiring and promotion freezes, lease unused space, delay sabbaticals and create a “voluntary part-time working scheme.” Pay reductions and redundancies would be “the very last resort in a worst-case scenario.” Cambridge faces a reduction in cash flow of “several hundreds of millions of pounds,” although it has assets of about 12 billion pounds. THE

uLethbridge is temporarily laying off or reducing hours for 145 “continuing support staff” from almost all departments, on top of 183 casual, research and student employees who had their hours reduced and appointments end when the campus was closed in March. uLeth hopes to recall the workers if the campus can reopen in September. Lethbridge Herald


Tech News

Top Hat Buys Nelson Texts

Toronto-based Top Hat, the active learning platform used by 750 top colleges and universities in North America, is acquiring >400 print-only PSE textbook titles from Nelson, to convert them to interactive digital courseware. Nelson, Canada’s largest educational publisher, will effectively exit the PSE sector to focus on K-12. Top Hat plans to add new “virtual classroom” capabilities to their platform. Businesswire


Campus Updates

Brock U has announced the cancellation of summer camp programs, which had more than 3,300 registered campers. Camp staff will be launching a free “Camps at Home” website with daily activities for kids. Brock

Ontario Tech plans a blended approach this Fall, with delivery of most of its academic programming online, together with active hands-on learning on campus where possible. Ontario Tech anticipates the same approach to the Winter term – making it one of Canada’s first institutions to announce plans for January. Ontario Tech

St Clair College has suspended intake of international students for 15 programs that require F2F learning this Spring and Fall. International enrolment is down >66% this Spring, and an estimated 50% for Fall. CBC

SaskPolytech announced yesterday that it “has received approval from the Ministry of Health to have a small number of programs return to campus to complete limited in-person learning experiences in shops and labs.” SaskPoly

Selkirk College reports that “we have cautiously started to welcome students back to our campuses using a range of delivery models that are in-person where feasible and safe to do so, and online where required.” Trades students have returned to the shop spaces in Nelson, and Healthcare students are in labs in Castlegar. Teaching methods and campus spaces are being adapted for September, “when the majority of our programs return.” Selkirk

uWindsor provost Douglas Kneale sent a reminder yesterday that the campus is still operating on an essential services basis. “Recently, there has been an increased number of individuals on campus, and while we appreciate that some of you may be returning to retrieve items necessary for your work, we want to strongly remind everyone that only those who have been deemed to be performing essential services should be in workplaces and facilities… If you need to stay more than a few minutes, notify Campus Community Police.” uWindsor

Yukon U has announced 13 online programs, 13 blended programs, and 11 programs with delayed start dates and/or F2F delivery. “Our smaller class sizes allow us to consider more face-to face programming than might have been possible if we had been dealing with classes of 150 students or more.” Details by program will be available by Jun 30. YukonU


Tuesday May 26, 2020

Today we look at several summer programs aimed at encouraging and supporting incoming students, the sharp contrast between US and Canadian plans for the Fall term on campus, and half a dozen Canadian presidents who have been incredibly prolific vloggers. And be sure to read to the end for a hilarious parody of an institutional “decision!”


Summer Bridging Programs

“Kickstart Your Degree”

Memorial U is offering incoming HS students the opportunity to take one of 14 spring semester courses (Jun 4-Aug 12), ranging from Calculus to “Hansel, Gretel, and the Big Bad Wolf.” For NL students, the cost is $380. MUN

Bite-Sized Courses for Free

Lambton College has already seen thousands of registrations for its collection of 43 free, hour-long self-paced online mini-courses, called “eBits.” These competency-based modules, on topics from Branding to Food Safety and Patient Advocacy, are designed to help learners explore an interest, prepare for the upcoming school year, or further develop professionally, and include a certificate of completion.Lambton

Summer Engineering Academy

uToronto’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering has launched a new summer “Engineering Academy” for incoming students, to give them a taste of online learning and address any learning gaps from the disrupted final year of HS. Free, self-paced, non-credit modules will be available in math, physics and chemistry, and students can connect with upper-year mentors or HS teachers. UofT

Archway Cohort Support Program

McMaster U has unveiled a new personalized student support program, “Archway,” beginning this summer and continuing through first year. Each student is paired with an upper year student mentor and a staff coach, and placed in a cohort of about 30 students to create a sense of community. “This kind of personalized strategy will provide the continuous, proactive and consistent support needed for success in what could be an unusual first year of study.” McMaster


Looking to Fall Term

US Presidents Expect to Open Campuses

A survey of 310 US college presidents (early May) finds that 49% remain concerned about their institution’s long-term financial viability – although this is actually improved from 64% in April. Two-thirds plan to continue WFH this Fall, implement social distancing, limit travel and class sizes. The vast majority still see in-person classes as somewhat or very likely this Fall, although fewer community college presidents agree. Most plan to require masks, provide PPE to staff, and establish quarantine space in residence. 40% plan to announce their plans for Fall by May 31, and another 36% in the month of June. Two-thirds expect their enrolment to drop this Fall, and 55% are bracing for a drop of >10%. ACE

Opening for the Sake of Revenue

EAB reports that 68% of US colleges have confidently announced an in-person Fall, particularly at institutions where more than half their revenues depend on campus dorms, and where they don’t have a long waiting list. Lower cost, public institutions serving primarily commuter students can much more safely announce a blended or online Fall term. There are thousands of variables to consider, from the width of doorways and halls to COVID19 “honour codes” and extended, staggered timetables. EAB

The picture in Canada is quite different.

In the past week, we’ve seen a number of Canadian institutions announcing online or blended delivery for the fall. At this point, three-quarters of universities expect to be online or hybrid, and almost three-quarters of colleges hope to be hybrid or F2F:


George Brown College has determined that “full-time programs starting and continuing in September 2020 will take place predominantly through alternative and remote format.” Students “won’t be on campus” and programs that require “extensive access to campus facilities or clinic settings to meet learning outcomes” simply will not be delivered this Fall. GBC

uLethbridge clarified yesterday that it will be using “primarily online delivery” this Fall, and that students will be able to “transition to a more traditional model when health directives allow.” “Select” labs, studios and clinical placements will occur on campus, but out-of-town students can choose to take them in a future term. Small group gatherings, residence spaces and food services will be used to build community. uLeth

McMaster U announced yesterday that “classes for the entire fall term will be online,” and that students will not need to be on campus “with few exceptions” (such as healthcare labs). Mac is “investing significantly” in the online experience, and encouraging faculty either to find alternatives to labs, or to redistribute courses so that lab work can be completed later.  On-campus residence spaces will only be available “on an exceptional basis.” McMaster

Olds College is still planning for multiple scenarios this fall, from phase 1 (majority remote), to phase 2 (some on-campus with social distancing) and phase 3 (on-campus classes resume). Further information in June. Olds

Ryerson provided more details yesterday about its return to campus plan. The phased approach will continue to use WFH as a core strategy “for some time.” Ryerson

Tyndale U announced yesterday that this Fall, “courses will be delivered online in both live streaming and virtual formats. Plans are in progress to provide co-curricular and extracurricular activities… through blended delivery, both online and where possible in-person.” Tyndale


Presidential Vlogs

In times of disruption and anxiety, campus communities appreciate the opportunity to hear accurate information from their leaders, and video messaging is an opportunity to make that connection more emotional and reassuring. I’ve collected more than 600 examples from the past two months, but as a YouTuber who struggles to maintain a regular schedule myself, I am particularly impressed by some who have been remarkably consistent throughout the crisis:

BCIT president Kathy Kinloch was one of the first Canadian presidents to address the COVID19 crisis in a YouTube video on Mar 12. Since then, she has released 13 “COVID19 Response” videos, once or twice a week. YouTube

McGill Associate Provost Chris Buddle deserves a big shout-out for his persistent video messaging throughout the pandemic, on behalf of McGill’s Emergency Operation Centre. Mar 13-31 he released 14 almost-daily COVID19 updates, from his home or backyard. Every day or two since May 19, Buddle has released videos addressing student FAQs about the Fall term. YouTube

King’s UC principal David Malloy started recording video messages about COVID19 on Mar 14, and since then has released 12 sensitive, supportive updates to the campus community. YouTube

UBC president Santa Ono has delivered 9 polished weekly video updates since Mar 27, in a calm measured tone, from a fireside wingback chair at his residence. Many of the messages have ended with a #SongsofComfort selection, often performed by UBC students or recent graduates. YouTube

Royal Roads president Philip Steenkamp, at the opposite extreme, has delivered 8 very informal“Community Messages” since Apr 3, shot on an iPhone at his home, often wearing a baseball cap. Rather than providing detailed crisis information, his messages have often tried to refocus our attention on philosophical topics like “courage” and “creativity,” or favourite books and albums. YouTube

Red River College interim president Christine Watson has certainly been the most prolificpresidential vlogger in Canada. She launched a dedicated YouTube channel back in late February, “Where’s Watson?”, to update the community from little-known campus locations (like underground crawlspaces). On March 18, her series refocused on the COVID19 response. Since then, there have been 39 episodes of “Where’s Watson?” ranging from 30 seconds to 12 minutes in length, including interviews and updates. YouTube



Deciding to Delay Our Decision

Humour site McSweeney’s hits the nail on the head as they parody Fall term announcement letters: “it is time for strong, decisive action. We have decided to delay our decision. It is our decision to delay our decision so we can decide on our decision at a later decided time. We will make our final decision on campus reopening on a date no later than the day our closest competing universities announce their decisions and no earlier than the day after we cash your fall tuition deposit checks.” McSweeney’s



Monday May 25, 2020

In the third month of COVID19, the pandemic waves are becoming more complex and conditions vary significantly across the country. Western Canada seems to have successfully flattened the curve, from BC through Manitoba, and NB and PEI are down to a single active case between them. At the other extreme, Quebec still has almost 30,000 active cases (85% of the country’s total), but the government nonetheless expects students back in the classroom this fall. As impatience with the lockdown grows, 10,000 COVIDiots packed Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park on the weekend, even as Ontario’s new cases hit an all-time high. A second wave is inevitable.

In the past few days, several Canadian institutions have backed down from promising an on-campus Fall term, joining the majority of institutions in planning for blended delivery (which Ontario’s Minister calls the “best-case scenario”). So far few have joined Cambridge in announcing that the Winter term will also be completely online. In the short term, selected research labs are gearing up to reopen this week, and UPEI management and key personnel are back in the office this morning.

Today, let’s look at some thought-provoking articles about strategic partnerships with tech giants and vendors, the impacts of COVID19 on internationalization and some tactical advice for recruiters. And, of course, a weekend’s worth of updates from across the country…


Corporate Partnerships

Big Tech Transforming Higher Ed?

The pandemic has accelerated Amazon’s conquest of retail, and smartphones’ invasion of our privacy. It has separated certification from the campus experience, and it may push hundreds of second-tier US colleges into insolvency, while the top 20 higher ed brands become even stronger. Scott Galloway predicts it has also paved the way for big tech companies to partner with universities on cost-effective hybrid degrees with powerful new interactive platforms – think “MIT@Google. iStanford. HarvardxFacebook.” “When the government isn’t able to bail out America, billionaires step in.” NY Intelligencer

Partners or Predators?

Emergency remote teaching this spring has been disappointing for many students, and it may be challenging to improve the academic experience in time for Fall without turning to external partners. Expect MOOC and OER platforms to offer online gateway courses that institutions can purchase and rebrand, along with private coding academies and skills boot camps, private career readiness and internship providers, like Riipen, Talento, EduSourced and CapSource. Strategic partnerships can add expertise, efficiency and capacity – but Steven Mintz cautions, they can also deskill or displace faculty members, commodify academic offerings and weaken institutional control over curriculum and data. It will be vital to ensure these third parties are partners and not predators. IHE



The End of Internationalization?

