Tuesday, March 9, 2021 | Category: Eduvation Insider
Although vaccine distribution is still painfully slow and the proliferation of variants remains a concern, CdnPSE is clearly feeling more and more confident that we’ll be back to campus, almost like normal, by September. (Or to be cynical, that we all have to at least say we are PLANNING for it, if we want to retain student interest.)
I’ll leave the Pandemic Précis one more day (am I procrastinating?) since what you really want to know is: when will things get back to normal?
Over the past week the announcements have been coming fast and furious, so I’ll try to sum it all up as concisely as possible, from coast to coast…
Although BC is wrestling with outbreaks of highly contagious COVID19 variants, PHO Bonnie Henry has made a fairly clear decision about the fall term…
Going Forward Once More in BC
BC’s Minister of Advanced Ed and Skills Training, Anne Kang, announced yesterday that PHO Bonnie Henry “advised the presidents of all public colleges and universities to prepare for a full return to on-campus education this September.” Like last year’s Go Forward guidelines, the ministry will work with other stakeholders to develop a plan for a safe return to campus this fall. BC
Quest U was among the first out of the gate with a media release yesterday announcing “plans for a progressive return to in-person teaching, learning, and living on campus in the Fall 2021 academic term” – but also noting that “the University is dedicated to ensuring public health restrictions are followed, including mandatory mask orders and physical distancing, and will continue to adapt its planning to align with the evolving COVID19 public health information and direction.” Moreover, “Quest also plans to be responsive to the needs of all students who face barriers to their return to campus.” Quest
Most communications experts will keep the President in reserve, as spokesperson when the news is good or very, very bad. For term after term, announcements about academic delivery have been coming from Deans and Provosts – so it’s exciting to see the “big guns” come out now…
uSaskatchewan president Peter Stoicheff announced last Thursday that he’s confident there will be a “significant increase” to in-person instruction this fall, on a graduated basis. “A recovered post-pandemic world is now in sight.” UofS acknowledges that uncertainties persist, and that it will need to accommodate some students or staff who are unable to come to campus. “I am confident that the Fall term will begin our transition back to a completely operational university campus, with full F2F program delivery likely at the start of 2022.” uSask
“A recovered post-pandemic world is now in sight… We are closer to the end of this pandemic, but we haven’t finished with it, or it with us, quite yet.” – Peter Stoicheff, President, uSaskatchewan
Although several regions in Ontario are only just emerging out of lockdown to “grey” zones this week, and vaccination is still progressing slowly, there is a sense of optimism mixed with vigilance…
Rising Optimism in Ontario
Ontario universities are feeling optimistic about a return to campus this fall, as vaccinations ramp up. Western U president Alan Shepard writes that “we expect to return to F2F instruction, and more of the on-campus experiences we all love, this coming September… As vaccines become more readily available over the spring and summer and as the Western community continues to remain vigilant both on and off campus, we’re increasingly confident of these plans.” UoGuelph is planning for a “safe gradual return to F2F learning for the fall 2021 semester.” uWaterloo is looking to get back to normal as soon as it is safe. Queen’s U is “cautiously optimistic” that campus life will be back to normal by Jan 2022, but is considering a hybrid model for Sept, with “many small classes, labs and tutorials” in person. (“We expect most large classes may need to be delivered remotely.”) Ryerson U is “actively planning for a number of scenarios” but no decision has been made. (They hope to announce a decision in mid-July.) Toronto Star
Durham College announced way back on Mar 1 that it plans to welcome more students to campus this fall, “return to in-person learning as much as possible.” But DC also acknowledges that “some students have thrived in the remote learning environment,” so “where possible, we will remain flexible.” DC
Carleton U president Benoit-Antoine Bacon wrote last Tuesday that “the second wave seems to be slowly receding” but with a potential third wave and slow vaccination progress, “it is unlikely that the spring and early summer will be very much different from this winter.” (The majority of summer courses will be online.) There is, however, “proverbial light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.” Carleton is “setting up the appropriate protocols, procedures and mitigation measures – in line with public health guidelines – for a gradual and safe return of faculty and staff to campus in advance of the fall term.” Large classes will likely remain online. Carleton
“As we look towards the fall, we are starting to see messaging by Canadian universities suggesting preparations for a significant return to campus while at the same time emphasizing health and safety. We deeply share our colleagues’ desire to gather in person again and, like them, we also recognize that there are still many open questions at this time. Will the rate of vaccination accelerate quickly enough to support a significant return in the fall? What rules and regulations will be in place with regards to physical distancing or capacity limits? Will international mobility resume?” – Benoit-Antoine Bacon, President, Carleton U
