Monday, March 22, 2021 | Category: Eduvation Insider
Good morning, and happy World Water Day!
I hope you enjoyed your weekend, whether you stopped to recognize the Vernal Equinox, Nowruz, World Poetry Day, or the International Day of Happiness. (Though sadly Canadians have fallen from 10th to 15th happiest over the past year – why are Finland, Demark, Switzerland, Iceland and the Netherlands always on top?)
Across much of the country it’s starting to feel like spring – although this weekend institutions in Atlantic Canada were shutting down their campuses in the face of one more winter storm. Hopefully that passes quickly and without incident.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of “spring breakers” are flooding beach towns in Florida, without regard to health precautions or curfews, resulting in curfews, pepper spray, hundreds of arrests, and a state of emergency in Miami Beach. Republicans at Mar-a-Lago seem just as detached from reality, sparking more outbreaks of COVID19 from the ex-president’s new home base. But perhaps even MORE detached from reality than those examples in Florida is the math instructor at York U, who dismissed the coup in Myanmar and seems to have been replaced in the course…
This week I’m going to try a series of short updates and see whether that allows me more balance in coverage of non-COVID trends and news…
Global Third Wave
Since Friday, COVID19 infection rates have been surging across Canada and the northern hemisphere, thanks to more contagious strains (particularly the UK variant). Despite rising cases and ICU admissions, Ontario is loosening restrictions on restaurant dining as it widens vaccine distribution to select pharmacies. France has imposed month-long lockdowns. India is reporting the highest levels of infection in 4 months, while Hungaryand Chile are hitting record highs since the beginning of the pandemic.
So far, Canada has administered 3.9M doses of COVID19 vaccines, enough for 10.3% of the population. The UK has administered vaccinations to half of all adults, while Israel has administered more doses than they have residents. The European Medicines Agency has concluded that the AZ vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks, although a connection to 30 occurrences of a rare blood clot in the brain cannot be definitively ruled out. Quebec-based Medicago is beginning Phase 3 clinical trials for its plant-based COVID19 vaccine in 10 countries, meaning use authorization might occur within a few months. (Ottawa has committed to purchase 20M doses, with the option of 56M more.) And after months of clinical trials, BC biotech SaNOtize reports that its nasal spray reduces COVID19 levels up to 99% after a couple of days’ use – meaning reduced severity of new infections and reduced transmission for existing cases. (They are seeking emergency use authorization.)
Spring Fever in Florida
Miami Beach has declared a 72-hour state of emergency as police struggle to control spring break crowds of tens of thousands, using pepper spray, imposing curfews and logging >1,000 arrests. Of course, misbehaviour in Florida knows no age limit: Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, in Palm Beach FL, has been violating local ordinances by holding maskless parties, fundraisers and Republican strategy sessions – and was partially closed late last week when staff members tested positive for COVID19.
“If you have 50 or 100,000 people coming there and just half of 1% are rowdy or drunk or high to the point where they need to be controlled, it becomes a situation which is truly chaotic and unmanageable.” – Dan Gelber, Mayor, Miami Beach FL
Since Friday, there have been 8 more cases of COVID19 reported by CdnPSEs. (See my master spreadsheetfor a running tally of >1800 cases in CdnPSE since Sept 2020.)
Cambrian College reported a new case at its Barrydowne campus on Friday. Cambrian
Durham College reported a new case at its Whitby campus on Friday. DC
Western U students are still being blamed for off-campus parties that sparked an outbreak now totalling 49 cases (up 4 from last week). Global
Wilfrid Laurier U now has 3 cases in the Clara Conrad Residence (2 added to my tally). The PHO declared it an outbreak on Saturday, connected to a much larger cluster of 23 cases in Waterloo. CTV
As I’ve spoken and written about the pandemic’s impact on PSE and society, I have often tried to maintain my sense of optimism. Examples abound of the way that this shared crisis has brought out the best in so many people, and inspired governments and institutions alike to infuse more compassion into their policies, requirements and supports. Sadly, there have also been examples of the reverse: politicians, business lobbies and anti-maskers who respond to an economic and public health threat with selfishness, xenophobia, or racism.