Hans de Wit writes that many experts are predicting that COVID19 “will be the end of internationalisation as a tradeable commodity,” optimistically hoping the focus will now shift away from tuition revenue and towards social and curricular enlightenment. The financial drive for recruitment remains powerful, however: recruiters are eager to enrol international students, “even when there is no guarantee of their safety and while they defer study abroad for their own local students.” De Wit emphasizes that an ethical approach to internationalization “is certainly the only way forward.” UWN

Solid International Strategies

International students may prefer the certainty of an online start announced early, to ongoing uncertainty, particularly if they know they can later attend your physical campus. Obviously much of the cultural immersion is sacrificed in an online environment; it may be better to offer a 10% tuition discount now, rather than 30% later (based on a private school analogy). You may also want to consider mid-year cohorts and a larger summer 2021 term. And finally, consider transnational partnerships to deliver your first-year program abroad on another institution’s campus. PIE

Global Students can “Go Local”

New York University, a private research institution with 15 campuses in 12 countries, is often called the world’s first truly “transnational” university. This Fall, NYU is offering a “Go Local” option, allowing eligible undergrads to study at an alternate location in their home country, should it be allowed to open. Residences may also be available. NYU

Virtual Recruitment Advice

In the midst of the pandemic, digital touchpoints for student recruitment are increasingly crucial, including organic search, SEO, student portals, 1:1 interviews, virtual open houses and campus tours. Be sure your information and messaging are timely, empathetic, and that outdated messaging like “visit our campus” is replaced. Curate high quality content, short and impactful videos, and remember: “the follow up to the virtual interaction is more important than the initial interaction itself.” Use your CRM to personalize all communications, and direct team resources where they will have the greatest impact. QS


Campus Updates

uAlberta begins the phased return of on-campus research today. Residences will be open, for single occupancy only, this Fall. uAlberta

Assiniboine CC has resolved that this Fall, “the majority of programs will be structured in a blended delivery model,” although each program will be assigned to one of 4 categories. Practical on-campus learning will use “alternative times and days of delivery,” PPE, and social distancing. To date, no Fall programs have been cancelled. ACC

College of the Rockies has announced they are “planning for most classes to be held online, with some on-campus learning for those programs that require specific hands-on learning, with modifications to ensure safe physical distancing for students and faculty.” COTR

UNB is developing operational plans for a return to campus, as NB moves to phase 3 (yellow) of its provincial recovery plan. More details by Jun 1. UNB

UPEI begins phase 1 of its operational ease-back plan today, returning “management and key individuals” to the office, and allowing on-campus research to resume. Construction is also proceeding on a new student residence building. UPEI

Redeemer U has softened its promise for the Fall term; now they are “doing everything possible to prepare for an on-campus experience for students.” “Courses may incorporate online components, but labs, seminars, tutorials and other instruction will aim for in-person learning.” A new COVID19 Management committee is developing a detailed framework, to be released Jun 15. Redeemer

Sheridan is delaying its Fall term by 1 week, to start Sept 14. They are also surveying staff and faculty to measure attitudes towards health and safety, mental health, and WFH.  Sheridan

StFX, on the other hand, is encouraged by Nova Scotia’s progress and still hopes “that conditions will continue to improve over the weeks ahead to the point where we can confidently welcome back faculty, staff, and students in the Fall.” StFX is drafting a plan for a return to campus, but also planning for contingencies. StFX

uWaterloo is in phase 1 of its Research Restart, with an expansion of criteria for on-campus research activities. Over the next 6-8 weeks, criteria will continue to expand, “with the expectation that full access to all on-campus research labs is targeted for mid-July.” uWaterloo



Friday May 22, 2020

To round out your week, we confirm your worst suspicions: Yes, you can fool half of the people with COVID19 conspiracy theories, and they ALL think they’re too smart for that. Yes, spring break partiers brought the virus back from Florida beaches and infected their communities. And yes, we’re all wearing softy pants and won’t go back to business formal anytime soon!

A new survey finds that 6% of students are considering deferral, and 32% will transfer elsewhere if their school goes online this fall. If they can’t find an open campus, perhaps they’ll consider Kaplan’s “Boost Year” bridging program.

And among yesterday’s campus announcements, Brock details its virtual convocation, Seneca its operational details for fall, SFU will open “curbside pickup” at its library next month, and two institutions formerly in the “F2F” column (Laurentian and SaskPolytech) have now clarified that they will be offering blended courses this Fall.



Dunning-Kruger and COVID19

Many of us in higher ed underestimate the gullibility of the general public – and so do they! A recent Carleton survey of 2,000 Canadians (May 5-8) found that 46% believed at least one of four COVID19 conspiracy theories, particularly those who spent more time on social media. In all cases, the youngest cohort (age 18-29) was most misguided: 30% believed COVID19 was engineered in a Chinese lab, 18% that it is a 5G coverup, 31% that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment, and 20% that rinsing your nose with saline solution provides protection against the virus. Yet overall, 57% were confident they could distinguish misinformation from fact. Carleton

Spring Break Souvenirs

A preliminary study tracking the cellphones of millions of US college students has found that college spring breaks drove higher local COVID19 case growth, particularly when students travelled by air, to New York or to Florida. The case growth peaked 2 weeks after students returned to campus, and mortality rates 2-3 weeks after that. (The implication is that institutions can help control the pandemic by cancelling student break weeks, as several have announced for fall. In Canada, Quebec’s spring break occurred before travel advisories were in place, and that province now has more than half the country’s cases.) SSRN


Student Perspectives

Online Haters Gonna Hate

A new US survey of 12,145 high school, college and grad students has found once again that 32% would transfer elsewhere if their school continued online learning this fall, and 25% if the start of term were delayed or online learning were augmented with some F2F experiences. Students expressed concern about internet access and having adequate structure online, and emphasized the importance of campus housing and social events. 79% felt tuition should be lower for online courses. Only 6% said they were considering deferral. Niche

“Boost Year” instead of Gap Year?

Kaplan has launched a 13-week online career and college readiness program they call “Boost.” For $3,995 US, students spend 20 hours a week in 3 phases: Discovering their strengths and interests with a 1:1 advisor, Exploring career pathways through interviews with industry experts and WIL experiences, and Planning their college majors and entry-level jobs. Students network in a small cohort, and Kaplan is partnering with universities to provide a custom cohort to students deferring admission to their programs, with the option to earn college credit.  Forbes  |  Kaplan


Campus Updates

Bow Valley College announced yesterday that its Fall semester will be offered “online and through remote delivery” but that they are “exploring the possibility to offer some labs in-person while maintaining social distancing and sanitizing protocols.” Support services will be virtual, including health and wellness, advising, and library services. BVC

Brock has offered some details about its Virtual Convocation, which launches Jun 19. The web portal will customize videos and content based on a student’s faculty and degree. In addition to a “social media celebration toolkit,” grads will receive their parchment, alumni pin, convocation program and a bag of confetti by mail. Brock

Laurentian announced yesterday that, while it still anticipates “an eventual return to campus in the coming months… the exact modalities for course delivery are currently being finalized.” Like other universities, it will use “remote learning and online mechanisms during the transition.” Laurentian

OCAD announced yesterday that its fall term will be “offered through remote delivery in all programs.” Canadian and international students are guaranteed that they can complete their requirements remotely, although “at the same time, the University is preparing for some in-person learning opportunities, which could include smaller studio workshops or classes.” OCAD

Saskatchewan Polytechnic has announced “a two-pronged approach to education delivery this fall. A combination of online/distance instruction and limited in-person learning experiences where needed.” Program-specific information is still to come. SaskPolytech

Seneca took a while to mention the Fall term at all, but it is one of Canada’s first institutions to provide detailed information about ancillary and support functions. Its fall term will be “a mix of online program and course delivery with some on-campus activities for programs that have significant in-person components.” Winter and Summer students will be given priority to complete their in-person requirements. “What can stay online will remain online,” including most services. Athletics, varsity and intramural sports remain suspended until further notice. Residences will be open, and libraries and computing commons will reopen when permitted. Seneca

SFU will begin to offer “curbside pickup” of physical resources from its library beginning in June. SFU

York plans to open its residences in stages for fall, limiting it to half-capacity in single-occupancy rooms. It has therefore suspended its first-year housing guarantee. York



Facemasks, Athleisure & Trikinis

The pandemic has already upended fashion and cosmetics retailers and manufacturers, and may permanently change dress codes and clothing choices. (Watch out for the “trikini” on beaches this summer.) After most recessions, wardrobes become more casual. After months in “athleisure” clothing, people will likely choose “more elevated, breezy and comfy clothes, or fashionable loungewear mixed with more structured garments.” Oversize garments will be a trend (especially for those who gained the so-called “COVID 19”). And face masks may well stick around as an expression of personal style. CTV



Thursday May 21, 2020

Today, let’s take a look at mental health, permanent WFH, guidelines for safely reopening campus, and some interesting ideas from down south: fall terms that start and end early, multi-modal courses, executive pay cuts and virtual experiential learning.

We’ve also got four more Canadian institutions planning an online or blended fall term, and a thought-provoking report from Melbourne that explores the fiercely competitive post-COVID world…


Mental Wellness

Mental Health in a Pandemic

A survey of 1,800 Canadian adults (Apr 22-28) found they reported more than double the level of pre-COVID anxiety (61%) and depression (33%), while a third reported less access to mental health supports. (The increase was sharpest in Atlantic Canada and Ontario.) The economic downturn and job loss had more impact on mental health than the possibility of catching COVID19. Respondents reported negative effects of social media and daily pandemic news (sorry!), and positive effects of reading fiction, pets, entertainment and (fourthly) exercise. (And those with children were more likely to increase their consumption of alcohol and illegal drugs!) MHRC

Silicon Valley will Keep WFH’ing

Some Canadians in the MHRC survey found WFH a positive influence on their mental health. A number of tech giants have started to announce that the majority of their employees can continue to work from home, post-pandemic. Amazon, Microsoft and Slack employees can WFH until at least October, Google, Facebook and Zillow employees until the end of the year. Most Twitter employees will now be allowed to WFH permanently. Forbes


Looking Southward

Guidance for Healthier Campuses

The CDC has issued guidance for US colleges to maintain healthier campus environments through social distancing, increased disinfection, staggered use of common areas (or better yet, closing them), new food service protocols (grab & go meals and disposable utensils), and WFH for as many staff and faculty as possible. They recommend face masks wherever feasible, and 6-foot distancing between seats in classrooms and on school transit. CDC

Clearing Out by (American) Thanksgiving

Hundreds of US institutions have insisted they will return to on-campus classes in August, but epidemiologists predict a second, larger pandemic wave or “a storm of wavelets.” Houston’s Rice U will end the fall term in November, a month early. Regis U, Notre Dame, Marquette, Purdue, USC, UCSD and Creighton U will also end the fall semester early, in some cases by starting 2 weeks earlier in August, and skipping the fall break. (Break travel is particularly risky behaviour in a pandemic.) Chronicle  |  IHE  |  WP

“Multi-Modal” Delivery in Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s Tulsa Community College has announced that 80% of its courses this fall will be offered to students in four formats: online, online live, blended, and face-to-face. (Yet another example that sounds a lot like hyflex delivery.) It is not clear whether students will need to decide on a delivery mode in advance, or will have ongoing flexibility.  TCC

Experiential Goes Virtual

Experiential learning has become increasingly central to college and university programs, and in the migration to online delivery, it is critical to integrate project- and problem-based activities. If possible, persuade community partners to adapt service learning and community-based research to a virtual environment. Crowdsource client-based projects for online courses, perhaps through platforms like Riipen, VolunteerMatch or AllforGood. Have students contribute to the development of OER resources, easing the workload for faculty. Incorporate experiential opportunities into major maps. EAB


Looking Even Further South

Taking a Pay Cut Down Under

70% of Australian university executives have accepted salary reductions, most often of 20%, to help balance post-COVID19 budgets. Often the savings are redirected to student hardship funds. THE

Fierce Global Competition

A discussion paper from uMelbourne predicts a post-COVID world in which students are less willing to travel because of growing nationalism, geopolitical tensions, and perceptions of personal safety. Competition for international students will become “even more fierce,” and institutions “will need to consider what a domestic focus looks like.” Australian institutions offering synchronous online learning will have the advantage of sharing a time zone with Asia, although that region may grow its own capacity and become competitors. The paper speculates about a two-tier system of teaching universities, mergers and even closures. With university layoffs and furloughs, and fewer tenure-track positions, the next generation of academic superstars may even opt to go freelance. uMelbourne


Campus Updates

Briercrest College & Seminary announced yesterday it “is preparing for either a robust offering of online courses only, or if the conditions permit, a blended model of small classes, in a socially distanced return to campus.” More details Jun 1.  BCS

Dalhousie announced yesterday that “the fall term will be predominantly online, with limited exceptions based on those programs where extensive experiential learning forms part of the curriculum (i.e. medicine, dentistry, select health professions, agriculture) and these can be provided safely in adherence to health protocols.” Full courses will not resume on campus before Jan 2021. More details in June. Dal

uLaval has cancelled all international student mobility stays for the fall, and the hosting of international students on exchange, with some exceptions. Many international partner universities have also suspended their exchanges this fall. Laval

Okanagan College announced yesterday that this fall, “most students can expect programs to be delivered in either a fully online or a hybrid format.” Details will be released when course registration begins Jul 7. For a return to campus, OC is assuming routine daily screening for all staff and students, and frequent environmental cleaning. OC

Red River College announced yesterday that it will deliver programs this fall through a “cautious, but agile” online delivery. Planning is also underway to “quickly pivot” should conditions allow some courses on campus. RRC

uRegina is selling its presidential residence, bought in 1991 and assessed at $875,100, saving $100,000 in annual costs and generating funds for students. CBC

StFX and Sports & Entertainment Atlantic are “exploring the potential of Esports as a competitive gaming program” by surveying university students in Atlantic Canada. StFX


Wednesday May 20, 2020

Good morning from Saskatoon (virtually), where I’m presenting to the Saskatchewan Polytechnic board of governors. It’s great to see forward-looking institutions are ready to start thinking about the long term again, after months of crisis response.