York U president Rhonda Lenton announced last Thursday that “we are actively planning for a safe return to our campuses for the Fall 2021 term. Our plans are centred on bringing classes and co-curricular opportunities back onto our campuses as much as possible, while also prioritizing health and safety for all students, faculty, course instructors and staff. Classes held on campus will be delivered in a small group format that maximizes interactive learning.” Remote options will continue for those who may face health or travel restrictions. YU
uToronto president Meric Gertler wrote the community yesterday that, “starting this September, we are optimistic that most courses, student services and co-curricular activities will be able to proceed in person, with the possible exception of large-scale gatherings.” (Back on Groundhog Day, UofT was merely “hopeful” it could hold more F2F activities this fall.) Leaders are preparing for a “safe, gradual return to campus in the fall term” – although of course, “in close compliance with public health guidance.” He noted that UofT will strive to offer more flexible work arrangements to employees, and to leverage the teaching innovations developed over the past year. UofT
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a long and challenging journey for all of us, with many unexpected developments along the way. But with the vaccine rollout now picking up speed, we have reason to expect better days ahead.” – Meric Gertler, President, uToronto
Nova Scotia institutions are a bit more cautious at the moment, sobered by the recent experience of a second wave, but certainly expect an increase in F2F activity…
Cape Breton U announced last week “with great excitement” that, after 2 fully online semesters, its Spring/Summer 2021 semester “will include opportunity for in-person learning from our beautiful campus once again.” Classes will be offered in 4 formats: online synchronous or asynchronous, on campus, or “In-Person or Live Online.” CBU
Mount St Vincent U’s provost Julie McMullin wrote last Thursday that “we are planning to offer a significant increase in on-campus learning opportunities” this fall, but will delay course registration until May to provide more accurate timetable information. Online learning opportunities will continue for students who want or need to continue learning remotely. Residences will reopen but “spaces are expected to be fewer than usual due to pandemic protocols.” MSVU
So far it looks like New Brunswick institutions are making the most cautious statements about September…
Caution in New Brunswick
CBC reports that New Brunswick universities are preparing for fall with flexibility, aiming to allow more students on campus if PHOs permit. UNB has announced a combination of in-person and online classes.Mount Allison says the fall may be a mix of online and in-person formats, but more in-person offerings are expected than last year. uMoncton will make its final decision by May 31, but will likely offer more in-person classes as well. (A survey of students found only 18% wanted entirely online learning.) St Thomas U plans a decision next month, but says its goal is to bring students back to campus for in-person learning. CBC
Remember, I’ve been tracking and colour-coding announcements in my master spreadsheet (see column AB for Fall 2021 plans).
Overall, CdnPSEs are increasingly confident and announcing a “significant increase” in F2F delivery for fall, subject to PHO restrictions and the potential impact of a third wave of the pandemic. (The most cautious announcements, such as Red River College or Algonquin College, were made weeks or even months ago.) The most cautious announcements in the past week have come from Queen’s U and from universities in New Brunswick.
There is a growing consensus that large lecture classes may have to remain online this fall, and that online options will continue to be provided for students and faculty who are unable or unwilling to attend campus in person. Some spokespeople are still speculating that social distancing, face masks and other precautions will likely still be necessary in the fall term, but are hopeful of a greater return to normal by January 2022.
While the pandemic has been “unkind to optimists” for 12 months straight, perhaps the tide is starting to turn. Stay tuned… maybe my “Pandemic Précis” will finally appear tomorrow!
While I always emphasize that coverage in this newsletter does not pretend to be 100% comprehensive, and I knew that focusing on International Women’s Day in a timely fashion yesterday would inevitably mean missing plenty of great videos and announcements pushed out yesterday, I definitely owe at least one apology…
Brescia University College, Canada’s only women’s university (and located mere blocks from my home here in London ON), naturally planned numerous activities yesterday to recognize IWD. (A technical oversight omitted their Twitter feed from my scan for yesterday’s summary, so I do apologize!) Brescia released a very polished IWD video yesterday morning, and held the 4th annual Colleen Hanycz Leadership Lecture and panel discussion last night, including an IWD poem by Penn Kemp.
A few days ago, Centennial College released one of the most moving spots I have seen in months! You owe it to yourself to check it out…
Learn Your New Way
This 75-sec video acknowledges the pain and loss that students have been feeling, while reassuring them that “you’re not alone.” “We’re all learning new ways of working, parenting, eating, shopping… Every single one of us is learning new ways of living, and being, and doing…. Sure it’s a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity. Class is in session… No, this won’t be on the test. This IS the test.” I’ve watching it 6 times and it still gives me goosebumps. Wow. YouTube
As always, thanks for reading! Please do let me know if you spot something interesting, thought-provoking or cool happening in the world of higher ed. (I can’t spot everything, try though I might!)
Stay safe and be well,
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