In CdnPSE there have been so many examples of academic compassion that I’ve stopped reporting them all. One exception has made international headlines, though, and perhaps proves the rule…
Detached from Reality
Emanoil Theodorescu, a math instructor at York U, appears to have granted a student’s request to defer a midterm exam due to extenuating circumstances – but with a startling lack of empathy. The unnamed student, studying online from Myanmar, requested the deferral because of last month’s military coup, ongoing protests (resulting in >230 deaths and thousands of arrests), and sweeping internet restrictions and blackouts. To which the instructor wrote, “the next time you miss something, it’s over,” before questioning “how you understand reality.” After the correspondence went viral on Twitter, York U says “appropriate actions were immediately initiated.” In an update, they add that “alternate arrangements for the teaching of the course have been made.” (I think perhaps it’s the instructor whose apprehension of reality is questionable.) UK Guardian | Vice
“The next time you miss something, it’s over. By the way, your remarks (both related to this course and to your home country) made me wonder how you understand reality. People don’t get shot for just protesting, but for a lot of deeper reasons.” – Emanoil Theodorescu, Math instructor, York U
More and more CdnPSEs are jumping on the bandwagon with relatively optimistic announcements of “increased” in-person delivery starting in September. There’s been a steady stream over the past month, which I sum up on a single page here. Since Friday, there have been 6 more, particularly in Alberta in response to the minister’s encouragement…
Bishop’s U president Michael Goldbloom emailed the campus community on Friday to announce senate’s recommendation for a return to campus for 2021-22. Bishop’s is planning “for a full return to on-campus teaching and learning,” although programs may offer up to 20% of their courses online or hybrid, “to ensure that international students who are not able to secure a study permit” can begin or continue their studies.
U Canada West is “thrilled to announce that we are preparing for a full return to on-campus learning for the Fall 2021 term.” Twitter
MacEwan U’s provost wrote Friday that “we will be able to make greater use of our facilities this Fall,” subject to PHO guidelines, “to maximize every opportunity to bring you back to campus for face-to-face activities.” Currently MacEwan is timetabling courses for F2F classroom delivery, but “we will be able to seamlessly move between face-to-face and online delivery of classes,” and “many online modules of our courses will remain central to our instructional activities.” MacEwan
NAIT’s provost responded to the government’s message last week by clarifying that NAIT “will reintroduce in-person classroom learning and services for students this fall as health guidelines allow,” while also considering its “strategic direction” and the need for “individual approaches.” She emphasizes that NAIT has been working “to understand how hands-on, physical approaches can work together with engaging virtual approaches as we innovate for the future.” NAIT
“NAIT has been offering in-person instruction in shops and labs throughout the pandemic, and we are heartened by the Minister’s acknowledgement of the value of individual approaches. This is critical for NAIT given the work we’re doing to understand how hands-on, physical approaches can work together with engaging virtual approaches as we innovate for the future.”– Sue Fitzsimmons, VP Academic & Provost, NAIT
Portage College is “planning to be back on campus as much as possible in Fall 2021,” and hopes that “vaccinations will allow us to be at full capacity” – but asks students “to remain patient” as plans are finalized. Portage
Ryerson U president Mohamed Lachemi wrote last Thursday that “we are continuing to actively plan for a number of scenarios for the 2021-22 academic year, including in-person, virtual and hybrid approaches. While many details continue to evolve, at this time the university is optimistic that we will be able to safely open our campus to some degree in the fall,” and that “on-campus activities will return to normal at Ryerson for our winter term in January 2022.” Ryerson’s goal is to provide a “thorough update” by Jun 9. RU
As we look forward to a return to more in-person work, teaching and learning, many institutions are having deliberate discussions about how to preserve some of the advantages of lecture capture, hybrid delivery, and VR simulations in the post-pandemic “new normal.” On Friday alone, 2 CdnPSEs released short, dynamic vids to convey some pandemic teaching innovations…
What Have We Learned?
The second half of BCIT president Kathy Kinloch’s community update was a 1-min video from the Learning & Teaching Centre, exploring what we’ve learned over the past 12 months. Atop quick clips of Zoom classes, video lectures with lightboards, medical simulations, VR, outdoor and socially distanced labs, the video emphasized that we have also learned “We are agile… innovators… in this together… and we have made a difference.” It’s a quick-paced video that shares plenty of ideas and examples, while also conveying a sense of pride and optimism. It’s worth a minute of your time! YouTube
Likewise, Ontario Tech released a 1-min video on Friday celebrating the “ever-expanding technology” that engages students in “new, exciting ways,” from green screen lectures to remote labs and AR/VR simulations. Like the BCIT vid, it’s a nicely produced, dynamic and visually creative montage of some of the innovations and successful adaptations over the past year – although it focuses on the tech rather than tugging at the heartstrings. YouTube
As always, thanks for reading! I hope your week gets off to a smooth start. (And don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you spot something interesting, thought-provoking or cool happening on your campus, or elsewhere in the world!)
Stay safe and be well,
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