Speaking of which, uToronto and 4 other institutions finally announced a blended fall term, on the heels of 15 others yesterday, and the Ontario government’s decision to keep K-12 closed until September. Two-thirds of the institutions on my list have now decided – see the updated graphs below.

Also today: students in Quebec are launching a class-action lawsuit, college-bound seniors in the US are still hoping for a traditional campus experience, and we need to reimagine “no-frills” online education if we want to attract them… or do we instead pursue more adult education?


Big Questions

We Need to Ask the Big Questions

José Bowen, former president of Goucher College, argues that COVID19 will disrupt PSE for years to come, and asks: “How might we cope with one, two or five years of no vaccine? How might we realign our products, budgets and delivery for a radically different world where people’s behavior is changed – perhaps forever? How might we use this disruption as an opportunity for more equity? Are we willing to sacrifice… some of our sacred traditions… to preserve our most fundamental goal of changing minds and realizing potential?” IHE


Fall Plans

Updating my analysis of Fall 2020 announcements, Canada’s colleges are almost three timesmore likely to be still deciding, and twice as likely to be primarily in-person this fall. Universities are considerably more likely to make no mention of Fall plans yet on their website, or to opt for a fully online term.

Those graphs include 5 new announcements in the past 24 hours…

Fanshawe College will offer a blended fall semester in which half of full-time programs will be delivered fully online, the rest through a mix of online and F2F delivery. Student services will continue to be delivered virtually, and the campus will reopen in a limited capacity so that Winter term students can complete remaining in-person labs in late July, and Summer term students in August. Fanshawe

uLethbridge announced yesterday that it will be using a hybrid delivery model this fall, “maximizing the quality of a primarily online experience.” Where possible, “select labs, studio sessions, practicum experiences and clinical placements” will be delivered in-person, and uLeth is planning “small group gatherings, the opening of the library for restricted in-person services and the utilization of residence spaces and food services to support the full student experience.” uLeth

Mount Allison U is targeting May 25 for the first researchers to return to campus, as part of a phased approach. WFH continues. For fall, MTA is planning a blend of online/alternate delivery with some on-campus classes, labs, and studios, subject to PHO restrictions. Residences will be open. More details will be shared by June 1. MTA

NAIT announced yesterday afternoon that its Fall courses will be delivered virtually wherever possible. “We anticipate we will be able to deliver limited in-person learning in labs and shops in the fall, as provincial guidelines permit.” Decisions about which courses cannot be offered will be forthcoming. NAIT

uToronto “is preparing for a gradual, safe return to our campuses, with as much on-campus activity as is practicable, sensible, and safe,” but UofT’s 3 campuses may well experience unique conditions, and the fall term will mix “smaller, on-campus courses, seminars, labs, and experiential learning, with larger online and remote courses and lectures.” “We expect the University’s research mission to return to full force in the fall.” UofT


Campus Updates

Tuition Lawsuits Come to Quebec

Quebec students are reportedly launching Canada’s first class-action lawsuit for partial tuition refunds, against 15 universities over the pandemic migration to online delivery this spring. CTV

Enter Med School by Lottery

McMaster U’s DeGroote medical school has highly selective admissions. From >5,000 applicants, about 500 are short-listed for a series of ten mini-interviews (MMI), a method pioneered at Mac in 2002 to eliminate bias. Because of concerns about technology and access for virtual MMIs, and because most of the interviewers are working overtime on COVID19, McMaster has opted for a lottery process this year, for all but the top 100 applicants. CBC

Assiniboine Community College is one of very few institutions in the country allowing students and the public to visit its campus as needed to access services, such as the registrar’s office. Some students are on-campus for labs, but “study groups and socializing on campus is not permitted.” ACC

Carleton U is ready to start broadening the scope of research activities on campus. Instructors are encouraged to start preparing fall courses early, in order to spread demands on T&L staff. Carleton


Student Experience

Incoming US students want Dorm Life

In the US, where the public and most campus leaders seem to believe the worst of COVID19 is past, a longitudinal survey of 4,800 HS seniors (mid-March to mid-May) found that more than half would be less likely to commit to an entirely online program, and 33% of committed students might still cancel or defer their studies if they were online. 95% felt even a partial shift to online delivery would require a change to tuition fees. A third were more interested in staying close to home, but nearly 50% said on-campus housing is all they would consider. Carnegie Darlet

Reimagine Online Learning

Recessions drive adult learners, but traditional-age undergrad enrolment is driven primarily by demographics. The downside risk this fall, if online programs are not “compelling,” is up to 30% decline in traditional enrolments, according to forecasts from Eduventures. Institutions need to reimagineonline learning, usually aimed at “no-frills adults,” to include extracurriculars and cohort bonding if they want to justify traditional tuition fees. Regardless, post-COVID students will be more likely to enrol at less expensive institutions closer to home. Eduventures

Virtual Summer Internships

Trent U announced a Summer Work Experience Program to provide experience and paid employment to returning students with demonstrated financial need. Full-time and part-time work opportunities across the university include “research, data analysis, completing independent projects, assisting departments in the transition to online learning, developing supports, and more.” Trent

New Adult Learner Markets

The COVID19 recession may prompt a “market shift” for universities, breaking their reliance on 18-21 year olds and international students, and turning their attention to adult learners, who have been the traditional focus of colleges. This may mean more short-term, flexible, modularized distance learning. Harvard’s Extension School admits more students than the rest of the university put together. Stanford and Dublin City University have programs aimed at those in “the third age,” to help them “transform themselves for roles with social impact.” THE


Tuesday May 19, 2020

Canada’s first COVID19 vaccine trial is beginning at Dalhousie, but Phase 3 won’t determine its effectiveness until the end of 2020 at best. As provinces start to relax restrictions, gatherings of more than 5 or 10 are still banned across most of the country (although Alberta will allow up to 15). Experts agree a second wave is “inevitable.” Settling in for the long haul, the federal government has extended the CEWS wage subsidy program to the end of August.

Since Friday’s Insider, 15 more Canadian institutions have announced some variation of blended delivery for Fall, some with detailed plans. And I’ve got several more student surveys to share…


Fall Backlash

In response to Brown U president Christina Paxton’s contentious op-ed in the New York Times last month, numerous rebuttals have been appearing. (Full disclosure – I wrote one for University Affairslast week myself.) Here are a few new additions…

There’s Only One Moral Choice

Although the majority of US colleges still plan to reopen this fall, the risks are asymmetrical and the choices range from bad to worse. A CalPoly math prof itemizes 18 arguments against reopening, from the absence of vaccines or treatments and the costs of testing to issues of equity and brand management. Do we harden the border between town and campus? Quarantine after winter break? Sanitize every classroom between classes? “The desire to reopen overestimates our ability to ignore the bodies in the corner and get on with our work.” Chronicle

Colleges are Deluding Themselves

We can’t let financial or reputational concerns cloud our judgement, says Michael Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College. “In the absence of a vaccine or much more widespread testing, our institutions are the perfect environment for the continued spread of COVID19.” A study at Cornell concluded that even hybrid delivery will not prevent a pandemic outbreak on campus. “If a school’s cost-benefit analysis leads to a conclusion that includes the term acceptable number of casualties, it is time for a new model.” The Atlantic

More Survey Findings

In the first Eduvation Bulletin, I summarized 18 recent surveys of about 54,000 students to draw conclusions about the proportion of domestic and international students who are apparently considering a gap year, rather than returning to an online term this fall. Some new surveys add to the data:

Declining International Enrolment

An IIE survey of 599 institutions who enrol almost half of all international students in the US (Apr 16 – May 1), found that 88% expect declines in international enrolment this fall, largely because of COVID19 travel restrictions and visa delays. 30% predict a “substantial” enrolment decline, although 92% of continuing students remain in the US. This spring, 74% of institutions allowed international students to stay in residence, and 60% offered them emergency funding. 75% said they will offer students the option to defer enrolment to later fall or spring 2021. It’s worth noting that 92% of continuing international students are still in the US and able to study this fall. IIE

30% of Students may Reconsider

Half of Canadian students report that COVID19 has made it more difficult to afford tuition and living costs this fall. Of the rest, 75% are concerned that distance learning “will create a poor learning experience,” and 30% of both new and returning PSE students say they might change their plans. CAUT and CFS surveyed 300 graduating Canadian HS and 800 PSE students (Apr 23 – May 1).  CAUT

19% of International Students Reject Online

One-fifth of international students bound for Canada said they would not take classes online, according to a survey of 16,649 prospects (Apr 3 – 20). Half of them are over age 25, and they are slightly more likely to be males interested in college programs. The majority really want the study abroad experience, want to interact with classmates, and are concerned about time zone differences for live instruction. Eligibility for the PGWP would help sway some of them, but they would also expect “significantly reduced” tuition for online study. Academica

International Advantage

ICYMI, in a crucial decision, IRCC has confirmed that, until December, international students studying online because of COVID19, or from outside Canada because of travel restrictions, can still count the study time towards their PGWP, up to a limit of 50% of their program. IRCC

Cancelled Placements and Summer Jobs

StatsCan crowdsourced data from >100,000 CdnPSE students between Apr 19 and May 1, and found that 57% reported some academic disruption. For 35% this was a delay or cancellation of a work placement, and for 26% it was cancelled or postponed classes. The employment rate of 20-24yo students dropped from 53% in Feb to 30% in April. StatsCan


Plans for Fall 2020

Hopefully you saw my detailed analysis of Fall Announcements last week. Since Friday, 15 more updates (in alphabetical order):

uAlberta announced a blended approach to fall classes, with the majority delivered remotely online, and small groups in person where possible. By the end of May, guidelines will be in place for the gradual and safe return of employees to campus as needed. uAlberta

Brock U announced late last week that it is planning for fall “primarily delivered online, supported by some limited in-person, on-campus opportunities for students.” Plans are evolving, subject to PHO, more information by the end of May. Brock

uCalgary has announced that the fall term will be mixed, “a combination of face-to-face and online or remote learning,” with only 30% of students on each campus at any one time. Priority will be given to small classes and experiential learning opportunities such as labs, tutorials, and seminars. More specifics will be provided in June. uCalgary

Cambrian College has released its “Re-Open Plan,” a “conservative, gradual approach” starting with “The Incursion,” and progressing through “Hold the Line,” “Inching the Line,” “Advancing the Line,” and finally “Establishing a New Line” (hopefully sometime in 2021). Cambrian

Capilano U announced Friday that “the majority of classes… will be offered via adapted modes of delivery in the fall 2020 semester. This is expected to continue for the 2020-2021 academic year with a combination of online and the reintroduction of in-person teaching and learning where safe and appropriate.” CapU

Huron UC at Western reportedly plans to start the fall with all courses online, with the possibility of returning to campus if the PHO permits. LFP

Kwantlen Polytechnic U released its Academic & Operational Continuity Plan late last week, in which it announced that remote, asynchronous delivery will continue for the majority of classes this fall “and possibly for the Spring 2021 semester.” (It remarks that the cold and flu season ends in April 2021). On campus, there will be “a careful phasing-in of a very limited number of courses that require use of labs, shops, studios, etc.” Kwantlen

Lakehead U announced Friday that fall courses will be primarily online and alternative delivery, with in-person labs and experiential learning where possible. Faculties are assessing individual programs, and a COVID19 Transition Committee will engage with stakeholders across the university. Lakehead

Nipissing U announced Friday that fall term classes will be primarily online. Weekly updates regarding residence life, placements, athletics, and on-campus services and supports will be provided based on PHO. Nipissing

UPEI’s senate approved last Friday a blended delivery framework for the fall semester, “so that our progress is not disrupted by possible waves of COVID19.” Some programs will still be predominantly in-person (such as Nursing, Veterinary Medicine, and Sustainable Design Engineering), and all students will have access to some in-person advisors, instructors, and other services. UPEI

Ryerson is still exploring blended possibilities for fall, but acknowledged that “the majority of course offerings will be online.” The Scenario Planning Group and Opportunities Group are mapping out options for the eventual return to campus. Ryerson

Selkirk College is planning for a “phased return to in-person delivery” on its campuses when BC reaches Phase 3 of its Go-Forward Strategy. Plans detail changes to facility operations, and how >60 credential and accredited programs will be delivered in a “careful balance of in-person and online delivery.” Some trades programs will move into shop spaces in May. Selkirk

uWaterloo announced Friday plans for “a combined approach to learning for the fall term and a measured return to in-person learning.” All large classes will be online, but “we hope” some elements (clinical programs, labs, tutorials) will be available in person. Priority will be given to grad research, and to essential and time-sensitive components that can be safely undertaken. uWaterloo

Wilfrid Laurier U announced Friday that most courses will be online/virtual this fall, with smaller classes and select activities in person, where permitted by PHO. They are “actively planning creative experiences and events” for students. Laurier

uWindsor announced Friday that it will deliver courses and final exams primarily online this fall, to offer students “the most stable and flexible avenue for engaging with academic opportunities and new experiences.” They will explore possibilities for campus student life and co-curricular learning activities, as PHO permits. uWindsor



In the past few days, Yukon University launched a new website and its new brand video, with the tagline, “Together We Thrive.”

Just ICYMI, don’t forget to check out my selection of recent cdnPSE ads in my latest blog: COVID Campaigns


Friday May 15, 2020

It’s been a really long week, during which I’ve spent some 60 hours doing nothing but tracking college and university plans for this Fall.  The result is a meticulous analysis of ambiguous pronouncements, and an article for UA in which I outline 9 things I think are certainties.

In today’s campus updates, more announcements of blended or online delivery this fall, budget challenges at GPRC, uncertainty at MRU and Queen’s, and Concordia’s residences will be completely shut down for the entire 2020-21 academic year.

On a lighter note (heading into the weekend), I’ve collected a dozen or so exemplary higher ed commercials in my latest blog!


Certainty in Uncertainty

Schrodinger’s Semester?

I write today in University Affairs that the protracted uncertainty about the fall semester is excruciating for students, faculty, and researchers. Institutions want to maintain the ambiguity as long as possible, but stakeholders “want to know if Schrodinger’s cat is alive or dead, if the campus will be open or not.” I summarize 9 certainties we have to accept for the fall, in these “uncertain times.”  University Affairs

#cdnPSE this Fall, in Detail

If you would rather draw your own conclusions, check out Eduvation Bulletin #3, in which I thoroughly document the announcements about fall term thus far, from 87 colleges and universities coast to coast. As of press time, 55% remain undecided, either conducting extensive consultations or ducking the question altogether. Just 6% have optimistically asserted that classes will be back on campus. At the other extreme, 26% have decided to be entirely or largely online, while 13% have explicitly announced a form of blended delivery. In the end, though, any announcement other than going entirely online is a hypothetical exercise that can be overruled by the health authorities at any time…  Eduvation


Campus Updates

Grande Prairie Regional College, facing a 13% budget cut from the province of Alberta, has finalized next year’s budget and eliminated 85 positions, 46 affecting current employees. The budget includes the launch of a new Centre for Teaching and Learning. Everything GP

King’s University at Western confirmed that it will also be proceeding with a “blended approach of online and in-person methods, with physical distancing” this fall, informed by PHO guidelines. King’s

Cape Breton U has announced a move to fully online learning this fall. “Online delivery, when done with adequate planning, can be a very robust and engaging learning experience. That is our goal and that is how we will spend the next three months.” (CBU is one of Canada’s most international institutions, with more than 50% of its students from outside the country last year.) CBU

Mount St Vincent U announced yesterday that it will shift to online delivery this fall. “We have a strong and pioneering history in remote program delivery, dating back almost 40 years.” The president also cautions, “We will continue to work… on measures like cost containment – to balance the unprecedented financial challenges ahead with the need to ensure continued delivery of the best possible learning experience for our students.” MSVU

York U announced yesterday a blended approach to the fall term: “larger classes will be offered through remote/online instruction and your instructors are planning innovative ways to engage you actively through digital platforms. To the extent possible and with physical distancing measures in place, we are also planning to offer selected in-person smaller classes and tutorials, experiential activities such as studio and labs, and re-establish access to our research facilities… We understand that not everyone will be able to make it to campus in the fall. Course delivery is being planned with enough flexibility to provide access for all students, considering your different geographic locations and time zones, as well as considerations for health, family status and accommodations for students with disabilities.” YorkU

Queen’s has yet to decide about fall delivery, but president Patrick Deane told 1,300 employees on Wednesday that “The university is planning for a number of scenarios, and our primary concern remains the health and safety of our community. Our hope, of course, is that operations will resume as normal, but this is not realistic. We will most likely see a phased-in approach to our return to campus, with many, if not most courses being delivered remotely.”  Queen’s

Mount Royal U president Tim Rahilly wrote yesterday that “there is no clear answer right now” about the fall, but “it’s highly likely PSE institutions will continue to provide alternative delivery formats… We’re proceeding with plans that the entire Fall 2020 semester will be delivered primarily using alternative formats, not in person. We will make a final decision by June 30th.” MRU

OCAD U’s Academic & Emergency Response Committee “is currently planning for high quality remote learning this fall, building on the spring and summer terms. We are also assessing the feasibility of holding some in-person classes while respecting public health guidelines.” More details will come next week. OCAD

Concordia U announced yesterday that their fall term “will be delivered almost entirely online, accessible anytime, from anywhere in the world. The vast majority of our faculty and staff will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future.” They will be suspending all residence operations for the 2020-21 academic year. “We need to make responsible choices both for the Concordia community and for the region of Greater Montreal of which we are such an integral part.” Concordia


Student Engagement this Summer

 Engaging Frosh Early

Although it won’t announce plans for Fall until July 1, Saint Mary’s University (Halifax) has implemented virtual consultations and webinars for prospective students, and added a LiveChat function to the SMU website. Welcome Weeks will launch much earlier this summer, and many departments have added first-year and prep courses to the Summer term. SMU

Engaging Online Students

For its newly-announced online fall term, Concordia is amping up pre-arrival communications to students, adding virtual orientation and welcome-back events, and adding a new virtual space called “HomeRoom.” Concordia will also be providing more online student advising, mental health counselling, peer mentoring, and more. Concordia



Messages of Optimism & Solidarity

Higher education advertising is gradually returning, despite the challenging times.  Check out my selection of a dozen or so noteworthy examples, from early “stay home” messages to “We’re All In,” “We’re Better Together,” “Bring on the Spring Term,” and the “Long-Distance Relationship that Works,” in my latest blog: COVID Campaigns!  Eduvation

Give Yourself a (Micro)Break!

When you still worked in an office, you didn’t just take your scheduled lunch hour and coffee breaks: you took unconscious breaks to walk between meetings, grab coffee or a printout, or for a serendipitous conversation with co-workers. These “microbreaks” are important when you WFH too, says a uCalgary postdoc, to enhance productivity, accuracy, and mental health. Take more time for exercise, a breath of fresh air, and to practice mindfulness. uCalgary


Thursday May 14, 2020

Large-scale PSE layoffs are already happening in the US, were narrowly averted in Australia, and may be yet to come in Canada. More than 7 million Canadians have applied for the CERB, and economists are predicting a “zig-zag” recovery. (That can’t be good.)

Most academic administrators are spending the rest of the month focused on fall scenario planning, so we take a look at the key questions to ask, and some of the real fears beneath our hesitation to decide. A third volley of announcements came out yesterday for 7 more institutions, most of which are more or less planning blended delivery (as permitted). BCIT and Laurentian seem to be leaning towards the in-person side, while uManitoba and UFV are extending the semester into January to permit essential in-person activities to be deferred until 2021.

And btw, kudos to Western, for hiring 11 PhDs and 250 summer students to help instructors adapt for the fall!



“Mass Sackings” Avoided, at a Cost

12,000 jobs at Australian universities have been saved, but under an emergency labour deal that will see most employees accept a 5-10% pay cut, and those at “deeply affected universities” a 15% cut. Universities face a $5 billion revenue loss this year, and calls for government aid are continuing. UWN

19,200 US College Employees Laid Off

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that US higher education laid off or terminated 19,200 workers in March 2020. Although specifics for individual institutions are not known, the largest furloughs are at uBridgeport (15,000) and uWisconsin Milwaukee (3,700), and the largest layoff at Boston U (1,636). Chronicle

uManitoba president David Barnard announced yesterday that, in view of a likely 5% ($17.3 M) cut to its 2020-21 operating grant, the executive is considering hiring deferrals, voluntary workweek reductions, and layoffs. uManitoba

Comparisons to the Great Depression are “Unhelpful”

The average forecast among economists at the big 5 banks is that Canada’s economy will contract 40% this quarter. More than 7 million Canadians have applied for the CERB. The second wave of COVID19, like the second wave of the Spanish Flu a century ago, may be worse than the first, causing a “zig-zag” economy (instead of a “V” shaped recovery) until 2022. Already, 40% of small businesses believe they may not be able to survive the month of May. Macleans


Deciding about Fall

3 Key Questions about the Fall

About 59% of academic leaders are planning to spend the majority of the next two weeks on fall scenario planning. Key questions include 1) The impact of COVID19 on enrolment (especially persistence and yield rates, and international enrolment); 2) How to cut the budget to balance immediate recovery and long-term sustainability; and 3) What might “open” look like? EAB

Fear Makes Us Hesitate

Why are a third of colleges and half of universities still announcing that they will make a decision about fall classes “soon”? Some honest answers from campus leaders: “I don’t want to kill people.” “I’m not sure students will return.” “I’m afraid I’ll make a bad call and the whole place will go under.” “There are too many options for me to weigh.” “If I screw this up, my career may be over.” In academe it’s a sound survival strategy “not to make a decision today that could reasonably be put off until tomorrow.” And yet, at some point, you have to make the best decision you can with the information you have. Chronicle

Speaking of which, more announcements were made yesterday:

BCIT announced last night that it will be “combining teaching, learning, and service delivery methods in adaptive and meaningful ways” this fall. “The necessary safeguards and adjustments will be in place by September to continue experiential learning wherever possible” and BCIT will “supplement face-to-face instruction with alternate and flexible solutions for off-campus learning.” BCIT

U Fraser Valley announced yesterday that nearly all courses and assessments this fall will be delivered online. Classes or hands-on learning that can’t be delivered online will be deferred to January. UFV

uManitoba provost Janice Ristock announced that UM intends to deliver all possible courses online for the fall, “with some select alternate delivery or in-person exceptions.” The fall term will be extended to January 15 for critical in-person activities, so that no students need to be present in 2020. uManitoba

Western announced a “mixed model in which some of our courses (or parts of them) will be delivered virtually, and others face-to-face” for the fall, with a gradual return to campus for faculty and staff. Physical distancing will significantly reduce the capacity of the campus. And although hiring is otherwise frozen, Western is hiring 11 more staff with “doctoral-level educational design support qualifications” for the Centre for Teaching & Learning, and 250 summer student interns to assist instructors. They hope to finalize plans by June 1. Western

Laurentian announced last night planning for a stepwise return to activities on campus. “We are encouraged by the very low number of active COVID-19 cases in the Greater Sudbury region, and hope that we will begin to welcome our community back to campus in the near future.” Laurentian

Sheridan announced on Tuesday a “phased re-opening” aligned with the province-wide framework developed by Ontario’s colleges. “We anticipate that many of our fall programs will continue to be offered in alternate formats,” with F2F only where required. All areas that can function remotely will continue to do so “for the foreseeable future.” “Recovery is a process, not a one-time event.”  Sheridan

Algonquin announced yesterday that “the most likely scenario [for fall], based on current provincial planning, is a restricted face-to-face model” with remote learning wherever possible. The return to campus will be done in a phased manner. “A small number of students may be invited to return to campus to complete Winter Term and Spring Term learning activities in August.” A completely online scenario is still possible. The VP Academic also noted that programs “economic viability” must be considered. Algonquin

Online Study, Campus Life?

Southern New Hampshire University, one of the largest online educators in the world, plans to reinvent education on campus too. This fall, all SNHU students will be taking all classes online, even if they opt to live in campus residence and participate in campus extracurriculars. This redefined campus learning model allows SNHU to offer academic continuity to faculty and students, while responding flexibly to public health constraints throughout the year. (It sounds as though even more flexible class options may be available for fall 2021, perhaps moving towards hyflex delivery?)  SNHU


Campus Updates

UBC is planning for the “phased resumption of on-campus research” starting in June. UBC

uOttawa has banned all university-related travel until 2021. uOttawa

UoGuelph reports a 55% increase in summer semester for-credit distance course enrolments. “Students who have been unable to find employment are taking the opportunity to get ahead in their studies.” ENC

Memorial reports spring term enrolment increases of 9.9% for undergraduates and 4.1% for grad students. ENC

Concordia U is warning staff, faculty and students about phishing emails apparently from their president, with a PDF attachment promising information about COVID19. Concordia

VIU launched a dedicated page for Fall Semester FAQs. VIU


Wednesday May 13, 2020

The COVID19 crisis is intensifying. Australian universities have lost billions and are set to shed 25,000 jobs. Canadian households are deeper in debt, and our PSE institutions are starting to grapple with significant deficits too. Sadly, COVID19 does NOT appear to be seasonal, so we won’t get relief this summer, and the “COVID19 Hangover” will likely leave people unwilling to venture into crowded public venues for years.

This week, institutions are “falling online” like dominoes. On the upside? Young Canadians are falling in love online, embracing virtual romance during the lockdown, using apps like Bumble. Perhaps online courses and extracurriculars won’t be such a stretch after all!



Australian PSE “Bleeds Billions”

Universities “down under” are also going under, says a new government report, facing more than $5 billion in lost revenue from international student tuition, business R&D, and philanthropy this year. The sector is set to lose 21,000 jobs in the next six months, and universities are already cutting casual teachers and increasing teaching loads of full-time faculty. Many senior administrators have taken 20% pay cuts, and staff are being asked to cut their hours. The union fears up to 30,000 jobs are at stake. THE

uOttawa’s board approved a pre-COVID budget for 2020-21 that already included a $6 M deficit. Costs to deal with the pandemic will add an estimated $12.3 M, and then there will be any lost tuition revenues… ENC

uToronto president Meric Gertler wrote yesterday that universities are seeking financial assistance from government to help cover losses from campus ancillaries, repatriating study-abroad students, emergency bursaries, and shutting down labs. There is also “considerably uncertainty” about international tuition revenues this fall. “Many major challenges remain, and we will have to make further difficult decisions in the days to come.” uToronto

Beware the COVID19 Hangover…

Like traditional PSE campuses, bricks and mortar retailers have seen their world disrupted by COVID19, and massive online competitors have gained momentum. Canadians entered 2020 with household debt above 170% of income, and Deloitte predicts “a punishing quarter or two” with national unemployment doubling and the economy shrinking by 50% in Q2. Consumers will be more open to online shopping, VR, mental wellness and WFH – but beware a “COVID19 hangover” of caution about travel and entering public venues, likely for a year or more. Deloitte

COVID19 doesn’t appear Seasonal

Bad news from uToronto researchers: warming weather seems to have no moderating effect on COVID19 infection rates around the world. Their peer-reviewed study, published in the CMA Journalyesterday, looked at 144 countries. “Summer is not going to make this go away.” ENC


Falling Online

The California State University system, with 500,000 students at 23 campuses, announced yesterday that the majority of its classes will be delivered online this fall. “It would be irresponsible” to bring them back to campus. Some experiential learning may take place on campus, “with extensive precautions.” Chronicle

Carleton’s University Scenario Planning group released its report of 9 guiding principles (health above all else), and 10 recommendations, although they are not final. “Being prepared to deliver our programs online protects the health of our community, ensures continuity of our programs and fosters equity for all students, regardless of current residency.” It also recommends adapting residences for social distancing, designing creative online social spaces for students, and further enhancing pedagogical support for instructors. Carleton

RDC has announced that it will deliver its programs online for the fall term. “Even if the restrictions related to COVID19 are fully lifted by the fall, we believe it is important to establish RDC’s plan now, out of respect for everyone involved.” RDC

uSask announced yesterday that it is planning a “primarily remote approach” for the fall, with “limited classroom, laboratory, clinical, and physical instruction only where warranted and where circumstances permit.” A Pandemic Recovery Team (PRT) has been formed to plan academic delivery and research in September. uSask

uRegina announced a “cautious approach” to Fall course delivery: “a continuation of the remote delivery we are now using offers students in the Fall term the best chance of academic success.” The Academic Incremental Recovery (AIR) group is continuing a comprehensive plan. uRegina

uMontréal has announced that its fall term will be “majoritairement à distance” (mostly remote), with some courses or components (assessments, laboratories, practical work, etc) on campus as possible.uMontreal

uLaval announced yesterday that the fall term will be “a mostly online and distance learning offer,” using their “proven technopedagogical environment.” They anticipate PHO will require “a strict minimum” of students on campus, but if restrictions ease over time, a “cautious return” can be considered for practical activities. uLaval

Memorial announced yesterday that program delivery this fall will be “primarily remote.” On-campus courses will not resume before January 2021. “Limited forms of re-opening of necessary on-campus activity in the fall semester may occur in a gradual, measured and safe manner that adheres to the provincial government’s COVID-19 Alert Level System and aligns with provincial health directives.” MUN



Rethink the Student Journey Map

COVID19 has radically changed the decision-making process for students, among other things making it entirely digital. Curiosity-driven web browsing is up during the lockdown, but “uncertainty breeds indecision.” Now is the time to improve your web content, optimize usability and information architecture, improve analytics and tracking, so that your recruitment engine will be ready when students are finally ready to commit.  Intead

Recruiters Take Heart!

If you’re feeling a little discouraged about recruiting this fall’s class without the use of campus tours, open houses, or face-to-face information sessions – and a bit disheartened by the uncertainty that a campus experience will even be possible this year – consider that online dating apps like Bumble are seeing double-digit increases in video dating, especially by young Canadians. The Q2 ad campaign will roll out on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, filmed with non-actors during the pandemic. Strategy


Tuesday May 12, 2020

Yesterday was a busy news day: fully one-quarter of the 87 institutions on my list made announcements about the fall term – most indicating that it would be delivered “primarily online” with on-campus enhancements as possible. (The BC research universities are clearly coordinating their messaging.) Some institutions are calling the approach “hybrid,” although the in-person components will be subject to public health restrictions, so the difference is moot.

uWaterloo is among the still undecided, but they make an important point about ensuring equity by using asynchronous online approaches by default.

The most troubling news yesterday came from Conestoga College, which is anticipating significant enrolment declines and bracing for more employee layoffs. By contrast, several institutions are reporting that demand for online summer courses is UP this year (although that could reflect the fact that there are no on-campus summer offerings available).

Meanwhile south of the border, a shocking 74% of US colleges are stubbornly insisting they will teach on campus this fall. (Most have compelling financial reasons for it.) I’m inclined to agree with William Tierney, who argues that would be dangerous and profoundly immoral. (Of course, if they don’t actually believe it themselves, then it’s merely the old bait-and-switch.)


Big Ideas

Opening this Fall is Unconscionable

William Tierney, founding director of USC’s Center for Higher Education, outlines 4 keys to a safe return to campus, but concludes, “it is impossible to have a successful institutional environment where no public gatherings take place, half of the faculty members don’t set foot in a classroom, and simply getting onto a campus requires massive testing. The economic consequences will be devastating for America’s campuses…. College presidents have a right to be terrified. But opening campuses in the fall is the wrong move if the primary motivation is to avoid bankruptcy. Public health comes first.” The only viable solution, he argues, is a $50 billion government bailout of US higher ed. IHE

Asynchronous for Equity

uWaterloo’s AVP Academic, AVP Grad Studies, and Registrar have written faculty to clarify that summer and, if necessary, fall courses delivered online should first and foremost be asynchronous, since students will be scattered in time zones worldwide, and may have very slow internet access. Any synchronously delivered material must be made available to students who cannot participate. If an entire class is able to participate synchronously, then an instructor may schedule an agreed meeting time, but classes will not be centrally scheduled. Instructors should seek alternatives to timed exams whenever appropriate. uWaterloo


Primarily Online

McGill announced yesterday that “Fall 2020 courses will be offered primarily through remote delivery platforms… As the situation evolves… the University will examine possibilities for on-campus student life and learning activities, which will respect careful safety protocols. These may include activities such as small classroom-based seminars, conferences, tutorials, workshops, or reading groups as well as various campus life and engagement activities. Keeping health and safety as its primary consideration, the University will aim to replicate virtually these activities to allow maximum participation by all.” McGill

Conestoga College president John Tibbits has advised the campus community that fall courses will be delivered “primarily in remote format” and that this approach may continue for 2-3 semesters. Some essential in-person instruction will occur in accordance with PHO restrictions. Conestoga will be investing heavily in new simulation platforms, but enrolment is declining, particularly for international students. Conestoga has already frozen hiring and administrative salaries, and laid off part-time workers, but “will need to make further reductions in our full-time workforce” as well. Conestoga

SFU president Andrew Petter explained yesterday that “most courses will continue to be offered by remote delivery this fall,” but “we will endeavour to deliver in-person instruction in those courses whose learning objectives cannot be achieved through remote means,” such as labs, field trips and graduate seminars. Youtube

uVic president Jamie Cassels announced yesterday that the university will offer programming “predominantly online for the fall term.” Where possible, in-person instruction may support “essential experiential learning, graduate education and work-integrated learning.” A gradual return of researchers, and academic, administrative and support employees is also being planned. uVic

UNBC interim president Geoff Payne announced yesterday that the fall semester will be delivered “predominantly via alternative modes of delivery,” with “a phased approach to delivering in-person learning and on-campus services” as the PHO permits. UNBC

UBC announced yesterday that this fall it “will primarily offer larger classes online with selected smaller classes conducted in-person, adhering to physical distancing and other public health requirements.”  UBC

Royal Roads U announced last week that all courses and residencies will continue to be delivered entirely online until the end of 2020. RRU


Hybrid Delivery

Fleming College announced yesterday that it will begin the fall term online, but will be ready to “swiftly” transition to face-to-face applied learning as safety restrictions are lifted. Decisions regarding residence and other campus services will be shared “in the near future.” Fleming

uOttawa has announced a “flexible approach” for fall, “to ensure that you can start or resume your studies no matter what situation we face regarding the pandemic…. All our courses, with some exceptions, will include a distance-learning option…. We are working on innovative approaches to offer students an in-person learning experience should public health guidelines change.” uOttawa

VIU announced yesterday that it will move to a “hybrid” program delivery model for the fall semester, including “robust online educational technologies” and “reimagined experiential learning opportunities” (complying with PHO directives). VIU


Still Deciding

Saint Mary’s U (Halifax) announced that they will decide the format for Fall by July 1, but that they “are preparing for the possibility of delivering courses in a way that provides a remote or online option for students, or perhaps is a hybrid of in-person and online delivery. This will support physical distancing and students who need more time to travel to Halifax can continue with their studies uninterrupted.” SMU

Mount Allison U has indicated that, although NB has advanced to Phase 2 (Orange), the campus remains closed to all but critical services. By May 15, MTA hopes to have details for a phased return by employees and students working on campus this summer. MTA


Strong Summers Online

MUN president Vianne Timmons shares in her message this week that spring semester enrolments are up almost 10% (undergrad) and 4% (grad). YouTube

Queen’s reports that “demand has never been higher” for online summer courses. Online enrolments have risen by 50% in Arts & Science, and doubled in BHSc and Aboriginal Law courses. ENC

Saint Mary’s (Halifax) also reports that spring/summer registrations are “higher than last year” for the “largest ever offering of courses for these terms.” SMU


Here’s hoping tomorrow is a little quieter – I’m working on an interesting project I hope to share with you soon!


Monday May 11, 2020

The polar vortex saw to it that it was a wintry weekend in many parts of the country, but hopefully you enjoyed some time to rest and recharge.  If you were watching the news, you already know that we’ve exceeded 4 million COVID19 cases worldwide, that Canada lost 3 million jobs in March and April, and that Germany held its first drive-in rave.

A number of institutions have started making “firm-ish” declarations about fall course delivery. Some (like StFX) insist they are planning on in-person classes, while others (like Mohawk, Okanagan College, and SNHU) are planning on a blended approach – but all acknowledge the decision remains subject to change based on directives of public health authorities.

I spent some time this weekend pulling together the results of 18 surveys to try to answer the question: what will happen to fall enrolment? See the answers in the first Eduvation Bulletin (although you probably won’t like it).

Let’s start with some thought-provoking big-picture articles…


Big Ideas

Responsible Leadership through Crisis

Historian Margaret MacMillan observes that our society hasn’t felt this vulnerable since the 1940s. Democracies that have successfully responded to COVID19 (such as Germany, New Zealand, Iceland and Singapore) have greater trust in their medical and political authorities. Pandemic responses have been “dysfunctional” in countries like India, Brazil, and the US, because of “a deeply engrained suspicion of big government.” Clarity, consistency, and transparency are vital from politicians making difficult decisions (and perhaps also from campus leaders).  Globe & Mail

Dystopian Fiction is now Current Events

Sci-Fi novelist Kim Stanley Robinson writes in the New Yorker that we have entered a new era with new ways of understanding our place in history. We are all conscious of imminent mortality, watching the statistics, and listening to the scientists. Unlike the tragic time horizon of climate change, we are motivated by the much more immediate need to flatten the curve. “At the very least, we are all freaking out together.” New Yorker



18 Surveys of 54,000 Prospects

Over the past 2 months, 18 different surveys have tried to answer the question: how many incoming or returning students will defer their studies, or take a gap year – particularly if this fall is offered online? I thought it might be helpful to gather those findings in one place and make sense of them, so I have written the first Eduvation Bulletin on “COVID19 & Enrolment.” In this meta-analysis, I summarize 9 unprecedented aspects of the crisis, identify the percentages of students who say they might not enrol this fall, and look at some factors that might change the results for your institution. Eduvation

uArizona Expands Global Microcampuses

To enrol students unable to travel internationally or with inadequate internet access, the University of Arizona is expanding its network of “microcampuses” at 73 partner institutions and 58 purpose-built residences in 130 cities and 34 countries. (The custom “residential communities” are built in partnership with housing providers like Uninest, SHC and Nexo). More than 2,200 courses are offered, on-campus and online, and students have the option to transition to the US later, or complete their study in their home country.  PIE



Marketing in a Recession

PSE may be reluctant to market when our audiences are anxious about COVID19, or our budgets are frozen or shrinking. It’s an old adage, though, that “when others go quiet, your voice gets louder”: marketing in a recession can have long-term benefits. Just remember that prospective students relate the creativity and quality of your ads directly to the quality of education you offer. Indirect brand effects can matter more than click-throughs. Vary your creative so audiences don’t feel “bombarded” by the same ad, and build familiarity over multiple channels and over time. IHE

Two Post-COVID Website Priorities

Institutional websites have been the single most critical marketing vehicle for years now, but doubly so now. Prospective students and parents report they are not getting enough information about the fall semester, course delivery and safety precautions, so firstly ensure your website provides comprehensive, up-to-date practical information about COVID19. Demonstrate student-centred compassion. Secondly, ensure you have optimized website architecture, navigation, and key enrolment landing pages. Introduce layered, immersive and interactive multimedia web content and you’ll increase time-on-page by 38%. EAB


Campus Updates

McGill announced that it will begin the progressive phase-in of research activities, and resumption of some construction activities, today, and has started planning the second phase.

StFX interim president Kevin Wamsley wrote to the campus community on Friday that “we are preparing for classes to restart in September 2020, on-campus and in-person. However, we must also be prepared for the possibility that physical distancing, moratoriums on group gatherings, and other health and safety-related protocols may continue into the fall… Because the current situation regarding the pandemic is fluid and uncertain, we are also taking the prudent step to begin contingency planning to account for the possibility of online and alternative-format course delivery.” A task force on Remote Teaching and Learning Preparedness is focused on preparing for fall should distance education be necessary. StFX

Mohawk announced Friday that it has “made the decision to deliver the Fall 2020 semester through a combination of remote/virtual learning (for all lectures) and in-person delivery (for labs, simulations, assessments etc).” The announcement warns that “the situation can change very quickly, and we may be forced to alter or change our plans unexpectedly in the weeks and months ahead.” Mohawk will be launching a free module on learning in a virtual/remote environment, by Aug 8. Mohawk

uCalgary announced on Friday that “we expect to have a decision on the fall term before the end of May. We want to assure everyone that the fall term will be held – we are just running scenarios to determine the final format for the fall term.” uCalgary

uAlberta has published a summary of the implications of Alberta’s 3-phase Relaunch Strategy. In phase 1, gatherings of 15+ are still not permitted, gradual reintroduction of on-campus research will begin soon, and some on-campus service points (such as food and retail) may be allowed to reopen soon. “It is unlikely the university will be able to significantly relax public health restrictions prior to September 2020.” Physical distancing will continue through all 3 phases, and “some on-campus activities may not be able to return to their regular routines until well into 2021.” uAlberta

Okanagan College announced on Friday that “we are hard at work planning for a number of different options for this coming fall that revolve primarily around a blend of online and face-to-face delivery of classes, labs and shops.” Okanagan

UNB announced Saturday that, as the province moves to phase 2 (orange), PSE institutions can open subject to physical distancing requirements. UNB campuses remain closed until safety protocols are determined. UNB


Friday May 8, 2020

For many of us, we’ve now made it through 8 weeks of confinement. If you’re lucky enough to live in BC, Manitoba, or New Brunswick, perhaps you can even look forward to getting a professional haircut! Hairstyles aside, though, the repercussions of the Great Pandemic are projected to persist until 2022 – on the economy, household debt, and on campus health restrictions. In the past few days, we’ve started to see very detailed campus reopening guidelines, from the ACHA and the BC government. Read on – I’ve saved some positive news for last!



Economic Recovery by 2022

Deloitte calculates that the Canadian economy lost 10% in Q1 and will lose another 50% in Q2, before beginning a slow recovery that will not reach its pre-COVID level until early 2022. The education sector GDP will decline 11.2% in 2020, but gain 13.8% in 2021. The energy sector in AB, SK and NL will be particularly hard-hit, as will tourism in the Maritimes. Canadian households, businesses and governments will be saddled with significantly greater debt for years to come. Deloitte

Tuition Refund Lawsuits

One US law firm has received thousands of inquiries at, and filed 18 class action lawsuits for tuition refunds from uMiami, Drexel, Columbia, uPenn and a dozen other institutions. Other law firms are suing Brown, Vanderbilt, Arizona State, Liberty U, Michigan State, Purdue and 12 state universities in Florida. “Judicial deference towards academia” means plaintiffs rarely win such cases, and the schools could certainly plead force majeure – but some may settle to avoid costly fact-finding processes. Forbes  



5 Changes to the Workplace Post-COVID

The pandemic has forced interactions to become virtual between employees, clients, customers and vendors, and may shape some permanent changes. Highly skilled workers may be able to demand the freedom to WFH. Managers may learn to measure performance based on outputs instead of hours logged, and to allow employees more latitude to set their own hours. There may be new respect for work-life balance, and better communication. Fast Company

Disadvantages of WFH

Matt Reed observes that working and studying from home for a protracted period could have some negative consequences for our institutions and our society – not just in the way it magnifies inequity for those without supportive families, quiet neighbours, and broadband internet access. Instead of working and learning on campus where we are exposed to diversity in people and perspectives, spontaneous conversations and casual interactions, WFH has the potential to narrow our worldview: “Zoom is great for conversations you know you need to have. But it doesn’t really work for conversations you didn’t know you needed until they happened.” IHE


Reopening Campus

Campus Reopening Guidelines

The American College Health Association warns that COVID19 health restrictions will need to stay in place “for the next 12-18 months, if not longer,” and that reopening will be phased, gradual, and fluctuating. Invest now in health services, PPE, and mental health supports. Employees can forget break rooms, shared coffee makers, and reusable kitchenware. WFH, virtual meetings and hybrid courses should be encouraged. Occupancy limits on all rooms need to be revised downward, and course sections should be 30 or fewer. The full 20-page document includes detailed recommendations for Health Services, Housing, Dining, Athletics, and Communications. ACHA

BC’s Go-Forward Plan

BC has released an evidence-based “Go-Forward Management Strategy” to “safely and sensibly reboot the economy” by moving from the current “30% social interaction” to no more than 60%. It encourages office staff to WFH part of the time, use staggered shifts, create smaller teams and forgo meetings. Retailers are encouraged to extend business hours to reduce density. In K-12 settings, routine daily screenings of all staff and students, smaller class sizes, no high-contact sports, and increased online learning. Gatherings of more than 50 people remain banned. BC

Testing 65,000 People a Month

UC San Diego has unveiled a “Return to Learn” program that may ultimately test 65,000 staff and students for COVID19 every month. Self-administered nasal swab test kits will be available at several designated sites on campus, and identified using a bar code scanned via smartphone app. A pilot test starts May 11 for more than 5,000 students currently on campus. UCSD


Campus Updates

Memorial is reviewing its scenarios for a phased resumption of academic, research and administrative activities, in light of NL’s five-level approach announced last week. MUN

UNB is preparing various scenarios for fall and is aiming to provide more detailed information on June 1. UNB

York is advising instructors, “as you plan and develop your Fall academic curricula, given that the need for physical distancing will likely continue for some time, it is clear that most courses will need to be delivered to students at least in part using remote/online/flexible teaching techniques.” York’s Teaching Commons is offering one-on-one support, intensive PD, and web resources. York

Tyndale University announced yesterday that “there is not yet enough information to make a formal announcement concerning course delivery for the Fall. Tyndale will be ready to deliver its programs whatever the circumstances… Planning for in-person, online and multi-access models are being considered.” The same announcement indicated “several temporary staff layoffs,” suspension of new hires, and deferral of non-essential operating expenses. Tyndale

UFV responded to the BC Go Forward plan last night by indicating: “We understand the pandemic will change how programs and services are delivered. For many programs, alternate forms of delivery will continue. Time and resources have been dedicated and will continue to be dedicated to ensure you have the support needed to effectively study, teach, and work remotely as required in September.” UFV

TRU president Brett Fairbairn explained yesterday that the BC Go Forward strategy means “many of our programs will no doubt continue to be offered in alternate format” but “where appropriate there will be increased numbers of face-to-face classes, particularly where experiential hands-on learning is required.” TRU



Public Trust in Science

At least in Germany, a positive side-effect of the COVID19 pandemic is that public trust in science and researchers seems to be rising. Four times as many Germans “wholeheartedly” trust science and researchers this year compared to last (although it’s still just 36%). Respondents trust doctors more than scientists, but both more than politicians or journalists. A possible explanation for the shift is public anxiety for information about COVID19 has led them to pay closer attention to scientific explanations and methods. THE

Virtual Convocations in the Nexus

A small group of high school seniors has launched Nexus, a cross-platform app to host virtual graduations and year-end celebrations in immersive 3D, incorporating customizable avatars and realistic campus simulations based on Google Maps. “Designed by students, for students,” the multiplayer immersive platform improves on the experience of web conferencing with Unity3D’s rendering engine, spatial realtime audio, and administrator security. All profits go to COVID19 research. Nexus


Thursday May 7, 2020

In times of turbulence, institutions need to stay agile, flexible, and demonstrate “strategic dexterity.” Today I share some sound planning advice, take a sneak peek at likely campus precautions, and revisit the idea of blended delivery. Tony Bates thinks 80% of courses will be hybrid by 2030, and argues that we need to expand instructional support and faculty PD. uCalgary seems to have anticipated him, hiring 10 new learning technology coaches just last week. And Trinity Western has just unveiled “multi-access delivery” for their entire campus!



Prepare to be Agile and Flexible

In the best case, a COVID19 vaccine is deployed in late 2021; in the worst case, immunity is never achieved. Either way, the next academic year will require patience, flexibility and resilience as we “advance, retreat, adapt – and repeat as necessary” in shifting conditions. Safety will be non-negotiable, but feedback and responses need to be rapid, iterative, and distributed throughout the institution. Changing enrolment and industry demands will mean rethinking our programs, policies, and service delivery. We will need to reduce campus density, likely by continuing WFH, essential services, split shifts and enhanced sick leave. However stringent our travel restrictions, testing and tracing, PPE, sanitizing, and social distancing protocols, our campuses will ultimately be at the mercy of regional infection outbreaks.  Bain & Co

Enrolment Planning in the COVID Era

In a new white paper, Jim Black argues that historical enrolment data and targets are rendered unreliable or even counterproductive in the face of pandemic disruption. Institutions need “strategic dexterity” to thrive, leading in innovation and keeping plans dynamic, while avoiding pitfalls like mission drift, panic, or failing to invest in the enrolment enterprise. Scenario plans should address instructional and service delivery, staffing, technology, processes, policies and enrolment strategies. More than ever, recruiter time should shift from lead generation to cultivation and conversion, and institutions need to invest in mental health and re-recruiting current students.  SEMworks

Communicating in an Extended Crisis

As the COVID19 crisis evolves, it is time to transition from top-down facts-based messaging to distributed, two-way communication by leaders at all levels on campus. Lead with empathy, validate emotions, express appreciation and a sense of hope. Be transparent about what is known, what may change, and what is still unknown. Keep communicating, repeatedly, in a wide range of channels. Empower staff and alumni to share key messages and FAQs. Enable comments, invite feedback, and host virtual town halls. EAB


Back to Campus

Likely Campus Precautions

In most jurisdictions, retailers will reopen long before schools, but their precautions offer a glimpse of what’s in store for our campuses. Expect to use limited entrances, undergo thermal scans, and face occupancy limits, social distancing signage, hand sanitizer stations and plexiglass shields. Face masks may be mandatory. Elevators will be available to one passenger at a time. Dining areas and washrooms will have fractional capacity. CTV

Expectations for Campus Dining

Campus food services were already evolving before COVID19, in response to growing diversity of international students and shifting Gen Z preferences – but post-COVID will shift things further. Students will stay concerned about safety, avoiding high-touch surfaces and crowded dining halls in favour of social distancing and takeout food. The adoption of new technologies, from touch-free biometric scanners to robotic delivery fleets, will accelerate. Expectations may rise for transparency about ingredients and sources, cleaning schedules and even employee temperatures. And with the economic recession, food insecurity may grow and inspire options like UBC’s “choose-what-you-pay” retail stations.  EAB

Career Colleges during COVID

Canada’s National Association of Career Colleges just shared the results of a recent member survey with me. 86% of private colleges (PCCs) have moved courses online, while 13% have suspended all teaching (particularly for hairdressing, flight training, dental and trade programs). 24% of PCC students opted to wait until in-person classes resume, and 4% requested tuition refunds. While unemployment is driving some inquiries, corporate training in particular has declined significantly. Many PCC classes are quite small for PSE, and owners hope to return to campus before large university classes are possible.


Blended Learning

TWU announces “Multi-Access Delivery”

Yesterday, Trinity Western U announced “a bold, multi-access delivery model” to provide “education without borders” – in what sounds a lot like hyflex delivery. “Our multi-access approach will allow students to move dynamically between educational modes as we progress towards fully returning to a safe on-campus learning environment.” Signature extracurriculars like chapel, learning cohorts, mentoring, and other services will also be available via multi-access delivery. “You can start your courses this September from anywhere – and continue in that location or move closer to campus – without any interruption in learning.”  TWU

Faculty Need PD for Hybrid Teaching

Tony Bates predicts that hybrid delivery will triple over the next decade, to 70-80% of all courses – and the remainder will be fully online. Over the next 5 years, he estimates the increase in online will require a 10-15% increase in instructional designers, media producers, and software developers to support instructors. But he believes the only feasible way to manage the growth in hybrid is to invest in PD for every instructor, tenured or contract, provide more how-to materials, and offer microcredentials that will be considered in tenure and promotion. Tony Bates

Speaking of which… uCalgary has just hired 10 grad students to work as Learning Technology Coaches, to assist course instructors with the adoption and use of learning technologies throughout the spring and summer terms. uCalgary


Campus Updates

uLaval announced yesterday the beginning of “deconfinement” as campus prepares for some researchers to gradually return to their labs the week of May 11. The post waxes almost poetic: “our campus will come back to life in a gentle and gradual way, in harmony with the society that surrounds us.”  Laval

Cambrian College has announced “academic completion plans” for Winter courses in dental, fitness, trades and other programs: “In-class labs and assignments have been planned based on the re-opening of our main campus by July 13, with proper physical distancing measures in place, including limits on the number of students per session. Therefore, spots in sessions will be booked on a first-come, first-served basis.” Cambrian

Thompson Rivers University announced yesterday that alternate delivery will continue this fall for many programs, but it is “planning to move forward responsibly with face-to-face course delivery where possible—especially for courses where experiential learning is required—understanding that these classes will look and feel different due to mandatory physical distancing and group size controls.” TRU



Wednesday May 6, 2020

South of the border, state politicians are using higher ed as a “budgetary release valve,” especially in Ohio, where institutions are slashing urgently. Canada looks pretty good, too, for international students, who are prepared to wait for us to get through this pandemic. Campus leaders seem to be preparing for a frustrating return to campus, but are also urging students to enrol this fall with the promise of better semesters ahead.



Still Recovering from the Great Recession

State funding for US higher education reached $100 billion last year, increasing for the 7th straight year, but still recovering only 64% of the cuts made during the Great Recession. FTE enrolments have declined for 8 straight years since the increases of the Great Recession, now totalling just below 11 million FTEs. Nationally, the student share of higher education costs rose abruptly during the last recession, from 21% in 1980 to 46% in 2o19. The report notes ominously, “it is not clear what will happen to public institution revenues and student affordability if states continue to use higher education as a budgetary release value during the next recession.” SHEEO

Slashing Budgets in Ohio

Last week, Ohio’s 14 public universities anticipated losses of about $300 million for the 5 months between March and July. ($171 million was refunds of room and board.) Urbana U announced it was closing permanently. Kent State and uAkron announced layoffs, 10% salary cuts, 20% budget cuts, athletics cuts, and a freeze on construction and hiring. uAkron, trying to cut its overall budget by 23%, is reopening collective agreements, seeking more authority for executive committees of Faculty Senate and University Council, and reducing 11 colleges and schools to just 5 colleges. Then yesterday afternoon, Ohio’s governor announced nearly $800 million in cuts, including $110 million from PSE, over the next two months.  Losses  |  Akron  |  Akron  |  Governor


Yesterday was #GivingTuesdayNow, and many Canadian institutions joined in to encourage donations to support emergency relief funds for students and others.  YukonU  |  CNA  |  UFV



COVID19’s Impact on Program Choice

After the 2008 downturn, US college students (particularly females) gravitated towards STEM subjects (particularly health/natural/computer sciences) and away from the humanities and social sciences, pursuing the promise of career relevance and 50% higher starting salaries. In the wake of the COVID19 recession, analysts anticipate growing interest in engineering, finance, economics and nursing. Quartz

38% of International Students may Defer

A survey of 6,900 current and prospective international students, largely from India, found that 38% were prepared to defer their studies until a return to campus-based teaching (but only for up to a year). 41% were prepared to begin online studies in the meantime, or entirely. New Zealand and Canada were particularly attractive for their responses to the COVID19 pandemic to date. In fact, 76% bound for Canada were unlikely to change to another destination country, even if its borders opened first. The US was “poorly perceived” and ranked last in 3 of 5 measures. IDP

Don’t Bank on a Recession Bump

Typically, community colleges experience a countercyclical surge in enrolment, but not until about 18 months after the start of a recession. Preliminary reports suggest that at-risk students are missing high school online classes, and graduation rates may decline this year. Uncertainty about face-to-face classes compounds the situation: the recession surge may wait until 2021. EAB


Industry Partnerships

UoGuelph Divests from Fossil Fuels

However you feel about the energy sector, it is always encouraging to see an institution make a tough decision in alignment with its values, rather than muddling along in hypocrisy. (You know it was a tough call because Canadian Tire magnate Martha Billes stepped down as chancellor over it.) Fossil Free Guelph has been lobbying the board for years, but the energy sector crash this year made a financial argument too. Although more than 35 Canadian universities have faced calls for divestment, only about 5 have done so.  Globe & Mail

Ten Trends in Industry Partnerships

EAB has identified 10 trends in university-industry partnerships, starting with access to talent on campus and in collaborative spaces, and providing a centralized industry/advancement access point. Industry interest in applied research is growing, while almost all tech-transfer offices lose money trying to commercialize university IP. Industry tends to be more attracted to inter-institutional research consortia, and of course to projects with regional or federal government funding. EAB


Realism about Reopening

Ontario’s relaxed restrictions on essential PSE construction projects come into effect this week, and several institutions have mentioned that construction will be recommencing on campus.  Humber  |  Carleton  |  Algonquin

Carleton president Benoit-Antoine Bacon expects a slow return to campus in progressive stages, starting with some research activities under social distancing protocols. The library has a plan to progressively reopen when the time is right. Scenario planning for the fall will be driven by safety first, equity and fairness, and academic excellence.  Carleton

Queen’s is preparing for multiple scenarios this fall, likely varying by Faculty. “Our goal will always be the full return of our students, staff and faculty,” said principal Patrick Deane yesterday, “But if we are to be realistic, this is likely to be achieved in stages as we see public health restrictions being lifted.”  Queen’s

Sheridan president Janet Morrison wrote to students last week that, until there is a vaccine or clear evidence of immunity, we can expect the number of people on campus to be kept to a minimum, with strict physical distancing, closed common areas, and mandatory face masks and temperature checks.  Sheridan

uLethbridge president Mike Mahon is preparing for 3 scenarios this fall: in-person classes; a blend of online courses with hands-on practica, studios, labs and clinical settings; or a purely online experience (with practica etc provided in as timely a way as possible). Mahon urges students not to defer: “Continuing with your coursework throughout the fall 2020 semester will help free up time for extracurricular learning experiences like co-op, volunteer work, independent studies and research opportunities in your future semesters.” YouTube



A New “Digital Face” for George Brown

George Brown College launched a new, streamlined website yesterday, perhaps one of the first major redeployments during the COVID19 WFH. The new “experience-centered enterprise architecture… sets us up for customizable and personalized communications and experiences.” Responsive design adjusts for mobile and widescreen use, and navigation and search have been improved.  GBC

A New Digital Face for Yourself?

If you’re feeling “Zoomed out” and finding it exhausting to manage your lighting, attention, facial expression, grooming and office tidiness (see my ten tips to look good online) – there’s another solution. You can download the free LoomieLive software to create an animated 3D avatar of yourself (a “Loomie”), based on a selfie, that can replace your webcam feed and move along with your voice in real time. LoomAI


Tuesday May 5, 2020

I’m not sure what world we just woke up in. We have overstated CDC projections and understated Canadian statistics. “Murder hornets” invading the west coast. Conspiracy theorists burning down 3 cellular towers in Quebec. And now a polar vortex bringing subzero temperatures back to Ontario? Meanwhile, President Trump announced Sunday night that he wants educational institutions at all levels to reopen in September, because “we can’t do this forever.” (See what some Canadian marketers make of that, below!)


Pandemic Recovery

Bleak US COVID19 Projections

A “draft” CDC report modelled a worst-case scenario of as many as 200,000 new COVID19 cases and 3,000 deaths every day in the US by June 1. The CDC and White House disavow the report, but other more recent estimates do project 135,000 American deaths by August 1. Despite the lack of testing or tracing, some states are reopening their economies out of impatience and frustration.  Washington Post

Terms for Reopening Classrooms

Across Canada, most provinces have indicated that K-12 schools will remain closed for the remainder of the school year (BC, AB, NB, YK, NWT, NU) or indefinitely (SK, MB, NL). PEI schools will remain closed until at least May 11, NS until at least May 19, and ON until at least May 31. Ironically, Quebec (with 31,500 cases and 2,200 deaths) is determined to reopen elementary schools on May 11, and their precautions may anticipate restrictions for reopening PSE campuses too: class sizes limited to 15 students, instructors to wear masks, students to have a single workspace all day, common areas will be closed, no gym or music class, no cafeteria, and 2 metres social distancing to be observed at all times. CTV

“This is a 15- or 20-year recovery”

When Hurricane Katrina displaced 50,000 college students in 2005, 74% of students reported that their academic performance had declined, and 36% withdrew from classes. Enrolment at some community colleges dropped by half. Trauma surfaced a year later. In the aftermath of wildfires, hurricanes and other disasters, higher ed institutions do well to take care of their students and staff, and to contribute research and services to help their communities. Hechinger


Student Perspectives

Disappointment with Remote Instruction

A mid-April survey of 3,089 current PSE students across North America found that 68% felt that the emergency online instruction they received this spring was worse than in-person classes, and 78% felt it was unengaging. A third of students disliked online learning so much they were undecided, or may not return this fall. 85% missed socializing with students and interacting face-to-face with faculty. 50% were anxious about their ability to pass the semester.  Top Hat

Rising Concern about Deferrals

In the past six weeks, admission officers and counselors in the US report “many more inquiries about deferrals” from students and parents concerned about the safety of traditional campus life this fall, and conversely about the value of taking online courses instead. Institutions want to bring in a class this fall, so many are not changing their deferral policies – yet.  The Gap Year Association reports a 65% increase in web traffic. Virtual internships or in-country gap year programs with an isolation quality, like a wilderness expedition, might be good options this fall.  IHE


Getting Strategic

Avoid Panic, Adopt a Strategic Mindset

Successful institutions make smart, strategic investments in times of crisis, and avoid 3 pitfalls of counterproductive decision-making. 1) Psychologically, experiencing one loss makes us even more loss-averse, and more likely to ignore potential opportunities to focus on risk avoidance. 2) In crisis, “ingroup favouritism” is magnified, preventing what might be useful collaboration with others. 3) Irrational urgency leads people to stockpile toilet paper in a pandemic, to try to regain a sense of control. Be sure your leadership team delegates more crisis response than usual, so it can focus on what is most critical to your institution’s long-term success. EAB

Ramp Up First-Year Instructional Staffing

Contact North’s Tony Bates warns that really, first year students should be the last students pushed to online courses. The social and cultural aspects of campus life are as important as academics to them, and many remain “dependent learners” coming out of high school. “Suddenly being thrown into ten courses online is not the best way to go.” High quality MOOCs already exist to provide the content, but learner support and quality assessment is needed, which tends to be labour-intensive. Bates recommends a blended delivery approach, and getting to a roughly 30:1 student:instructor ratio, by increasing teaching loads, hiring more graduate TAs, and committing senior faculty to teaching first year classes.  Tony Bates

Offer Online, “Snack Sized” Courses

Australian colleges and universities are offering discounted 12-week online courses aligned with industry needs, from coastal systems engineering and sustainable engineering management to sport and exercise science. These microcredentials, called “undergraduate certificates,” are “a pivot towards a new shape of higher education for a transformed economy.” New South Wales reports 85,000 enrolments in its first 21 courses. THE

Establish a Semester in China

At Pennsylvania’s Franklin & Marshall College, about 25% of its students are from China. Facing uncertainty over travel and study visas, F&M is offering a semester program in Shanghai, taught online. (If travel restrictions are lifted, the F&M faculty could travel to China in person.)  IHE

Address Visa Policy Gaps

Australian opposition MP Julian Hill says the $40 billion international education sector could be a “quick fix.” The Australian government stopped processing many student visa applications or granting extensions, excluded international students from emergency financial supports, and refuses to clarify whether online study will qualify for a post-graduate work permit. THE



Trump’s Name where it Belongs?

Inspired by US president Donald Trump’s insistence that his name appear on COVID19 stimulus cheques, 3 Canadian marketing executives decided “he should really have his name on the bodies that have piled up so far.” Now, you can buy $500 Trump Body Bags, “to crystallize the fatal mismanagement of the COVID19 crisis.” Profits go to the WHO’s COVID Solidarity Response Fund.  Strategy


Monday May 4, 2020

May the Fourth Be With You! You could be excused for feeling like the forces of darkness are in the ascendant, with all the dismal economic forecasts and student recruitment polls out there. (“I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”)

But even if you’re not the “chosen one,” you can still make a difference, by focusing on proactive student re-enrolment campaigns, redesigning courses that struggled with the migration to online this spring, cultivating a student pipeline for 2021, and rethinking course delivery to be even more flexible in ambiguous times.

Read on!  There are some intriguing ideas on all these fronts, and more…



uSask announced last week that it will lay off 500 employees unable to work from home for 12 weeks, and will top up the CERB to 85% of their salaries.  Star-Phoenix

“The Worst is Yet to Come”

Export Development Canada forecasts a drop in Canadian GDP of 9.4% this year, three times worse than the global average, thanks to a combination of all-time high household debt, trade tensions with China and the US, and plummeting oil prices. Accommodation and food services have lost 300,000 jobs alone. Q1 showed a significant drop, but “the worst is yet to come in the April-June period.” Strategy

Potential for Post-COVID Efficiencies?

While the negative financial impacts of the pandemic are in the millions or billions for many institutions, they are also seeing some short-term six-figure savings in facilities, operations, and events. Some of those savings could become permanent post-COVID, if colleges opt to allow more work-from-home, deliver more counselling services online, or repackage digital course materials as online courses. Education Dive

Will Students Pay More for Less?

Increasingly, US class-action lawsuits and op-eds have been arguing that students deserve a partial refund of tuition fees, because the final month of their year at college did not deliver as expected. Some campus presidents see a return to on-campus instruction as a necessity. Although some institutions are refunding pro-rated fees for housing, meal plans, and other ancillaries, as yet no-one has offered tuition back. Ron Lieber explores how to calculate the lost value, and how any refund could be financed. Ultimately, he expects pressure on tuition prices if this fall is delivered online, or many more entrance deferrals. NY Times



University Canada West reports that international enrolments for the summer term are down 25-50%, and that they do not expect to admit students physically on campus. “It’s going to be messy for quite a time,” says president Brock Dykeman. Business Vancouver

61% of Indian Students Likely to Defer

A new survey of 850 Indian students finds that 50% might consider deferring their study plans because of the economic and health impacts of COVID19. 35% are “very concerned” about the quality of online education, and 54% of those headed to Canada said they would defer if study were online.  PIE

Don’t Neglect Pipeline for 2021

This fall will be rough on international enrolments: surveys suggest at least 60% of students will defer their plans. But a panel of experts warns that institutions should be focusing now on the enrolment pipeline for 2021 and beyond. Recruitment events need to move online, prospective students have more questions than ever, competition will be more intense, and so institutions need to provide more personal attention. PIE

4 Ways to Improve Retention for the Fall

EAB’s Ed Venit recommends that institutions remove administrative holds and other barriers to fall registration; raise or redirect funds to emergency grants; plan a LOT of proactive re-enrolment campaigns this summer; and analyze the courses, faculty and students who struggled the most with the migration to alternative delivery. This can highlight necessary improvements and recovery initiatives if classes continue to be virtual this fall.  EAB



Liberal Arts Colleges Struggle Online

Most institutions are now urging faculty to prepare for online delivery of courses this fall, if only as a contingency –accelerating a decade-long trend. The transition was toughest at the third of institutions with virtually no online experience, including some religious colleges, performing arts schools, and even Ivy League institutions. Boston U, for example, taught less than 2% of undergrads online last year. Small liberal arts colleges have depended most on the campus experience, and will suffer most if forced online this fall. Hechinger

Moving OCAD Online

Like all art and design universities, OCAD U had many students in hands-on studio courses when COVID19 shut down its campus. The Faculty & Curriculum Development Centre developed 9 online workshops for faculty, covering asynchronous learning, adapting studio projects for online delivery, flexibility and accessibility. ITS had an advantage because all OCAD students were already equipped with standardized laptops and software. OCAD

Course Delivery that Won’t Skip a Beat

Back on April 6, I observed that blended courses were increasingly inevitable for the way they improve learning outcomes, provide flexibility for non-traditional students, and cost savings over physical classrooms – but also for their capacity to provide academic continuity during campus disruptions, whether floods, wildfires, earthquakes, or pandemics. I also mentioned that a handful of institutions have been experimenting with a hybrid/flexible model they call “HyFlex,” in which students can choose on any given day whether to attend in class, tune in synchronously online, or interact with the course later, asynchronously. (ICYMI, you can read my full argument in “Lasting Impacts of COVID19”.)

That prompted me to follow up with Dr Jenni Hayman, Chair of Teaching & Learning at Cambrian College, about their experience so far with HyFlex courses. Our interview makes for an interesting new episode of Ten with Ken!


Campus Updates

McGill announced Sunday directives for a safe and efficient transition back to on-campus research activities, set to start May 11. The Quebec government has prioritized health, natural sciences, forestry and engineering research. McGill

Concordia (Montréal) president Graham Carr reported on Friday that “our academic leadership is in deep planning mode, anticipating that we might have to deliver the term remotely…. I’m sure we can all recognize that fall 2020 will not resemble the start of a normal academic year.”  Concordia

UPEI is responding to the province’s 4-phase reopening plan by developing academic approaches for a variety of contingencies, from in-person to online, and an “operational ease-back plan” that moves to Stage 1 on May 25. (Management team and key individuals return to campus, with physical distancing.) Stage 2 will begin June 15, and Stage 3 in August will plan for the fall semester. UPEI

Sheridan president Janet Morrison observes in her message last week that “we’re in this for the long haul,” and it will be “a marathon, not a sprint.” As they plan for safety and optimal student experience, Sheridan also will “avoid cycles of opening up and shutting down” by allowing staff, researchers, and some students to return to campus in phases. Sheridan

Brock U announced on Friday that it will be opening 27 two-bedroom townhouses in its Village Residence to frontline healthcare workers.  Brock

Laurier is accepting residence applications for fall, but waiving the usual deposit in case physical distancing requirements reduce residence capacity and impact the residence guarantee. WLU

StFX has scheduled the class of 2020 convocation ceremony for May 7-9, 2021. StFX


Friday May 1, 2020

Hopefully April was the “cruellest month,” as we hit new milestones for COVID19 cases and deaths around the world, the economy hit record lows, Nova Scotia experienced the worst mass shooting in Canadian history, and we saw plenty of ominous enrolment indicators from dozens of surveys. With any luck, many regions in Canada are seeing the pandemic curve flatten, and today the Senate will approve $9 billion CESB funding for an estimated 1 million students.



Insatiable Appetite for Hard Data

A survey of 90 institutional research leaders across North America found that IR departments have been hit by plenty of unplanned and urgent requests for data. 87% are revising enrolment projections post-COVID, 38% are coping with new requests for surveys, 22% are struggling with government reporting deadlines, and 18% are finding WFH challenging.  EAB

28 Million Americans Cancel Plans

New data from an ongoing survey by Strada Education Network concludes that one in five Americans has changed their education plans due to the COVID19 pandemic, and 11% have cancelled them. Of those considering further education this year, 71% prefer a diploma, certificate, or a handful of courses. Strada

Structured Gap Years?

With surveys suggesting 15-30% of this fall’s incoming students are considering deferring entry rather than studying online, institutions may want to offer a structured gap year program to provide meaningful experiences, and maintain a connection to incoming or even progressing students. Possibilities might include independent or small cohort research projects, volunteer course assisting or video editing (potentially for credit).  IHE

Compressed Delivery at Fanshawe

Fanshawe president Peter Devlin hopes to offer a 2-week “recovery period” as soon as possible, to allow winter term students to complete any necessary lab work, and potentially also some 8-week compressed programs in July and August, if students can return to campus. Fanshawe’s plans for the fall remain undetermined. YouTube


COVID19 Updates

Laurentian has been on the leading edge of the COVID19 pandemic in Canada, since it reported its first case on campus on March 11. Its deficit has grown significantly, to a projected $6 million in the current fiscal year, and it estimates a shortfall of $15 million in 2020-21. President Robert Haché says, “if we don’t take action, the combination of a potential enrolment drop, our pre-existing financial challenges and new impacts of COVID-19, could be the tipping point that threatens the financial viability of the University.” All new hiring has been suspended, vacant positions eliminated, part-time and contract jobs reduced, and all non-essential operating expenses cut. Laurentian

UNBC interim president Geoff Payne advised staff yesterday that the institution is “working with our unions in a collaborative nature to ensure we can keep as many people as meaningfully employed as possible.” If no work remains for specific employees, redeployment is ideal, followed by “vacation banks, leaves, and other measures.” UNBC

UBC’s executive urged staff to “minimize all discretionary spending” because the budget challenges are still unknown, depending on social distancing requirements, domestic and international enrolment.  UBC

Sheridan president Janet Morrison wrote this week to reaffirm the institution’s commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), “even in the face of unprecedented disruption and turmoil.” Students from low-income backgrounds are being most affected by COVID19, and individuals from East Asian backgrounds are reporting experiences of racism and xenophobia. Sheridan is also hosting a series of webinars to address the needs of Indigenous Learners, Students with Disabilities, and individuals exposed to Sexual Violence. Sheridan

McMaster president David Farrar wrote yesterday to share a 7-point decision-making framework “for September 2020 and beyond.” The top priority is to maintain the academic and research missions, “while prioritizing” health and safety. When students can return to campus, priority will be given to programs “where physical access is necessary to complete academic requirements.” The framework reaffirms institutional values, EDI, and collegial decision-making processes. It also warns that “We will continue to make fiscally prudent decisions that support our ongoing stability and success as an institution, balancing risk with opportunity.”  McMaster

Red River College interim President Christine Watson advised staff this week that “our fall term will be largely directed by public health protocols.” Restrictions on large gatherings for the foreseeable future have implications for PSE, “as we are mass gatherings by design.” Planning is underway for multiple contingencies, but “we need to move forward based on the information we have right now – and that means assuming we will still be providing alternative delivery of programs and services this fall.” RRC

Ontario university presidents issued a joint statement this week emphasizing that “Ontario universities are planning for a fall term and are focused on finding ways to create an enriching university experience. While each institution will develop its own approach to the fall term, we are united by the common goal of delivering university programs that will support student success.” OntUniv


Heading into the Weekend…

WFH May Continue Post-COVID

Chris Bovaird, a management prof from UofT Scarborough, believes that millions of people getting a taste of working from home during the pandemic, may want to continue doing so post-COVID. The lack of a commute may improve work-life balance. Managers may realize that WFH doesn’t automatically reduce productivity, and that perhaps they can manage “in a less authoritarian manner.” Employers may also realize they can make do with a scaled-back workforce. ENC

How about a Shorter Work Week?

In the boom of the 1950s, we were promised a 4-day weekend long before now. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang argues that reopening the economy post-COVID is the perfect time to reduce work hours (without cutting salaries) and shorten the work week at last. Employers can more readily comply with the need for social distancing in open-plan offices, offer 12-hour-a-day service, boost mental health and employee loyalty, and in many cases, even see improved productivity and revenues. The Atlantic

Art in the Time of Coronavirus

Students in OCAD U’s Drawing & Painting program have created an online exhibition of sensitive, emotional work completed since the mid-March shutdown. The works highlight themes we’re all experiencing: anxiety, insomnia, burnout, isolation, empty cities, and dependence on technology.  OCAD

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